Pheno was Here

Short Film, 1982 (Full Length)

In this 1982 short film, Harry (Goodbye Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson) and Pheno (Donogh Rees) are bored Wellington rebels on a crime spree: tagging, stealing art and hijacking a bus to the badlands of nearby Makara Beach. It was the era of Muldoon, Springbok Tour protests, spacies and dole queues. The film captures the disillusionment of its youth, especially in the outcome of the duo's pursuit by a tyro cop (Duncan Smith). Johnson was fresh from Pork Pie, and Donogh Rees a young actor on the rise. Director Richard Riddiford went on to helm features Arriving Tuesday and Zilch.

Wellington - Promises, Promises

Short Film, 1985 (Full Length)

Made in an era before “coolest little capital” and Absolutely Positively Wellington, the title of this NFU promotional film — Promises, Promises — nods to the capricious charms of the harbour city. A reflective narration is scored by a saxophone soundtrack as the film tours from the stock market, school fair, and swimsuit shopping, to Trentham and up hillside goat-tracks. The opening of Parliament is cut together with a Lions versus France rugby match at Athletic Park, while Scorching Bay is jam-packed with sun-seekers (it must have been filmed on a good day).

Toehold on a Harbour

Short Film, 1966 (Full Length)

This vibrant NFU travelogue takes the pulse of NZ's capital after 125 years of Pākehā settlement and finds a "colourful, casual" city that has had to impose itself on the landscape to endure. Highlights include the 90 sec opening flyover, some off-the-wall music choices in the score and vox pops that are well shy of 'coolest little capital' chutzpah. The wind puts on a requisite show but so do the city's 32 miles of beaches, with a Riviera-esque Oriental Bay beaming on a good day. The mower on a rope trick looks dodgy to a more health and safety conscious age.

Beautiful New Zealand

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This 1949 NFU film is a whistle-stop tour of Aotearoa that, per the title, takes in the full gamut of the scenic wonderland. Splendidly filmed in Kodachrome, there are lakes (Tutira, Manapouri, Te Anau, Wakatipu), caves (Waitomo), mountains (Cook/Aoraki, Egmont/Taranaki) and forests and farms aplenty, with the occasional city sojourn and an obligatory ferry shot. In the narration indefatigable nature is harnessed for man’s needs and appreciation. Of note is a sequence on gum-collector Nicholas Yakas, who shows impressive agility as he scales a giant kauri.  

Kaleidoscope - Māori Opera Waituhi

Television, 1984 (Excerpts)

In this report for arts show Kaleidoscope, Aileen O'Sullivan interviews writer Witi Ihimaera about Waituhi - The Life of the Village, an operatic collaboration with Pākehā composer Ross Harris. Amidst rehearsals before the opera's September 1984 premiere in Wellington, Ihimaera opens up about the personal and spiritual inspirations behind his first ever libretto. Ihimaera has used Waituhi, the East Coast village of his birth, as the setting for several of his novels. His libretto for Waituhi weaves together stories and waiata of love and loss from different generations of one whānau.

The Art of the Architect - Episode Eight

Television, 2014 (Full Length)

This 2014 series looks at the role of architects on Kiwi building projects, as they respond to the challenges of budget, environment, site and client expectations. In this last episode of the series, host Peter Elliott asks if "architectural design can be financially achievable". He meets company Herbst Architects, and talks space, emotion and design for a steep Waiheke Island section, and a modular bach. Two fathers share the build of a John Irving-designed beach house; and a Point Chevalier house designed by A Studio aims for zero energy. Plus Elliott recaps the series' grand designs.

An Awful Silence

Television, 1972 (Full Length)

This tale of body-snatching botanical aliens invading 70s Wellington shared the 1973 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Dominated by Davina Whitehouse’s performance as a retired teacher-turned ET foster parent, it included early TV roles for Paul Holmes, Grant Tilly and Susan Wilson. Vincent Ley’s script won a Ngaio Marsh teleplay contest, and its realisation stylishly traverses local summertime environs — Silence was one of the first NZBC dramas filmed in colour. Director David Stevens went on to success in Australia (writing Breaker Morant, and The Sum of Us).

Ron Bowie

Director, Producer

National Film Unit staffer Ron Bowie was a dedicated and cosmopolitan filmmaker, who overcame obstacles (including five years internment for his pacifist convictions) to pursue his chosen career. Among dozens of NFU films he contributed to, Bowie directed award-winning tourist romance Amazing New Zealand!, helped produce beloved Expo epic This is New Zealand, and edited the Oscar-nominated One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World.