Exhuming Adams investigates the mysterious disappearance of a species of New Zealand mistletoe plant, 50 years ago. Set among dusty museum collections, high-tech labs, and remote bush, this documentary is a natural history CSI. A canny forensic investigation, taking in preserved bellbird skins, last witnesses and CGI modelling, reveals the chain of events leading to the unique plant's extinction, and a surprising culprit. Directors Brant Backlund and Thassilo Franke won the BBC Best Newcomer Award at the prestigious British film festival Wildscreen in 2006.
This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows two grandchildren of Tommy Solomon — the last full-blooded Moriori — on a pilgrimage to Rēkohu in the Chatham Islands, to rediscover their heritage. They learn about 1000 years of Moriori settlement: Polynesian origins, pacifist beliefs (tragically tested by 19th Century Māori invasion), carvings and a seafood-based way of life. Years before Michael King’s 1989 book Moriori: A People Discovered and Barry Barclay film Feathers of Peace, this 1980 doco launched a revival of Moriori culture, and revised popular misconceptions.
The Otago goldrush in the 1860s attracted the first wave of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. They were greeted with fear and suspicion from the white settler community. 130 years later the racist policies of late 19th century New Zealand are gone, but old attitudes linger. This 1993 Frontline report investigates the tension between older Chinese/Kiwi families and the growing number of first generation Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants. Whatever cultural issues divide them, both groups have experienced racism from Pākehā New Zealanders.
This Touchdown reality series puts a Kiwi family in the shoes of a family of 1852 English immigrants to Canterbury. The challenge for the Huttons is to see if they have the 'pioneer spirit' and can live with colonial clothing, housing and food for 10 weeks. From a gentler, non-competitive era of reality TV, this first episode sees the Owaka family of six (including baby Neil) experience six days of life on a settler ship – seasickness, food rations, restrictive clothing and bedding and chamber pots – while relaying their personal reflections to the camera.
Bill Ralston examines more family business empires in part two of Old Money. With varying mixes of vision, hard work and eccentricity, the Hudsons (biscuits), Sargoods (merchants), Hallensteins (clothing), Hannahs (shoes) and Shacklocks (ironmongers) made fortunes that gave their families grand houses and gracious lifestyles. Some of the brands have survived and their legacies include 65,000 items gifted to Otago museum by the Hallensteins and Downstage’s theatre endowed by Hannah money. (Robert Hannah was the maternal great-grandfather of director Jane Campion.)
This Coming Home episode introduces two Kiwi "pioneers in their fields": psychologist John Money and horse expert Wayne McIlwraith. Colorado-based McIlwraith works on top racehorses around the globe, then goes climbing on his rare days off. Money was celebrated and criticised for his game-changing work on gender and sexuality. Returning for a visit downunder, he sets about donating his artworks to a museum in Gore. The episode was made soon after doubts were first raised about the success of Money's most famous case of gender reassignment, David Reimer.
Jayashree Panjabi began her television career in 1980 as a presenter on children's staple Play School, which she later returned to direct. During (and after) eight years with programme powerhouse NHNZ, Panjabi directed and produced documentaries around the world.
Prelude to Aspiring was the first National Film Unit title directed by legendary photographer Brian Brake, soon after he joined the Unit in 1948. It follows a group of climbers up the Matukituki Valley, west of Wanaka, towards Mt Aspiring for the opening of a new hut and a trudge through snow to resurrect a flattened shelter high up Mt French. The autumn alpine scenery is breathtaking even in black and white, and the film perfectly performs its role as one of a series of promotional ‘documentaries' made by the NFU.