Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
Exhuming Adams investigates the mysterious disappearance of a species of New Zealand mistletoe 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 WildScreen film festival 2006.
NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.
Before he was a British MP Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s and published bestselling book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise, a satirical commentary on all things Kiwi. In the first part of this three part series, he returns south to clock the changes. He begins at Otago University, where he lectured in the 60s, and notes a new Pākehā view of their history. Mitchell then talks wine with actor Sam Neill in Central Otago, and en route to Christchurch meets some uniquely 'mainland' entrepreneurs.
In this episode of the beloved education-focused magazine programme for children the trio of presenters (Ole Maiava, Amber Cunliffe, and future Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan) get touchy with tuna (māori for eel) and other sea creatures. Cunliffe visits an eel fishery at Lake Ellesmere; then Maiava and Keoghan get close to kina, crabs and anemone at Otago University’s Marine Studies Centre. In the second segment Keoghan gets kitted up and meets with some Canterbury ice hockey enthusiasts; he manages, mostly, to stay on his feet, and tries out goal tending.
In Scarfies, five Dunedin students find themselves in a free squat, and a dark place, after taking a criminal captive in their basement. The debut feature from Robert Sarkies starts as a comic tribute to Otago student days, then turns into a psychological thriller. Outside of the two Warriors movies, Scarfies was the most successful Kiwi release of the 90s on home turf. It went on to scoop best film, director and screenplay awards at the 2000 NZ Film and TV Awards. This excerpt sees the scarfies torn between dealing with the crim and a footy match at Carisbrook.
Nature documentary A Flock of Students captures footage of a species rarely caught on camera: a colony of young human 'freshers' who have migrated south to Dunedin. Over footage of nesting, university pie-eating contests and social gatherings, narrator Sydney Jackson provides insights into student display rituals, social groupings and early, "somewhat unfocused" attempts at courtship. As winter bites, temperatures fall below zero, and the male of the species builds up resistance by exposing itself to all available germs. David Kilgour (The Clean) provides the music.
The early 80s were the apex of the local beauty pageant — Lorraine Downes won Miss Universe in 1983, and more Kiwis watched the 1981 Miss New Zealand contest on TV than Charles and Di’s wedding. This 1984 Miss World New Zealand live telecast was legendary for host Peter Sinclair announcing the wrong winner (clip six). Miss Auckland Barbara McDowell’s runner up sash is swiftly swapped for a crown and she is (eventually) made the first part-Samoan Miss NZ. A retro delight is the beauties dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ in an Oamaru quarry.
From a pre-Mythbusters but post-blackboard and pointer era, Christchurch-produced Science Express took a current affairs approach to reporting contemporary NZ scientific research. Presented by broadcaster Ken Ellis this 1984 ‘best of’ dives beneath fiords to explore mysterious black coral forests; and looks at teeth transplants, efforts to stimulate deer fawning, and the STD chlamydia. Finally the show visits Wellington and Christchurch Town Halls to profile concert hall acoustics pioneer Harold Marshall, and his mission to attain perfect sound for listeners.
The South Tonight was a Dunedin-filmed regional news show. In these excerpts, Martin Phillipps and The Chills return home from London, and find album Submarine Bells is number one; legendary local band Sneaky Feelings play a last gig; Velvet Underground muse Nico plays Orientation Week; a ball is filmed at Larnach Castle for TV series Hanlon; rhododendron nuts ramble at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and Jim Mora visits the Danseys Pass Hotel. Finally there’s a survey of dingy student digs circa 1985 (when rents went as low as $14 a week).