For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
David Sims' impressionistic National Film Unit short film explores the responses of four NZ painters to a landscape illuminated by a distinctive light, but yet to feel the full impact of human settlement. The award-winning film examines Brent Wong’s floating architectural shapes, Colin McCahon’s religious symbolism, Toss Wollaston’s earth-hued palette and Michael Smither’s hard-edged realism. Their works are taken from safe gallery confines and moved closer to their subject matter, while the words of writers (Katherine Mansfield, Charles Brasch, Bill Pearson) provide another angle.
This short film follows a five-year-old child (Elizabeth Morris), after her mother's paranoid delusions reach breaking point and she is put in a mental hospital. Writer/director Belinda Schmid's aim was to show how children can respond to situations partly without emotional upset, "because we have no other measure for the ways things are supposed to be, and partly by coping in ways that help us survive at the time". Jennifer Ward-Lealand plays the mother. Nominated for Best Short at the 2000 NZ Film Awards, The Painted Lady was invited to a number of international film festivals.
This fourth season edition of the award-winning arts series is all about paint. Host Ross Liew meets three artists who are exploring the medium's expressive possibilities in diverse ways: Ally Maher uses paint to portray corrosion, patina and the breaking down of surfaces; he reveals the work he did on the now-scuppered vessel Manuia for Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Helen Calder uses gravity, coaxing paint off the surface to make new shapes and Glenn Burrell encases objects in paint to form a skin and removes the original object, leaving a paint replica.
As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
Animated plasticine. Talking chickens. Dancing Cossacks. Plus old favourites bro'Town, Hairy Maclary and Footrot Flats. From Len Lye to Gollum, feast on the talents of Kiwi animators. In his backgrounder to the Animation Collection, NZ On Screen's Ian Pryor provides handy pathways through the frogs, dogs and stop motion shenanigans.
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
Writer Janet Frame (1924 - 2004) is an icon of New Zealand literature; her 'edge of the alphabet' use of language has seen her acclaimed as "one of the great writers of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). This collection celebrates Frame's life and work on screen, from applauded Vincent Ward and Jane Campion translations to a rare TV interview with Michael Noonan.
On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.