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."
'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.
Before X Factor there was New Faces, before Masterchef ... Graham Kerr, before Country Calendar there was ... er, Country Calendar. This collection picks the screen gems from the decade that gave Kiwi pop culture, "miniskirts, teenagers — and television." Peter Sinclair, Sandy Edmonds, Howard Morrison, and Ray Columbus star. Do your mod's nod and C'mon!
When Frank Sanft’s older brother was killed early in World War ll, it only intensified Frank’s determination to serve. Joining the Royal Navy, he was eventually assigned to Operation PLUTO, which involved laying an undersea fuel pipeline between the UK and Cherbourg (vital in keeping Allied vehicles moving, directly after the invasion of France). Frank laughs now at a close call with a sniper ashore in France. Serving in the Pacific, he was there after Singapore’s notorious Changi PoW camp was liberated. In 2017 Sanft was awarded a prestigious French Legion of Honour.
This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across New Zealand. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The documentary includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media filmed him.
Every year pipe bands from around the country gather to perform at the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships. This edition took place in Christchurch over three days in March 1985, with bands from around the country testing their abilities. Supreme champs Wellington showcase their musicality, the local Scottish Society display expert staff flourishing, and all the bands perform together in the massed finale. The special was directed and produced by Brent Hansen, who would go on to become the Creative President and Editor-in-Chief of MTV International.
Made for the Plunket Society by the NFU, A Baby on the Way uses a blackboard and various experts in front of an antenatal class to provide birth education for early 70s Kiwi parents-to-be. Plunket Medical Director Neil Begg lowers his pipe to introduce the lessons, and contemporary advice for ensuring a mother’s health during pregnancy is given by doctors, nurses, and physios. The scenes involving breast massage and analgesics may have induced titters in school-aged audiences, unlike the brief-but-gory concluding birth (set to piped organ music).
This cheese-themed episode from the second series of the animated show is musically narrated by Kiwi cartoon icons Ches And Dale (both voiced by Outrageous Fortune’s Frank Whitten). The duo join Stanley and Mary-Jane on a pipe into Drainworld, where they battle Dr Drain’s plans to use cheese to convert an army of rats to his evil plans. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers of Flux Animation, the first series marked New Zealand TV’s first international animation co-production; the second season of Staines Down Drains was produced by Flux for TVNZ.
This National Film Unit promotional film begins at the Aratiatia rapids on the Waikato River and heads on up to Lake Taupō, where it chucks on the waders and casts into the waters of the volcanic crater lake, to extol the virtues of fishing for rainbow trout. The narration is firmly of its time: “Here’s one man’s idea of the complete angler: complete with radio and pretty girl. Maybe the fish won’t bite, but he’s planned a good day whatever line he uses.” Lake Taupō - Paradise for Fishermen was the NFU’s first production to be shot on 35mm colour film (specifically 35mm Ansco Colour).
This 1972 documentary explores the world of a dying generation of Māori female elders or kuia — “the last of the Māori women with tattooed chins”. Narrator Selwyn Muru extols the place of the kuia in Māori culture, and of wahine tā moko. Among those on screen are 105-year old Ngahuia Hona, who cooks in hot pools, rolls a cigarette, and eats with whānau, and “the oldest Māori” Nga Kahikatea Wirihana, who remembers the Battle of Ōrākau during the land wars, and has outlived four husbands. Into Antiquity was an early documentary from veteran Wayne Tourell.