In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping Dogs, Whale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.
This edition of the long-running National Film Unit series documents the curriculum at Manutahi Native District School in Ruatōria in 1947. The roll of 300 primarily Māori students, travel to the rural school on bus, foot and horse to learn everything from the alphabet to preparing preserves. Set in the post-war baby boom period, the male students learn to build a cottage while the girls learn ‘home economics’ (cooking and running a household). The first principle of the schooling is “learning by doing” and for the rural kids “the whole land is a classroom.”
In this episode, New Zealand's first celebrity chef abandons his usual format to answer queries from his studio audience about food and cooking. Topics covered by the soon to be world famous Graham Kerr include how to stop scrambled eggs drying out (add cream), battering oysters (never) and when to make Christmas cake (at least six months in advance). The show is a fascinating preserve of mid-60s cuisine – from crumbed cutlets and bolognese to the Galloping Gourmet's curious ‘Long White Cloud’ dessert. Kerr, of course, is as witty, charming and urbane as ever.
The enormous significance to Māori of marae, as places of belonging where ritual and culture can be preserved, is explored in this Pita Turei-directed documentary. Made in conjunction with the NZ Historic Places Trust, it chronicles the programme to restore marae buildings and taonga around the country — and the challenge of maintaining the tribal heritages expressed in them. As well as visiting some of NZ's oldest marae, one of the newest also features — Tapu Te Ranga, in Wellington’s Island Bay, which is being built from recycled demolition wood.
Kauri stand amongst the giants of the tree world, able to grow more than 50m tall and girths of up to 16 metres, and live over 2000 years. This NFU film looks at the ancient conifer and its relationship with people. A thoughtful narrative traces the kauri's utility, and contemporary efforts to preserve remaining trees — the tree’s timber and gum fuelled colonial growth, but milling devastated the great northern forests. Archive footage evokes the pioneer days: kauri dams, woodsmen dwarfed by felled trunks, and Dalmatian gum hunters scaling sky-scraping trunks.
This was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. The song is a colourful plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo — it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation. Director Kerry Brown created vibrant animated backgrounds to match the song’s hip-hop beats. The cameo appearances include Moana Maniapoto’s father, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Mika and various crew members. The Moahunters were Mina Ripia (who went on to her own act Wai) and Teremoana Rapley (from Upper Hutt Posse, who went on to manage King Kapisi).
New Zealand’s first global pop success story made one of its earliest screen appearances on this TV talent quest. The episodes are no longer preserved, but a family friend of the Finns pointed his Super 8 camera at the television screen. The clips are combined with the band’s memories from 2005 radio documentary Enzology. Split Ends (the ‘z’ came later) competed in the 18 November heat with ‘129’, and a week later in the final, miming ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’. They lost to Wellington's Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, with a pre-Simon Cowell Phil Warren judging the lads “too clever”.
Director Chris Graham planned an ambitious video for this song, but budget and scheduling got in the way. When Graham heard TrinityRoots were disbanding, he pitched the idea of a live video at their farewell concert in the Wellington Town Hall. Mixing in footage of land and sea, the result honours one of their anthems and captures a glimpse of the original line-up in their soulful, impassioned element. TrinityRoots regrouped in 2010, but this video preserves the final moments of their first incarnation; when their one waka was turning into three.
In her second series of culinary globetrotting, chef and author Peta Mathias visits Beijing to explore the food of Northern China. She finds a cuisine shaped by harsh winters and scorching summers — and influenced by Mongol invaders and centuries of imperial dynasties (but Mao’s heyday is only glimpsed in a theme restaurant run by an American). A night market offers delicacies including locusts, scorpions, cockroaches and silkworms, and Peta investigates Peking Duck, the ubiquitous dumplings and just a few of the ways that duck eggs can be preserved.
A 'waka huia' is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. The multi award-winning television series of the same name records and preserves Māori culture and customs. It is presented completely in Te Reo Māori. The long-running series travels extensively to retell tribal histories, and sets a high standard of reo, seeking to interview only fluent speakers. Waka Huia also covers some of the social and political concerns of the day, taking a snapshot of Māori history. Created by the late Whai Ngata, Waka Huia is a tāonga for future generations.