Celebrating the 75th anniversary of government filmmakers the National Film Unit, this collection pulls highlights from the 370+ wartime newsreels, tourism promos and Oscar nominees from the NFU which can be watched on NZ On Screen. Curated by NFU expert Clive Sowry, the collection includes backgrounders by Roger Horrocks, plus Film Unit alumni Sam Pillsbury, Paul Maunder, Arthur Everard and Lynton Diggle.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
This 1968 Looking at New Zealand episode travels to NZ’s third-largest island: Stewart Island/Rakiura. The history of the people who've faced the “raging southerlies” ranges from Norwegian whalers to the 400-odd modern folk drawn there by a self-reliant way of life. Mod-cons (phone, TV) alleviate the isolation, and the post office, store, wharf and pub are hubs. The booming industry is crayfish and cod fishing (an old mariner wisely feeds an albatross); and the arrival of tourists to enjoy the native birds and wildness anticipates future prospects for the island.
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.
In the early 1960s two North Island schools — Oruaiti and Hay Park — experimented with an innovative method of practical education. This episode of Survey sees principal Elwyn Richardson revisiting Oruaiti, and reminiscing on how the two schools functioned. He offers his views on traditional textbook learning — the more “American” system, as he calls it. Ex students reflect on their time at the school, and how an education based on arts, building and play shaped the people they’ve become. Modern schooling in Aotearoa now follows the example set in those early days.
This was the very last edition of the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review, a magazine-style film series which screened in New Zealand cinemas from 1942 until 1950. The first item is winter sports fun (ice skating, ice hockey) on a high country lake; the second report examines prototype newsprint made in Texas, from New Zealand-grown pine; the last slot covers the touring British Lions rugby team’s match against the NZ Māori, at a chilly Athletic Park. The Māori play the second half a man down after losing a player to injury (this was before injury substitutions were allowed in rugby).
Christchurch policeman Stefen Harris launched his film career with this feature-length adaptation of his own book The Waikikamukau Conspiracy, about a small town Māori land claim. When drama funding couldn’t be secured, it was shot as a low budget mockumentary in just six days in South Canterbury. Jim Moriarty manages to be endearing in his determination to regain his people’s land at any cost, while David McPhail and Mark Hadlow enthusiastically lampoon the judicial system. The film won Best Digital Feature at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
In the 13th episode of Epitaph's second season, Paul Gittins goes digging in Waikumete Cemetery. The epitaph for 25-year old convicted murderer Dennis Gunn, hanged in 1920 for shooting the Ponsonby Postmaster, includes an intriguing inscription: "sadly wronged". Gittins unearths the story of a post office robbery, and the first conviction in New Zealand based on fingerprint identification. The judge called the print an "unforgeable signature". Before he died, Gunn claimed innocence: "if only my brother-in-law will speak up I will be saved".
The work of Dunedin artist and surfer Simon Kaan explores his Māori (Ngāi Tahu), Pākehā (Scottish) and Chinese heritage. His studio in Port Chalmers is an old fruit shop his Chinese grandfather ran. In 2004 Simon won a three-month residency at Beijing’s Red Gate Gallery. Directed by Andrew Bancroft, this Artsville story follows Kaan on a tour of Beijing markets and galleries, as he prepares for a show opening. Kaan, who also narrates the piece, is able to visit family whenua: the village that his grandparents left behind for New Zealand.
The golden age of rock is recaptured in a studio mock-up of the Wellington Rock 'n' Roll Revival Club. Hosted by Paul Holmes (under the name Wonderful Wally Watson), the show features Tom Sharplin and his band. Dalvanius Prime also puts in an appearance, delivering a wonderful version of 'The Great Pretender'. The show mixes studio and location sequences, as it delivers hits made famous by the likes of 50s legends Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Actors Marshall Napier and Brian Sergent are on hand to play a couple of bodgies, referencing the milk-bar cowboys of the era.