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."
NZ On Air began funding local content in 1989. Timing in with the launch of a new funding system, this collection looks back at the 20 most watched NZ On Air-funded programmes over the years (aside from news and sports). Ratings information is only available from 1995, so this is how things have shaped up from 1995 to 2016 — plus some bonus titles. Most of the Top 20 has been captioned. Ex NZ On Air exec Kathryn Quirk tells us here how the complete list rated, while original NZOA boss Ruth Harley remembers how it all began.
Sculptor Neil Dawson — who later created major public art works including The Chalice in Cathedral Square and Ferns in Wellington’s Civic Square — is profiled in this episode from an arts series made for TVNZ. Dawson is just as enthusiastic and engaged building a tree house for his son as he is preparing an exhibition of his work. These pieces are small and deceptively simple as they explore texture and optical illusion, but his larger ambitions are also roused by a space on Auckland’s Victoria Street.
In the late 80s the creation of a new public park in central Wellington became an act of cross-cultural collaboration, and an infamous battlezone between artist, council and naysayers. Following positive feedback over her design, council staff decided that redevelopment of Pigeon Park (an old pa site) would be led by Māori artist Shona Rapira Davies. This doco follows the passionate, stroppy Rapira Davies, as she fights cost overruns, landscape architects and passersby, and for her vision (which involved handcrafting Te Aro park's 20,000 plus ceramic tiles).
Galaxies away from images of tar-addled lungs on cigarette packets, this film offers an unusual public health message about smoking. Set to rhyming couplets, the plasticine hero tries out to see if he has the right stuff to fly a rocket to Venus. There he battles the demon Nicotine, and (prefiguring Avatar’s astro-colonialism) convinces Venusians to destroy their tobacco trees. Shot in 35mm by pioneering animator Fred O’Neill, Space Flight was made for theatrical release. For reasons unknown the Health Department, who commissioned it, didn't want the film to go on general release.
A self taught stargazer, Peter Read’s passion for astronomy coincided with a budding television industry and the beginning of manned spaceflight. His programme, Night Sky, played in primetime from 1964; and his avuncular style inspired New Zealanders to look at the stars. It was the country’s longest running TV show when it was cancelled in 1974, and he was the longest serving presenter. Peter Read died in 1981.
Although better known as a songwriter and champion of New Zealand music, Arthur Baysting has also made a number of contributions to the screen. In the 1970s he was a scriptwriter on breakthrough dramas Winners & Losers and Sleeping Dogs, while his white-clad alter ego Neville Purvis graced cabaret stages and a short-lived TV series. Since then he has concentrated on writing songs and screenplays.
It's the 1870s, and Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) is fed up by brutal land grabs. He leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial Government, provoking threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa alike to consider the nature of ‘utu’ (retribution). Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael raved about Geoff Murphy’s ambitious follow up to Goodbye Pork Pie: “[He] has an instinct for popular entertainment. He has a deracinated kind of hip lyricism. And they fuse quite miraculously in this epic ...”
In 1983, director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great New Zealand colonial epic. Set during the New Zealand Wars, this tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance' became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and the second biggest local hit to that date (after Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the United States. This 2013 redux offers Utu “enhanced and restored”.
“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” said the ads for this musical comedy, which was one of only two New Zealand features made in the 1960s. Moving from Sydney to a Rotorua music festival, the plot follows the romance between a lively drummer (Gary Wallace) and Judy (Carmen Duncan), and the hurdles they face to stay true. This is only an excuse for a melange of madcap, pep-filled musical fun. Made by John O’Shea’s Pacific Films, the movie features performers Howard Morrison, Kiri Te Kanawa and Lew Pryme, plus distinctive graphics by artist Pat Hanly.