This collection celebrates rugby in New Zealand as it has been seen onscreen: from classic bios and tour docos, to social history, dramas and protest. In the accompanying backgrounders, broadcaster Keith Quinn looks at the on air history of rugby in NZ; and playwright David Geary asks if rugby is a religion, and argues it is a good test of character.
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
For this 1987 Kaleidoscope report, architectural commentator Mark Wigley uses Kiwi resort towns as fuel for an essay on local architecture. He visits Waitangi, arguing that Aotearoa should have followed the "rich ornamental example" of the Whare Rūnanga, instead of the restraint of the Treaty House. He praises Paihia’s "cacophony of bad taste" motels. In part two, he compares Queenstown and Arrowtown, and admires a gold dredge and the Skyline gondola. Wigley, then starting his academic career in the United States, would become an internationally acclaimed architectural theorist.
In the early 80s the New Zealand ski industry was burgeoning. This 1983 National Film Unit production promotes the Southern Alps as a ski tourism destination — “the most exciting alpine area south of the equator”. The promo accentuates southern difference (“no trees to get in your way”), as the film tours from Ben Ohau and Tasman Glacier descents, to offseason international downhill racers at Mt Hutt, and après ski attractions. The skiing is paired with orchestral music, a classical-sport combo that director Arthur Everard also memorably used in rugby film Score.
This 2000 reality show involved contestants completing challenges and overcoming a planted double agent, in order to avoid elimination and win a $30,000 cash prize. “All they have to do is survive the show and unmask the mole,” says host Mark Ferguson (Spin Doctors, Shortland Street). In this first episode, the group travel to Queenstown to tandem bungee jump, pack each other’s bags, complete a brain teaser, and eat ... before the first elimination. The Kiwi version of a 1998 Belgian format made a 2016 NZ Herald list of New Zealand’s worst ever reality shows.
Three young ski instructors head south for an end of season adventure on Mt Ruapehu and the Tasman Glacier. Michael Dennis and Anne Reid both competed for NZ in the 1968 Grenoble winter Olympics. They join Swiss-born heli-ski pioneer Herbie Bleuer on the slopes in this 1969 NFU short film, replete with slightly dated, “hip” voiceover. With not another soul in sight, the three begin on Mt Ruapehu, skiing down to examine the crater. Then it’s down to Queenstown and a ski-plane flight onto the top of the Tasman Glacier for a run down its 27 kilometre length.
This advertisement was part of a 70s campaign promoting New Zealand for New Zealanders. This episode targets the elderly with the narration encouraging seniors to take a closer look at the country they've spent all their lives in but never really seen. Scenic wonder and relaxation is the focus as a bus-borne group of elderly folk travel on a southern tiki tour. This Queenstown is generations away (in both senses) from bungees, rafting and world adventure tourism capital status; with a trip in the gondola to the Skyline the most likely to set pulses racing here.
Film director Roger Donaldson and motor racing legend Steve Millen both began making their mark in New Zealand, before making the move to California. The first Coming Home episode sees them at work in the USA, and visiting old haunts in Aotearoa. Donaldson shoots the effects-heavy Dante's Peak and prepares $100 million thriller Thirteen Days, while Millen hits the race track, in-between running his custom car parts company. Later he returns to the farm near Auckland, where his need for speed began on the family tractor. Donaldson heads to Auckland and Queenstown.
Irreverent 90s youth show hosts Mikey Havoc and Jeremy ‘Newsboy’ Wells went on the road in this hit series. Down south they infamously outed Gore as the “gay capital of New Zealand”. While many viewers had a laugh at the Auckland duo’s lampooning of small town conservatism, some took the bait and were not amused by Newsboy's “gay man’s Gore” moniker, preferring to tout the town’s trout fishing, line-dancing and country music. The mischievous pair also visit Dunedin, Fox Glacier and Queenstown, where they 'promote' attractions and meet base jumper Chuck Berry.
This short documentary about freestyle skiing was directed for the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department by Sam Neill (who would shortly achieve fame as an actor). This was one of several docos directed by Neill while at the National Film Unit; other subjects included the Red Mole theatre troupe and architect Ian Athfield. The skiers put on daring displays of their 'art' in locations including Mount Hutt, Queenstown and Tongariro National Park. 70s snow-styles (and beards) abound. The film was translated into French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.