On Christmas Eve 1953 a volcanic eruption caused a massive lahar to flow down Whangaehu River. The Wellington-Auckland express crossed the rail bridge at Tangiwai minutes later; it collapsed, and carriages plunged into the flooded river. Out of 285 people, 151 died, in New Zealand's worst rail accident. This 2002 documentary examines events and the board of inquiry finding that the accident was an act of God. This excerpt attacks the story that Cyril Ellis could have warned the train driver what lay ahead, and argues there was a railways department cover-up at the board of inquiry.
NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
In this second part of Kia Ora Bonjour Sir Howard Morrison continues his exploration of France — plus an early Kiwi French connection. Back in Rotorua he welcomes Les Bleus (the French rugby team), teaches them about the haka, and looks back at Marion du Fresne’s first, fatal contact with Māori in 1772. In France Morrison checks out Bordeaux wines, takes a spa in Dax, goes fishing in multicultural Marseille, takes a TGV fast train, and cruises Paris in a Citroën. The Kiwi production was made for TV3, to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
Recut from material shot at least five years before, this National Film Unit short appears to have been driven by the Tourist and Publicity Department. Coming in for praise are New Zealand’s primary exports (farm products), road and railways, and social security. In the 50s long distance air links were opening NZ up to the world but international tourism was not a major industry, and NZ was focused firmly on agriculture. People are shown farming, “a little unsmiling” on city streets, and at play (fishing, sailing and skiing). Kids drink milk and Māori are assimilating.
These excerpts from part one of Tom Scott’s award-winning series on the life of Edmund Hillary look at his early years. Ed reflects on his youth as a gangly Auckland Grammar student, beekeeping, and a school trip to Ruapehu that sparked a “fiery enthusiasm” for alpine adventure. Coupled with a young man’s frustration with his “miserable, uninteresting life”, this passion for the hills soon led to a solo ascent of Mount Tapue-o-Uenuku as an RNZAF cadet — famously climbed on a weekend’s leave from Woodbourne base— and a 1947 ascent of Mount Cook, with his mentor Harry Ayres.
This second episode of the three-part series following British MP Austin Mitchell’s return to the country where he began his career in (as a broadcaster and author of 1972 book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise) sees a focus on politics. The former Canterbury University political scientist gives a potted political history, from the roots of a conservative Kiwi political mien to the radical changes wrought by Lange’s 80s Labour government and the rise of women ‘on the hill’. Finally he considers tourism, Treaty settlements and the aspirations of Māori.
This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.
Before he was a British MP Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s and published bestselling book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise, a satirical commentary on all things Kiwi. In the first part of this three part series, he returns south to clock the changes. He begins at Otago University, where he lectured in the 60s, and notes a new Pākehā view of their history. Mitchell then talks wine with actor Sam Neill in Central Otago, and en route to Christchurch meets some uniquely 'mainland' entrepreneurs.
Government filmmakers the National Film Unit launched Pictorial Parade two years after the demise of Weekly Review. It was another 10-minute magazine programme, but this time monthly, rather than weekly. It was the NFU’s major product for the next 20 years. In 1950 the NFU had been moved from under the wing of the Prime Minister’s Department, to be controlled by the Tourist and Publicity Department. The Pictorial Parade was seen as a move away from the political in government filmmaking, and a return to the promotional role of the early scenic films.