Directed by Sam Pillsbury, this 1974 film observes Ralph Hotere — one of New Zealand’s greatest artists — at a moment when excitement is gathering about his work. Lauded as a “classic” by Ian Wedde, the documentary is framed around the execution of a watershed piece: a large mural Hotere was commissioned to paint for Hamilton’s Founders Theatre. Interviews with friends and associates — poets Hone Tuwhare and Bill Manhire, art critics, officials and dealers — are intercut with fascinating shots of Hotere working (including making art by photocopying or 'xerography').
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 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.
This short documentary series looked at New Zealand's landscape art from the arrival of Pākehā up until the 1980s. The four episodes moved from the development of a local version of the European tradition (through artists such as John Gully and Petrus van der Velden) through to the homegrown modernism emerging in the 20th Century: the distinct hard-edged styles of Binney, White and Smither, the spiritual abstracts of McCahon and Woollaston, to the later impact of Māori artists like Hotere, Whiting and Kahukiwa.
Heartland host Gary McCormick finds himself in the middle of a local conflict when he visits Port Chalmers in early 1993. Port Otago Limited is working on a major port development project that includes excavations on Observation Hill, and reclamations in Carey's Bay. Many locals are opposed to the project and tensions are running high. Local residents interviewed for the programme include celebrated artist Ralph Hotere, and McCormick also visits Hotere's art studio.
This 1981 Koha documentary, 'No Ordinary Bloke' — poet Hone Tuwhare — reflects on his life and influences in a wide-ranging interview by Selwyn Muru. He recites poems and is shown walking around his Dunedin haunts, where he was living at the time. Tuwhare recounts his early life as a railway workshop apprentice and tells of the workshop library that opened his eyes to the world. Later he’s shown with mate and artist Ralph Hotere and discusses, with emotion, the nature of Māori relationships with the land in light of the then-proposed Aramoana aluminium smelter.
In this Koha story, reporter Temuera Morrison arrives on the East Coast to watch the making of Mauri, the first dramatic feature directed solo by a Māori woman. Writer/director Merata Mita argues that the 50s set drama is "about birth and death, and all that takes place between", and talks about how the film is important in giving Māori filmmaking experience, and a voice on screen. Actors Zac Wallace (Utu) and Eva Rickard are interviewed, while locals talk about the challenges of making movies. There are also glimpses of some of the Ralph Hotere-designed sets.
In this early, Edinburgh-centric episode of arts show Frontseat, Flight of the Conchords return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a sellout third season — although they argue the new show is “a shambles”. Also present at the fest are an array of Kiwi technicians, performers, and arts programmers. Meanwhile in his Marlborough vineyard, globetrotting cinematographer Michael Seresin critiques Kiwi society and its ugly towns, and calls New Zealand a “lonely, soulless sort of nation”. Also on offer: Artist Phil Dadson in Antarctica, and award-winning dancer Ross McCormack.
When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature film. Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and a changing way of life in a dwindling East Coast town. As with Barry Barclay's Ngati, Mauri played a key role in the burgeoning Māori screen industry; the production team numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. NZ art icon Ralph Hotere helmed the production design; Māori activist Eva Rickard played kuia Kara.
Sam Pillsbury is a self-described American-Kiwi who has made films in both New Zealand and the US. He began his prolific career at the National Film Unit directing the notable documentaries Ralph Hotere and Men and Supermen. Pillsbury’s first feature film was The Scarecrow, starring John Carradine, which was the first New Zealand film to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival. Pillsbury co-wrote the script for The Quiet Earth, but 'fired himself' from the director role on the movie. His next major film was Starlight Hotel.