Made by Philip McDonald (Such a Stupid Way to Die) for the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority, this award-winning short explores the impact of people on New Zealand’s water cycle. Shots of irrigation, industrial waste and run-off from dairy farming show Godzone’s 1972 waterways to be far short of 100% pure — the closing national anthem played over polluted rivers underlines the point. A young Sam Neill (then working at the National Film Unit) cameos as an eau-so-suave drinker in a scene showing the disconnection between water use and where it comes from.
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
In 1928 Kiwi cyclist Harry Watson and three Australians headed to France, and became the first English-speaking team to compete in the gruelling Tour de France. Out of the 168 who began the race, only 41 riders made it to the finish line. More than 80 years later, cycling fanatic and Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan joined friend Ben Cornell, in an attempt to retrace the 1928 course in the same timeframe as Watson. They rode the same type of vintage bike, without gears. Keoghan chronicled another epic cycle journey (this time across the US) in his 2011 documentary The Ride.
This NFU documentary gets in the saddle to follow the professional riders in the world’s southernmost road cycling race. Held in October 1981, the Tour of Southland went from lowland towns like Lumsden to the spectacular trans-Southern Alps road to Milford. Chopper shots and pre-GoPro camera mounts follow riders through Fiordland National Park rainforest. As cyclists rest aching muscles, an unusually philosophical narrator wonders “but is it worth it?”. Date stamps include cigarette sponsorship and a Cortina support fleet. The film screened in cinemas alongside Smash Palace.
In this 2010 series, comedian Te Radar ditches his lawnmower to take on the challenge of transforming an overgrown quarter acre lawn into a lush garden bursting with produce. Using recycled material and organic methods, Te Radar has six months to hit his goals — including making a profit from selling his food. "You can almost smell the fertility in the air," he claims in this first episode, filmed in Riverhead north of Auckland. In true Te Radar style, comedy ensues. He forgets to build a gate for a fence, and heads to a neighbour's shed for help turning an old reel mower into a mulcher.
In this series about living sustainably, comedian Te Radar swaps the farm for town to transform a quarter acre overgrown lawn into a lush garden. Using recycled materials and organic methods, Te Radar faces a mission to clear the jungle that is his property and make a profit selling his produce. Throughout the series he visits eco-friendly businesses, including a firm that converts waste cooking oil into biodiesel, and turns to locals to help with his challenge. The series followed on from Off the Radar, in which Te Radar aimed to live solely off produce from his farm.
Eleven-year-old Utah gets dumped with his estranged dad for the day in this 2011 short film. Dad is the sole employee at a Northland rubbish dump. Utah is embarrassed by his Dad’s job and recycled gifts, but thanks to a trash tour and reversing lessons, gets to know him better. One of the first products of the NZ Film Commission’s Fresh Shorts scheme, the film won director Hamish Bennett a NZ Writers Guild award for Best Short Film Script. The Dump was the first short from teacher Bennett and actor/producer Orlando Stewart; they followed with 2014 award-winner Ross and Beth.
This National Film Unit magazine film meets the NZ team for the 1948 London Olympics as they prepare to depart by boat (accompanied by a manager, and a chaperone for the sole female competitor). Each of the seven members is profiled in this reminder of an era when athletes had day jobs, training was 'several hours a day' and swimsuits looked more like impediments than performance aids. A nicely-shot demonstration of weightlifting technique by Maurice Crow is a highlight. Despite the enthusiasm of Selwyn Toogood's voiceover, the team failed to win any medals.
Director Sam Neill uses ‘Architect Man’ — a cartoon superhero trying to save Wellington’s buildings from mediocrity — to open this visual essay on contemporary Kiwi architecture. A montage of construction materials is followed by views on the high rise, woolshed, and Futuna Chapel. Renovation, DIY, prefabs and non-conformist design thinking are offered as hopes for the built environment’s future. Made by Neill when he was working at the National Film Unit, it was released in a shortened version (without the animation) in 1977, the same year he starred in movie Sleeping Dogs.