This stylishly high camp melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells won acclaim, after debuting at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In the imaginary 19th-century town of Hope, draper Dorothea Brooks (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is desperate to save her sister from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to help; but complications ensue. Inspired partly by 1930s and 40s Hollywood melodramas, Desperate Remedies was sumptously shot by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider). Richard King writes about the film here.
Peter Wells was an accomplished writer/director who explored gay and historical themes in his work. Among his screen credits are groundbreaking TV dramas Jewel’s Darl and A Death in the Family. Wells also created stylish feature film Desperate Remedies with co-director Stewart Main. In later years he collaborated with filmmaker Annie Goldson for documentary Georgie Girl.
This collection showcases Aotearoa Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender screen production. The journey to Shortland Street civil unions, rainbows in Parliament and the Big Gay Out is one of pride, but also one of secrets, shame and discrimination. As Peter Wells writes in this introduction, the titles are testament to a — joyful, defiant — struggle to "fight to exist".
Years before it became a national health crisis, star UK broadcaster David Frost hosted this audience discussion on NZ’s “battle of the bulge”. And far from his later interrogation of Nixon, Frost’s form here is loose and relaxed. Analysis makes way for his wry examinations of such du jour weight-loss products as portable saunas, laxative pills, “Easy-Slim” underwear, and the Slendermatic: a muscle vibration unit modelled by a bikini-clad lass reclining on a sheepskin rug. This was one of six Frost Over New Zealand specials filmed over a whirlwind four-day shoot.
This 1983 documentary looks at the (then booming) export of deer antler velvet from New Zealand farms to Asia where the “horns of gold” are highly valued as an aphrodisiac and cure-all tonic. The doco captures the hazards of the trade: from bulldogging (hunters leaping from helicopter skids onto wild deer), to volatile markets in Hong Kong and Korea. The players include a triad of Asian middlemen “who make the millions”, and Kiwi deer entrepreneur Tim Wallis, who led a delegation of farmers to China in 1981 to discover the secret of the Eastern love potion.
Acclaimed Director of Photography Leon Narbey has had a hand in many of New Zealand’s best known films. He directed the feature film Illustrious Energy in 1987, and has been the DOP on other major film projects such as Desperate Remedies; The Price of Milk; and the smash hit Whale Rider. More recent films include the Topp Twins doco Untouchable Girls and Samoan language feature The Orator.
From playing a human mule in The Piano, a dandy in Desperate Remedies and the hated Uncle Bully in Once Were Warriors, actor Cliff Curtis has appeared in a number of classic Kiwi movies. Curtis won acclaim and awards after starring as troubled chess champ Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse. He has also forged a busy international acting career, and moved into work as a producer, out of a desire to make Māori stories.
Grip Annie Frear trained in television production at the ABC in Australia, and then returned to New Zealand and forged a distinguished film career working on such titles as E Tipu E Rea, Desperate Remedies, The Piano, Hinekaro Goes on a Picnic and Blows up Another Obelisk, and Peach. Frear was the Grip Co-ordinator for the massive production undertaking that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Celebrated actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand began her career as a child and made her screen debut on Paul Maunder-directed Gone Up North for a While aged nine. In her teens she played rebellious Jan in soap opera Close to Home, attended drama school, and on venturing into the professional world, started winning roles, including TV series Seekers, with Temuera Morrision. Her film roles include the colonial glamour drama Desperate Remedies.
This TV documentary sees director Peter Wells look at his life “through pansy-tinted glasses”. Motivated by the anniversary of his brother’s 1989 death (from AIDS) Wells’ film charts his path to becoming a pioneering gay filmmaker and writer: from growing up fascinated by colour and the glamour of royalty in conservative Port Chevalier in the 1950s, to baking, and deciding to come out when he was drafted to fight in Vietnam. As befits an artist whose credits include Desperate Remedies, the treatment is distinctive: a mixture of documentary, (aptly) flowery home movie, and quiet reflection.