This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.
Made for the Post Office, this 1971 National Film Unit documentary offers a potted history of New Zealand, using postage stamps as the frame. Director David Sims ranges from Māori rock drawings, to Tasman and Cook. Once Pākehā settlers arrive, the film offers a narrative of progress (aside from two world wars) leading to nationhood and industry. Archive photographs, paintings, Edwardian-era scenes and reenactments add to the subjects illustrated on the stamps. The stamps include New Zealand’s first: a full-face portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon.
This 1982 Kaleidoscope report interviews artist Theo Schoon, on his return to New Zealand after a decade in Sydney and Bali. Schoon was a pioneer as a Pākehā engaging with Māori design, melding modernist and Māori motifs (e.g. moko and kowhaiwhai patterns). He discusses his earlier estrangement from the New Zealand art world ("talking to the deaf"), his eight years documenting Māori cave drawings ("art galleries of a sort, art galleries that I'd never been conscious of"), growing and carving gourds, and being inspired by Rotorua’s geothermal activity. Schoon died in 1985.
Drawing from Dimmer's debut album I Believe You are a Star, this early video effortlessly channels the minimalist cool that would be a Dimmer trademark. The set is dark, dominated by a red-lit sign likely inspired by Elvis' iconic 1968 comeback special. The vocals are provided by four males in white suits — including a pint-sized version of Dimmer founder Shayne Carter, and, briefly, his late father. The first, long in gestation Dimmer album signalled a new stage in Carter's career, with sparse grooves dominating over guitars.
Aotearoa is the last big land mass on earth discovered and settled by people (orthodox history suggests Māori arrived around 1280). Directed by Mark McNeill, this Greenstone TV documentary examines controversial evidence put forward to claim an alternative pre-Māori settlement — from cave drawings and carvings, to rock formations and statues. Historians, scientists, museum curators, and amateur archaeologists weigh up the arguments, DNA, carbon, and oral stories of the early Waitaha people, to sift hard fact from mysticism and hope.
Auckland-based trio Lucid 3 carved out a name for themselves on student radio after forming in 1999. With their refusal to adhere to a single genre, Lucid 3 have staunchly spurned categorisation on all three of their albums to date, drawing on a wide range of influences, from blues and rock, to pop and folk - and at times throwing in trip-hop for good measure. The album All Moments Leading To This helped broaden their appeal from the B-nets to commercial radio.
'Spill The Light' kicked off a fruitful collaboration between Betchadupa and Gerald Phillips, with the recent design school graduate taking on the roles of director, animator, actor and cameraperson. The process involved filming himself, then drawing over the footage frame by frame. The result has our head-bopping protagonist sitting down and losing himself in this mellow single from Betchadupa's self-titled EP. The band appear in animated cameos, going about their daily routine, while our listener remains blissfully oblivious.
Released in February 1969, this National Film Unit documentary offers an impressionistic view on the making of sheet glass. Director Lynton Diggle follows the raw materials (sand, limestone, dolomite) to a Whangarei factory, where they’re combined with broken glass. There, men in protective gear look like they’re enacting an alchemical ritual, as the ‘frit’ mixture is melted in the “punishing heat” of a crucible. Then it’s transferred to the drawing chamber where a toffee-like wall of glass is pulled up for cooling and slicing. Ambient sounds are used to forge a percussive score.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
Graeme Tetley began his long scriptwriting career with Vigil, one of the most acclaimed New Zealand films of the 1980s. He went on to co-create police show Shark in the Park, collaborate extensively with director Gaylene Preston (Ruby and Rata, Bread and Roses), and co-write Out of the Blue, the story of the Aramoana massacre. Tetley passed away on 13 March 2011.