Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
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 NFU documentary looks at working lives of a crew of Wellington rubbish collectors aka 'the dusties'. With an insightful dustie narrating, the film follows the team on their rounds, beginning early morning with the seagulls at the depot. Then it's into the trucks and off to face occupational hazards: irate householders, sodden winter sacks, and notoriously steep hills. Our dustie muses on everything from health benefits and job perks (discarded beer, money and toasters!) to cleanliness. This classic observational film ends with a tribute folk song.
Neighbours at War was a popular and long-running TV2 reality show. In this opening episode from the show’s second series, an Otara fence is a battle line in a bitter territorial dispute between Lois and Alec. The mediator is Labour MP for Otara Ross Robertson, who draws on Winston Churchill, General Douglas MacArthur and aroha in an effort to broker peace — amidst allegations of rubbish and porn mags on one side, and swear words and brown eyes on the other. Narrator Bill Kerton’s puns and some choice sound effects punctuate the neighbourly nastiness.
This Land of Birds edition sees Kiwi naturalist Sir Robert Falla train his binoculars on the black-backed gull, or karoro. Familiar to most New Zealanders from stealing their hot chips, it's one of the few natives to have boomed in numbers since humans arrived in NZ, after adapting to feeding in “the effluent of human affluence”. The film follows the large bird's life cycle and examines its relationship with people, from airports (birdstrike risk) to farms (where they help control insects but also scavenge lambs). Falla died soon after the film was completed.
This homegrown Erin Brockovich story follows former Whakatane sawmill worker Joe Harawira and his long battle to reveal the impact that workplace toxins have had on his community. In the 80s after being afflicted by health issues, Harawira noticed co-workers getting sick. In 1988 he helped found SWAP (Sawmill Workers Against Poisons) and began investigating the effects of exposure to dioxins, a by-product of timber treatment. The Joe versus the mills crusade screened on Māori Television, and won Best Popular Documentary at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
Innocent Gert, who works in a rubbish dump, can't believe his luck when he's ordered by his boss to take his beautiful mute daughter, Princess Plum, to meet her prospective husband. The two set off on a mythical quest through a fairytale Far North landscape. On the way they encounter freaks and monsters, and experience danger and romance. In an unusual reversal, the voices and music for Woodenhead were all recorded before filming. This surreal second feature from Elam art school grad Florian Habicht took Aotearoa to the arthouse with unprecedented weirdness and wonder.
Was there a cooler band in the world than The Clean in 1982? Skinny suits, round sunglasses, video performances aping the great old Monkees' moves but tuned to the "deadpan" setting. Rubbish dump. Derelict building. Cemetery. Check. TVNZ's Andrew Shaw travelled south to Christchurch to direct this one, but he kept the clip faithful to the band's style for this now iconic tribute to indie nihilism.