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."
As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, cartoonist, critic, filmmaker, and jandal wearer. As this collection demonstrates, his genius takes flight in the DIY aesthetic of his music videos. As Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd says in his backgrounder, “this is a unique and important collection of work perfectly illustrating what is possible with the barest of resources and a free-wheeling imagination”. Russell Brown adds his view here. Alongside music videos, the collection also includes interviews with Knox and profiles of bands Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs.
Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
Chimney Book takes rubble from the Christchurch earthquake, and turns it into the building blocks of a film exploring life in the quake zone. Christchurch musician Blair Parkes took bricks from his chimney — destroyed in the 22 February 2011 aftershocks — painted a letter or symbol on each, then scanned them into his computer. Sound and word form the spine of the result, which is part diary, part experimental film. Parkes explores his experiences of living in Christchurch since the quake through words like 'dust', 'memory', 'place', and a question: 'is it over?'
This newsreel's subjects include: a camp being built by Lake Karapiro for rowers in the Empire Games, a garden party at St Mary's Home for Children, and a community play area in Naenae (where the sport of "paddle tennis" is featured). Students of Wellington's Architectural Centre build a pine and glass-walled modernist house in Karori, that has bunks and a utility room, "where children can play and Mother can sew". Perhaps most exciting is the demolition by army engineers of Murphy's Brickyard chimney in Berhampore, with children swarming over the fresh rubble.
The Art of Recovery sets out to document "one of the most dynamic, creative and contentious times in the history of Christchurch". Director Peter Young (The Last Ocean) examines a post-quake city where creativity thrives among the rubble: from street art to dance spaces, to the beloved 185 Empty Chairs Memorial. But will the spirit of community and creativity survive the redesign? The Art of Recovery won raves after its 2015 NZ Film Festival premiere at Christchurch's recently restored Isaac Theatre Royal. Stuff reviewer James Croot called the result "kinetic, interesting and inspiring".