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.
Changing Rooms star Donald Grant Sunderland visits Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for this episode of Intrepid Journeys. This excerpt features the Mexican town of Merida, where the TV interior designer is impressed with the architecture and design of his guest house, which dates back to the 1600s. Sunderland also goes shopping for food at a street market, where he samples tamales and cactus fruit (apparently with some ill effects later in the journey). Sunderland also visits the beautiful Uxmal Temples, Mayan ruins dating from 600 BC.
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.
Mintaha Beca hasn't seen Lebanon in 25 years. At the age of 86, she sets off from her adopted home of New Zealand to visit her birthplace, following two decades of war. After flying into Beirut with her daughter and grandson, filmmaker Steve La Hood, she is able to laugh about demands to pay a film equipment tax at Beirut's airport. Having witnessed destruction and construction in the former 'Paris of the Middle East', the group set off for the nearby city of Zahlé, where Beca was born. There she is reminded that some things stay the same, and others are no longer hers to own.
Mixing three separate strands, On an Unknown Beach is a so-called “‘speculative documentary" about journeys into landscapes of ruin. Sonic artist Bruce Russell explores the ruined Christchurch CBD, scientist Di Tracey captures compelling underwater footage while examining coral damage on the seabed, and poet David Hornblow undergoes hypnotherapy to explore his consciousness and past experiences with addiction. The film was made by Adam Luxton and Summer Agnew, whose 2005 documentary Minginui (2005) focussed on an ex-forestry town in the North Island.
The trucks of NZ Army Service Corps were a familiar sight in 1950s Korea, according to this short National Film Unit newsreel. The focus is on New Zealand’s military involvement in the Korean War (1950-1953) — the narrator also says that in just over a year NZ guns fired over 250,000 rounds. Footage highlights the contrast between city life in Tokyo, Japan, where NZ soldiers went on leave; and the ruins of war-torn Korea. There’s also footage of NZ servicemen performing a haka before a footy game.
Kerre McIvor (then Kerre Woodham) hits Cambodia in this full-length Intrepid Journey. After sampling Vietcong tunnels in Vietnam, the self-confessed lover of home comforts crosses the border and confronts Cambodia's rough roads. Feeling guilty about complaining in a country that has endured so much, she is moved by the strong and joyful spirit of the people: 'they don't need pity, they just need a break.' Woodham visits former Khmer Rouge prison S21, makes a friend at "the Queen of Cambodian ruins", Angkor Wat, and has a memorable visit to an isolated, decaying French hotel.
This special report from late 80s/early 90s current affairs show Frontline looks at the Wahine disaster, on its 25th anniversary. Fifty-one people died on 10 April 1968 after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef near Wellington, in a huge storm. The first part ('From Reef to Ruin') features archive footage and interviews with survivors and rescuers. In the second part ('Fatal Shores'), reporter Rob Harley examines whether the ferry could have been better equipped, and more lives saved. A third part ('Strait Answers') is not shown here due to copyright issues with some of the footage.
Christchurch based Paua Productions set out to document the effects of the city’s 4 September earthquake in 2010 but found themselves overtaken by the tragic events of 22 February 22. Their focus is the experiences of everyday people coping with the destruction of large tracts of their city, significant injuries and major loss of life as liquefaction, ruined homes and thousands of aftershocks prolong the initial trauma. A number of the interviewees were followed over a year, as they struggled to come to terms with what had happened and move on.
Jack Winter's Dream is an unusual entry in the library of government filmmakers the National Film Unit: a poetic account of drink-fuelled males telling tales, adapted from a radio play by James K Baxter. Built around themes of age, death and love, the hour-long film starts with an old swagman bedding down in the ruins of an Otago pub. Time drifts: back to the night a newly rich goldminer found himself swapping memories and reveries — some of which unfurl on screen — with three drinkers and the barman (Bernard Kearns). But which one of them is planning murder?