Seeing Red

Television, 1995 (Excerpts)

Directed by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One), this 1995 TV documentary explores the story of Cecil Holmes, who won Cold War notoriety in 1948 when he was smeared as a communist agent, while working as a director for the National Film Unit. This excerpt — the opening 10 minutes — revisits the infamous snatching of Holmes' satchel outside Parliament, his Palmerston North upbringing, war service, and the founding of the Government's National Film Unit. There are excerpts from a 1980 interview where Holmes describes his inspirations (including UK film Night Mail).

Power from the River

Short Film, 1947 (Full Length)

This NFU documentary showcases the hydroelectric power-generating might of the Waikato River. The ‘man harnesses nature’ narrative — shown via concrete, steel and earthmoving for dam building — highlights the path of the power: to drive farms, factories and Wellington’s electric trains. Director Cecil Holmes later wrote that post-war NZ was "a desperately poor country"; the film aimed to highlight Government efforts to overcome power shortages. After the 'satchel snatch' smear campaign of 1948, Holmes left for a highly regarded screen career in Australia. 

Weekly Review No. 374 - The Coaster

Short Film, 1948 (Full Length)

The coaster Breeze and her crew are immortalised in this much praised National Film Unit documentary. Poet Denis Glover and narrator Selwyn Toogood provide a rhythmic and lyrical commentary as the Breeze runs from Wellington to Lyttelton, then to Wanganui. Three weeks after the film's November 1948 release, director Cecil Holmes had his satchel snatched. He lost his NFU job after the resulting smear campaign accused him of communist leanings. Although reinstated after a court case, Holmes left for a successful screen career in Australia in 1949.

Exhibition Loop

Short Film, 1947 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the various stages of 40s film production at the relatively nascent unit, from shoot to post production. It was made to be screened continuously (thus the ‘loop’ title) at exhibition theatrettes. There’s genial interaction among the cast and crew (see backgrounder for who they are). Directed by pioneer woman director Kathleen O’Brien, the filming took place at the unit’s Darlington Road studios in Wellington, close to where Weta Workshop and Park Road Post now operate in Miramar.

Carolyn Robinson

Newsreader, Presenter

Carolyn Robinson has presented TV news for roughly two decades. For seven years she hosted Nightline, and was a weekend anchor for 3 News (alongside Simon Shepherd). She also filled in as a weekday back-up to Hilary Barry, and fronted foreign affairs with Mike McRoberts. Robinson also hosted consumer investigation show What’s Really In Our Food. In 2016 she took over presenting 20/20 for TV One.

Cecil Holmes

Director

New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary filmmaker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit. He went on to become a significant film director in Australia.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023573; F (detail)

Stanhope Andrews

Producer, Manager

An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.