In this National Film Unit-produced 'documentary' a circus sets up at the beach. Made for the Ministry of Works to stir debate about the use of coastal land, director Michael Reeves' wiggy treatment of the subject situates the film in the 'frustrated auteur meets sober commission' NFU tradition. Ringmaster Ian Mune is a seaside Willy Wonka canvassing claims to the coast. Demands of development, recreation, and housing are dramatised — including a bizarre look at stranger danger in suburbia, and a graphic illustration of the risks of off-mains sewage treatment.
Every story in this popular TV2 reality show saw warring neighbours each give their side of a border dispute, before a well-known local tried to mediate. In this first season episode the affray is over Parakai willow trees, accused of blocking sun and busting sewer pipes (narrator Bill Kerton calls them the "herbaceous equivalent of herpes"). The mediator is Helensville MP John Key. Struggling to sit on the fence, and amid accusations of racism, the future Prime Minister is unable to forge a driveway détente: "sometimes people just don’t want to see eye to eye".
Made by Philip McDonald (Such a Stupid Way to Die) for the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority, this award-winning short explores the impact of people on New Zealand’s water cycle. Shots of irrigation, industrial waste and run-off from dairy farming show Godzone’s 1972 waterways to be far short of 100% pure — the closing national anthem played over polluted rivers underlines the point. A young Sam Neill (then working at the National Film Unit) cameos as an eau-so-suave drinker in a scene showing the disconnection between water use and where it comes from.
This first episode of the animated series for kids follows germaphobic Stanley and feisty Mary-Jane down a plughole into ‘Drainworld’. There they help a plethora of slimy mutated creatures battle the evil Dr Drain. Created by Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Flux Animation's Brent Chambers, Staines was NZ’s first official animation international co-production (with Australian studio Flying Bark). The 26 episode series debuted on Australia’s Seven in late 2006, on TV2 in early 2007, and sold globally. It opens with the award-winning theme tune composed by Australian Michael Lira.
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.
Little Bushman muso Warren Maxwell goes west in this edition of The Gravy, to meet a trio of artists creating work in the shadow of Mt Taranaki. Waru Wharehoka, an autistic painter, makes abstract works, is obsessed with weapons and zombies, and takes Maxwell on a paddle beneath New Plymouth. Assemblage artist Dale Copeland scavenges plane wrecks on the mountain and dead friend's teeth for her art. And photographer Fiona Clark discusses why she used colour film to snap her controversial 1975 drag queen images, and using a photo to help save the Waitara River.
Te reo anthology series Aroha looks at love in all its different forms. This episode follows Tiare (Taungaroa Emile from Once Were Warriors), a shy young Rastafarian caught between several rocks and many hard places. He struggles to tell his sister’s friend Erena (Stacey Daniels Morrison) that he loves her, while grappling with whether to tell his ex Black Fern sister that her boyfriend — and father of her child — is cheating. Luckily, all his problems seem to have one solution…a good old game of rugby. The episode was directed by the late Melissa Wikaire, one of Aroha's creators.
Made for the UN's first 'Earth Summit' in Stockholm in 1971, the film explores what the future holds for NZ’s environment. Director Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand) presents an impressionistic ecosystem: mixing shots of native natural wonder, urbanisation, and pollution with abstract montages and predictions from futurologists — such as Cousteau’s “underwater man”. Before climate change heated up 21st Century Doomsday debates, this film (made for the Ministry of Works!) places stock in individual responsibility. The score aptly enlists the French nursery rhyme ‘Are You Sleeping?’.
The late Keith Bracey's impeccable diction, dashing goatee and impish sense of humour made him a household name as presenter of Town and Around in Auckland. His interview with musician Acker Bilk (where he dressed identically) left a lasting impression on viewers. Bracey fronted the crime fighting show Police 5 from 1976 until 1986, when his familiar face and voice disappeared from television screens.