After relocating from the UK to Auckland, James Solomon found that Karangahape Road reminded him of home. In 2015 he was a prime mover behind K' Rd Stories, a series of 10 short films celebrating the iconic street (Solomon directed two). Earlier, he won awards for his music videos (he has directed clips for Hollie Smith and Zowie) and commercials ('Oil on Canvas'). Solomon is also a cameraman and an art director.
This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows two grandchildren of Tommy Solomon — the last full-blooded Moriori — on a pilgrimage to Rēkohu in the Chatham Islands, to rediscover their heritage. They learn about 1000 years of Moriori settlement: Polynesian origins, pacifist beliefs (tragically tested by 19th Century Māori invasion), carvings and a seafood-based way of life. Years before Michael King’s 1989 book Moriori: A People Discovered and Barry Barclay film Feathers of Peace, this 1980 doco launched a revival of Moriori culture, and revised popular misconceptions.
As a bitter civil war tears apart the lives of his students, an isolated English school teacher in Bougainville (House star Hugh Laurie) finds a unique way to create hope; 14-year-old Matilda (Xzannjah Matsi) is enthralled by his Charles Dickens-infused disaster survival lessons. The life during wartime tale was directed by Kiwi Andrew Adamson (Shrek), and adapted from the 2006 Booker Prize short-listed novel by Lloyd Jones. Adamson spent time in Papua New Guinea, as the teen son of missionary parents. Laurie and Matsi won best actor gongs at the 2013 Moa Awards.
Like many others who signed up at the beginning of World War II, Tom Beale was looking for excitement, travel and the glamour of the uniform. Where he ended up was Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. A Leading Aircraftman (a junior rank in the air force), Beale served alongside Americans and Australians as they fought to push the last remaining Japanese soldiers off the island. Daily Japanese bombing raids added to the discomfort of fighting in the tropics. Returning home, Beale found it difficult to settle and re-enlisted, ending up in Japan as part of the occupation force.
“Ask your mother!” That’s what John Fallow’s father told him, when he said he’d like to join the navy at the outbreak of World War II. She relented and John embarked on his wartime career aboard minesweepers. A six month course in Australia followed and, after exemplary work, an accelerated promotion; just one of three granted by the Royal NZ Navy during the war. Clearing mines from major ports following the sinking of the RMS Niagara outside the Hauraki Gulf led to working alongside US allies in the Pacific. John had a lucky war. His ship never fired a shot in anger.
Gary McCormick travels to the furthest corner of New Zealand and hangs out with fishermen, farmers, and ghosts. He reads the weather report on the islands' radio station (where the forecast is more rain); explores the vibrant nightlife, endures a Ministerial speech at the opening of a new wharf facility, and goes hunting at night for a local delicacy: weka. This instalment of the series is notable for some especially beautiful location photography by Swami Hansa.
A Moment in Time is an armchair interview with historian Michael King OBE filmed in 1991. King discusses his early influences, motivation, and distinctive publications. King died in a car accident with his wife Maria Jungowska in 2004, and his reflections in A Moment in Time are testament to the tragedy of that loss: "We've got to be able to trace our own footsteps and listen to our own voices or we'll cease to be New Zealanders, or being New Zealanders will cease to have any meaning."
This 1983 film looks at New Zealand in World War II, via a compilation of footage from the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series, which screened in NZ cinemas from 1941 to 1946. It begins with Prime Minister Savage’s “where Britain goes, we go” speech, and covers campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and life on the home front. The propaganda film excerpts are augmented with narration and graphics giving context to the war effort. Helen Martin called it "a fascinating record of documentary filmmaking at a crucial time in the country’s history".
At any one time between mid 1942 and mid 1944, between 15,000 and 45,000 US servicemen were camped in NZ preparing for, and recovering from, war in the Pacific. The marines brought colour and drama to the austerity of home front life. Fifty years later this TV documentary used interviews, reenactments and archive material to explore the “American invasion”. Sonja Davies recalls a Wellington street fight kicked off by a racist insult directed at Māori, and her wartime pregnancy and romance (1,500 marriages ensued from “when the Americans were here”).
This documentary travels to nine Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to chronicle the long struggle to create a regional nuclear arms free zone. Interviews with politicians, activists, radiation victims and American and French admirals are counterpointed. When hopes of a treaty are dashed at a South Pacific Forum meet, it is pointed out that the David Lange-trumpeted independence of NZ's nuclear-free policy is evidently "not for export". Local music scores the doco, including Australia's Midnight Oil, whose lead singer (future MP Peter Garrett) is interviewed.