The fall of the Iron Curtain was still several years away when Shona Laing wrote her first APRA Silver Scroll winner 'Soviet Snow'. The world had been "teasing at war like children" over decades of the arms race and Cold War brinksmanship and the threat of nuclear winter was very real. The video is a suitably chilly but dizzying montage that marries Russian iconography and Soviet imagery to the song's urgent synthesised beats. Laing later stripped 'Soviet Snow' of its synthpop trappings in an acoustic version on her 2007 album Pass the Whisper.
This 2006 documentary is a portrait of one of New Zealand politics' most contradictory figures: unionist Ken Douglas. At the time of filming Douglas occupied numerous board positions (eg Air New Zealand, the NZ Rugby Football Union), but early on he was a truckie and Marxist. Rob Muldoon branded him 'Red Ken'. For 15 years until 1999 he led the Council of Trade Unions. Directed by Monique Oomen for Top Shelf Productions, the film is framed around interviews with Douglas and his colleagues, and asks whether he is a turncoat or a strategic realist moving with the times.
One of the most controversial political adverts to emerge from New Zealand, this 1975 spot only played twice on local television, but helped bring National a landslide win. National leader Rob Muldoon’s chief target was the Labour Government’s superannuation scheme, which the ad notoriously associated with communism, via a troupe of dancing Cossacks. Created by ad agency Colenso, the concept was animated by company Hanna-Barbera in Australia. After being elected, Muldoon brought in a replacement superannuation scheme.
The Five Eyes spy network was set up after WWll to monitor and share intelligence between the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. According to this interactive documentary, the network sought a new justification for its existence after the Soviet Union's collapse, and found it in digital communications. Narrated by Lucy Lawless, I Spy aimed to inform viewers about just what their local intelligence agencies are up to. Interviewees included author Nicky Hager and ex NSA/CIA director Michael Hayden. I Spy was funded by a joint Canadian-NZ Digital Media Fund.
Radio veteran Kim Hill finds herself among the politics, cigar smoke and dancing in Cuba, in this episode of the long-running travel show. During a 15-day visit, a series of seemingly random encounters take her off the beaten track to Hoodoo ceremonies, the Bay of Pigs and the sad spectacle of Guantanamo Bay. Hill conveys a textured perspective on life in Castro's Republic, and calls it "a strange mixture of Soviet style communism and Latin American hedonism".
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. It is May 1976, and Walker is daring to interrogate Muldoon about his claims of a Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and New Zealand's vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."
Colin McKenzie joins Rudall Hayward and Ted Coubray as one of the earliest New Zealanders to make feature films on Kiwi soil. McKenzie was a technical innovator, responsible for a number of international filmmaking firsts. His unfinished epic Salome finally premiered in 1995, six decades after his death.
Ivars Berzins fell in love with photography aged eight, en route to TV assignments across NZ, in Norwegian fjords, and in East Timor. Berzins was chief cameraman in TVNZ's Wellington office before leaving in 1996 to start company Pacific Crews (now Pacific Screen), which he went on to run with his wife, producer Amanda Evans. These days he directs as well as films, including on documentary series New Zealand Stories.
From humble beginnings as a stage actor in New Zealand in the 1950s, Nyree Dawn Porter achieved international success via British television. As one of the stars of 1967's The Forsyte Saga, she was seen by over 100 million people worldwide. Following the show’s mammoth success, she was awarded an OBE in 1970 for services to television.
Niki Caro's near wordless Sure to Rise was nominated for best short film at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Four years later her debut feature Memory and Desire was invited to Cannes. Caro followed it with Whale Rider, winner of more than 27 awards, and still one of New Zealand's most successful films abroad. Since then Caro has directed everywhere from France to China, to mining towns in Minnesota.