It seems a fascination with going fast is built into human DNA. Covering distance in the shortest amount of time has long captured our imagination. From muscle-powered freaks of nature (thoroughbred horses, falcons, Peter Snell) to motorhead mayhem, from Formula 1 legends to front-running design innovation, this collection celebrates the particularly Kiwi 'need for speed'.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
Champion speedway driver Ivan Mauger powered and slid his motorbike around oval tracks to a record six world speedway titles from 1968 to 1979. In this documentary Mauger and his family recall his long career, from his boy racer beginnings — he argues that in Spain the heroes are bullfighters, but in Christchurch they were speedway riders — to his Western Springs farewell. David Lange also pays tribute. Mauger's focus on winning shines through: "if you show me a good loser, you show me someone who consistently loses". Mauger passed away in Australia on 16 April 2018.
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
"New Zealand congratulates Peter Snell, one of the fastest men in the world." Middle distance runner Snell sets two world records on the grass track at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, in the 800 yards and half mile. "I was almost horrified at the pace ... I was had it by the time I reached the back straight ... I just went on on the thought of that world record." He reflects on a relaxing trip to Milford Sound, and champion coach Arthur Lydiard is interviewed. Also featured is the 1962 swimming champs at Naenae Olympic Pool under floodlights. Snell died on 12 December 2019.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
This instructional film for runners — fronted by Olympic 5000m silver medallist and world record holder Dick Quax — looks at implementing the techniques of coach Arthur Lydiard. From fostering world champions on Waitakere hills, Lydiard's method evolved into a system of building stamina to complement speed. Quax, Dr Peter Snell and other Lydiard protégés look at the science and practice, from training — the high mileage mantra, fartleks, catapults — to race-day strategy: front-running and 'the kick' (with John Walker's 1976 1,500m Olympic win used as an example).
Teen presenter Andrew Shaw arrived on Kiwi television screens in the mid 70s, in a children's slot which began as TV2 Presents Andy, but was soon retitled Here's Andy. Shaw acted as a host, linking the afternoon's programming live to air, so little was recorded for posterity. This selection of opening sequences includes animated scenes of dancing animals, and images of Andy clowning around, or dressed up as muscleman and spaceman. There are also shots of him taking a Kenworth for a spin, and visiting MOTAT. The high speed final reel was used on follow-up show Hey Hey It's Andy.
This film showcases legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard's training methods, through some of his most famous pupils — including John Walker and Heather Thompson. 'Arthur's boys' (Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee) scored attention by winning unheralded medals at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Lydiard later led the 'flying Finns' to similar success. His method revolves around long runs that build stamina to complement speed. It was influential in popularising jogging globally. A highlight of the footage is Jack Foster's exhilarating descent of a steep scree slope.