For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in World War l. Over 18,000 died; at least 40,000 more were wounded. Campaigns involving Kiwis, from Gallipoli to the Western Front, were identity-forming, and the war's effects on society were deep. The World War l Collection is an evolving onscreen remembrance. Military expert Chris Pugsley writes about the collection here.
Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
The Coming-of-Age collection includes many of New Zealand's most beloved films. Featured are grumpy uncles, annoying parents, plus a wide range of children and teens negotiating the challenges of growing older — and wiser. Among the young actors making an early mark are an Oscar-nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), James Rolleston (Boy) and 12-year-old Fiona Kaye (Vigil). The titles include Alone, the winner of NZ On Screen's very first ScreenTest film contest. In the backgrounder, young Kiwi actor Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie writes from New York.
From early teleplay The Evening Paper to the edgy Outrageous Fortune, this episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television talks drama and comedy. Key players, from actors to executives, recall a host of signposts in the development of storytelling on Kiwi TV screens. John Clarke recalls 1970s sitcom Buck's House; Paul Maunder remembers the drama that likely helped introduce the DPB; and TV executive John McRae recalls worries about the projected cost of global hit Hunter's Gold, and mentioning the word 'placenta' on the first episode of Shortland Street.
This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at Vincent Ward's first two features, Vigil and The Navigator. The director talks about the madness of the Cannes Film Festival, echoes Jack Nicholson's view that women are "a lot smarter than men", and explains why a nuclear sub turns up in The Navigator. He visits his parent's Wairarapa farm, where they remember him as a straightforward and easygoing child. Fiona Kay provides unsparing memories of starring in Vigil as a child, and the film's co-writer Graeme Tetley admires Ward's courage in tackling "big issues" like guilt and betrayal.
The Cul de Sac is set in a world where the adults have disappeared, and waves of energy destroy anyone caught outdoors. Feisty teen Rose (Greta Gregory) leads a small group of family and friends. Echoing the storytelling style of Lost, the series teases viewers with its gradual reveal of what in hell is going on. Created by Stephen J Campbell (Amazing Extraordinary Friends), the half-hour sci fi adventure ran for three seasons, each with six episodes. The cast included Molly Leishman (Wilde Ride), Peter Feeney as the scientist dad, and (in season one) KJ Apa and Beulah Koale.
Off the Rails was a 12-part journey through the railway memories of New Zealand, with raconteur Marcus Lush at the wheel. With a trainspotter's reverence for ways rail, the beautifully shot, and gently wry travelogue guided viewers around (with thanks to the Raurimu Spiral) the heart of Aotearoa. Off the Rails’ award-winning achievement was to show that energetic storytelling (Super 8 footage, contemporary pop score and snappy editing), combined with the homespun charms of local subject matter, could make for high-rating television.
Awatea, a young warrior, is enraged when his lover Te Po, a high-born chief's daughter, enters an arranged marriage. Retribution is swift and brutal. Set in the late 16th century and based on a Shakespeare sonnet ("my love is as a fever, longing still"), the storytelling of Te Po Uriuri is visceral, and suitably mythic in style. Ruru hoot, bloody patu gleam, and bodies and the oily black of the night are vividly shot by Waka Attewell. Directed by Toby Mills and filmed in te reo, it was selected for the Hamburg International Film Festival.