Johnstone's Journey - Settling for Suburbia

Television, 1978 (Full Length Episode)

In this fifth episode from his personal examination of New Zealand at the end of the 70s, Ian Johnstone explores the then new suburb of Massey in West Auckland — the latest instalment in what seemed, at the time, like an unending march of urban sprawl (which had already produced seemingly far-flung suburbs like Otara and Porirua). For Johnstone, Massey is an "infestation of houses", bafflingly lacking in community amenities. By turns wry, considered and accusatory, this masterful performance would have made him few friends in town planning circles.

Collection

Kiwi Architecture

Curated by NZ On Screen team

The concept of the New Zealand home — and who has the means to own one — can be a contentious topic these days. Aotearoa's history is one of architectural innovation: occasionally born from abundance, often of necessity, and sometimes from crisis. The titles which follow range from visionary concepts in Māori architecture, through sheds and houses in suburbia, to town halls, high rises and whole cities, busy being reborn —all this, plus critiques of urban sprawl, and a cartoon hero fighting a war on mediocre architecture (in Four Shorts on Architecture).

About Face - Danny and Raewyn

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Gritty, award-winning drama, set in Auckland suburbia. Danny and Raewyn's relationship is skating close to the edge. And so are their finances. Though the physical attraction between them remains, Raewyn is growing tired of encouraging Danny to make more effort. Then one night alcohol and memory collide with an order of black-market meat, and everything turns on its head. One of the most acclaimed episodes of the About Face series, Danny and Raewyn won funding after another episode fell through.

Carnival Coast

Short Film, 1974 (Full Length)

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.

Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!

The Mint Chicks, Music Video, 2006

This award-winner from the 2007 NZ Music Awards sees the Mint Chicks performing after dark, somewhere on the edge of suburbia, while a wolf (actually a siberian husky) sparks a journey through the streets — past people wrestling with poultry, and each other. Director Sam Peacocke (Manurewa, Shihad - Beautiful Machine) displays the same enigmatic approach taken with Mint Chicks clip Walking Off a Cliff Again. The band also took out NZ Music Awards for Best Group and Album. Real Groove magazine later rated this the best New Zealand single of the decade. 

This is Her

Short Film, 2008 (Full Length)

"This is me. This is my husband …" So narrates Evie as she watches her younger self labour with childbirth. "And this is the bitch who will one day steal him, and ruin my life." When the bitch is shown as an angelic six-year-old the tone is set for Katie Wolfe’s award-winning black comedy (her debut short as a director). Writer Kate McDermott’s wry narration moves between then and now, as fate delivers a less than wonderful life in Auckland suburbia. Selected for the Sundance Film Festival, This is Her was a breakout festival success, earning Wolfe notice as a filmmaker to watch.

The City And The Suburb (part two)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.

Eating Sausage

Short Film, 2004 (Full Length)

This short film follows a freshly-arrived Korean immigrant, trapped in suburban Auckland while her husband Kim works. Su Jung befriends her neighbours, who take her to their weekly swimming lessons, where she finds release in the water. But when swimming affects the cooking of dinner, Kim is piqued. For 2009 Spada New Filmmaker of the Year Zia Mandviwalla, Eating Sausage was the first in a quartet of shorts exploring cross-cultural collisions (Clean Linen, Amadi and Cannes-selected Night Shift). It was selected for the London and Pusan Film Festivals.

Welcome Home

Dave Dobbyn, Music Video, 2005

A heartwarming tribute to the spirit of togetherness, this Dave Dobbyn classic celebrates Aotearoa's many colours. Forklift drivers, shop owners, children and (then) asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui lend weight to the welcome, as does the declaration at the end: "We come from everywhere. Speak peace and welcome home." Taken from 2005 album Available Light, Dobbyn's song became an unofficial anthem to many expats. Dobbyn went on to sing it at the 2006 launch of a NZ memorial in London, at concerts after the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks — and in te reo version 'Nau Mai Rā'.

The Evening Paper

Television, 1965 (Full Length)

Early teleplay The Evening Paper had the same rigid (theatre or radio-derived) format as other early TV dramas of the 60s, but it did something never before seen on local screens. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, the drama dared to expose a stifling NZ suburban existence. Jaded visiting Pom, Phillip; snivelling Winsome and her domineering mother Elfrida, and passive father Ernest, proved too much for viewers, who decried the drama as inaccurate and "unfair"; in other words, The Evening Paper gave Kiwis their first on-screen dose of cultural cringe.