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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.

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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).

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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 sewerage treatment.

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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. 

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The Summer the Queen Came

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

Miles (Joel Tobeck) is 16. His family are falling apart and he's got a crush on his cousin. An imminent royal visit offends his mother's political sensibilities and his father is spending time with a female neighbour. Christmas is coming and the twins have murder on their minds. Director Niki (Whale Rider) Caro's survey of the everyday eccentricities of family was nominated for best TV drama scipt and director at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. The film was one of three half-hour dramas commissioned by TVNZ under the series title Another Country. Producer Owen Hughes writes about it here.

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The Gathering

Television, 1979 (Full Length)

This teledrama explores the tensions surrounding an elderly woman's tangi, as whānau members gather in a suburban house. Alienation of urban Māori — particularly son Paul (Jim Moriarty) — from iwi roots, and differing notions of how to honour the dead, are at the heart of the conflict between the mourners. A pioneering exploration of Māori themes, the Rowley Habib teleplay was one of three one-off dramas the playwright wrote (alongside 1978's The Death of the Land, and 1982's The Protesters) encouraged by director Tony Isaac. It screened in April 1980.

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Housing in New Zealand

Short Film, 1946 (Full Length)

This 1946 film surveys New Zealand housing: from settler huts to Ernest Plischke’s modernist flats. Architect William Page bemoans sun-spurning Victorian slums with their unneeded “elaboration”. But more fretful than fretwork is a housing crisis that sees 26,000 families needing homes, with owning or renting out of reach of many. Michael Savage’s pioneering (but war-stalled) state housing scheme and newly-planned suburbs offer hope. Fed by wood and cement, NZ can build again with brio: “For a home is the basis of the simple things that make victory worthwhile.”