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.
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).
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”.
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.
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 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.
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.
It's Wellington in the 1970s and Bob (Jeremy Stephens) is having a midlife crisis. Square-peg Graham (Bill Johnson, who later played Mr Wilberforce in Under the Mountain) tries to convince Bob to quit his bohemian lifestyle (and his lover/muse Carol) and return to his wife Jean. But is Graham really acting in his mate's best interests? Featuring a young Sam Neill as the epitome of handsome, unfettered youth (flared jeans, bushy beard) this early, well-received TV drama was one of several produced by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation to tackle 'difficult' contemporary issues.
It’s possible that Auckland’s early 60s urban growth has never seemed bigger, brighter or bolder than it does in this breathless NFU newsreel. As the city encroaches ever further into the countryside, suburbs blossom and improved roads, motorways and the new harbour bridge keep the citizenry moving. In the CBD, construction is booming with a 23 storey civic centre on the way up and an obsession with bigger and better parking buildings. Improved infrastructure is also demanded — with upgrades to ports, railways, telephone exchanges and sewage facilities.
A plain tale about the swollen secretions of suburban love. In middle class Auckland vulnerable passions break the surface as Laura (Meryl Main from Highwater) aggressively pursues love and acceptance, finding something very like it right next door. For director Niki Caro this one-hour drama was a watershed in her career. It was her ultimate drama production before embarking on a feature film career; it screened as part of the Montana Theatre series on TV One in 1995. Plain Tastes features Marton Csokas and Kate Harcourt. Producer Owen Hughes writes about Plain Tastes here.