Back River Road

Film, 2001 (Full Length)

This low-budget feature fishtails after a Mum and her teenage kids, kicking around the far north one sleepy summer. Store Santa holiday jobs, teen romance, purloined cars, pet possums, and pot deals fill out the small town shenanigans plotline. Ray Woolf plays an undercover cop, and Calvin Tuteao is a kauri-hugging suitor. Director Peter Tait (who acted in Kitchen Sink) wrote the film to showcase the charisma of kids he was teaching at Taipa College. Made for under $20,000, the film “was bigger than Titanic” at Oruru’s Swamp Palace cinema and community hall.

Bird of a Single Flight

Short Film, 1969 (Full Length)

Renowned ornithologist and Dominion Museum head Robert Falla goes into the field to present this first edition of National Film Unit’s Land of Birds. His subject is the kōtuku or white heron, nesting in swamp forest by Ōkārito Lagoon, Westland — the only New Zealand breeding colony. In Māori lore the heron is the sacred 'He kotuku rerenga tahi' or 'bird of single flight', owing to its rare sightings. Grant Foster’s beautifully shot survey of the kōtuku’s Ōkārito summer housing screened on TV in 1972, and won a 1973 Feltex Award for Best Natural History Programme.

Encounter - I Think I Go to New Zealand

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

This edition of TV2’s Sunday documentary slot explores the life of “pioneer woman” Lukre Martinovich. Martinovich departed the Dalmatian coast for New Zealand in 1907, as a 21-year-old mail-order bride. She recounts experiences starting a family of 12, while scraping kauri gum in Northland’s ‘black swamp’. A visit to Otamatea Kauri Museum spurs memories, and some of her 160 descendants gather at Ruawai Bowling Club to celebrate her birthday. Dancing stops for Lukre (also known as Lucy) to follow a punt on the races on the radio, with the local priest on hand as support.

Weekly Review No. 140 - Easter Action on Bougainville

Short Film, 1944 (Full Length)

This intense newsreel reports from the war in the Pacific in Easter 1944, as American, Fijian, and New Zealand soldiers battle the Japanese in the Bougainville jungle. Cameraman Stan Wemyss found himself isolated with a Fijian patrol, amidst casualties and under fire from 'Japs'. He later recounted being so close to the action he could hear troops talking in two languages he couldn't understand; at one point he lays down his camera to pitch a grenade. Grandfather of future actor Russell Crowe, Wemyss was awarded an MBE in 1947 for his services as a war correspondent. 

Tamatoa the Brave Warrior - The Taniwha

Television, 1998 (Full Length Episode)

In this episode, the pint-sized Tamatoa sets off to rescue his talkative friend Moko the tuatara (Jason Hoyte), after Moko goes on an accidental kite journey and ends up in a swamp that is home to a brightly-coloured taniwha. Tamatoa has been warned that if he meets the taniwha, having a gift ready might help things along. The swamp is a place of many surprises: some of them with teeth, some with smiles. The light-hearted, colourfully-animated show was created by Kiwi company Flux Animation Studios.

Children of the Dog Star - Power Stop

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

After adapting Maurice Gee classic Under the Mountain for TV, writer Ken Catran wrote his own tale of teen extraterrestrial contact. While holidaying with relatives in the country astronomy-mad Gretchen discovers that a farm weathervane has mysterious powers. In this second episode of the girl-power sci-fi series, the weathervane does strange things to cars and appliances; and Gretchen and local scallywag Ronny discover a secret in a tapu swamp threatened by development. Actors Zac Wallace and Roy Billing feature, and future weatherman Jim Hickey cameos.

Series

Children of the Dog Star

Television, 1984

After adapting the slimy transmogrifying Wilberforces of Maurice Gee novel Under the Mountain for the small screen, scriptwriter (and future sci-fi novelist) Ken Catran returned with his own tale of kids and extraterrestrial contact. The series follows holidaying teen Gretchen (Sarah Dunn) trying to unravel the mystery of a weathervane — a "daisy rod" which seems to have otherworldly powers — and curious objects found in a tapu swamp. Backing up this girl-power sci-fi adventure are Catherine Wilkin, Roy Billing and Utu star Zac Wallace.

The Adventures of Massey Ferguson - Ducks (Series One, Episode Six)

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

With character names befitting an episode of Country Calendar, there’s something distinctly Kiwi about this animated children's show. This episode sees Murray the farmer take his friendly tractor Massey Ferguson out to the swamp for duck-hunting season. But things go awry when Massey backfires, scaring the ducks away. Back at the farm, Massey and his farm vehicle friends have to solve the problem. The culprit 's apology leads to another opportunity for Kiwi flavour. The apology: “Sorry mate”.

The Mighty Moa

Television, 1998 (Full Length)

The giant, flightless moa, could stretch up to three metres tall and weighed up to 275kg. This documentary tells the story of the "mighty moa". It covers the bird's 19th Century rediscovery by English naturalist Richard Owen who surmised that the moa existed from bone evidence (leading to ‘moa mania' bone-trade); through ignition of hope that moa may still be alive when takahe (thought as dead as the dodo) were discovered in Fiordland in 1948; to digging up bird skeletons and remains of moa hunter culture in South Island swamps.

Phil's Disease (Day 4)

Tall Dwarfs, Music Video, 1984

Being one of Tall Dwarfs’ more experimental tracks, it probably makes sense that the accompanying video would be as perplexing. Chris Knox shows his penchant for bizarre DIY animation as line drawings of creatures morph into lines of lyrics, then into human figures who keep losing their heads. The song itself does little to provide any easy answers, the minimal vocals rumbling out of a swamp of muddy riffs. Both 'Disease Day' songs appeared on 1984 EP Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster, which website All Music called "another chillingly perfect gem".