Three New Zealanders: Sylvia Ashton-Warner

Television, 1978 (Full Length)

Visionary educationalist and novelist Sylvia Ashton-Warner is interviewed by leading educationalist of the day, Jack Shallcrass, in this documentary about her life and work. From her home in Tauranga the film explores her educational philosophies (“organic teaching” and her “drive to diffuse the impulse to kill”) and her “divided life” between woman and artist, as she plays piano and interacts with children. It is the only interview she ever made for television, and was the first of the Three New Zealanders documentaries made to mark International Women's Year.

Collection

NZ Book Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping DogsWhale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.

The Years Back - 13, The State of the Nation (Episode 13)

Television, 1973 (Full Length Episode)

This consolidating episode of the archive-based New Zealand history series finds World War II at an end, the return of Kiwi servicemen and the country in an optimistic mood. That's sealed by the 1950 British Empire Games where New Zealand is third on the medal table. But rising prices and low incomes lead to more militant unionism, culminating in the fractious waterfront workers dispute of 1951. At the same time there's a new flowering of the arts. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is established and a new generation of writers and artists take centre stage.

Let My Whakapapa Speak

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

This documentary tells the 25-year history of Kohanga Reo via the influential figure of Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi (2014 New Zealander of the Year finalist). Kohanga Reo is a world-leading educational movement that revitalised Māori language, “by giving it back to the children”. Not eschewing controversy, director Tainui Stephens’ film journeys from a time when students were punished for speaking Māori to a present where they can have ‘total immersion’ schooling in te reo. The Qantas Award-nominated doco screened on Māori Television, and at indigenous festival ImagineNATIVE.

Weekend - The Making of Sylvia

Television, 1984 (Excerpts)

Sylvia Ashton-Warner shows her prickly side in a brief interview at the start of this Weekend item, which backgrounds a movie based on the pioneering educationalist's life. Reporter Ainslie Talbot arrives in small-town Pipiriki on the Whanganui, to visit one of the most expensive sets then built for a local film. He interviews Sylvia's director Michael Firth, who spent seven years getting the project off the ground, and talks to UK actor Eleanor David, who plays Sylvia. The film would go on to win rave reviews overseas, and praise for David's "intelligent, compassionate performance".

Sylvia

Film, 1985 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Michael Firth's feature film tells the story of writer and educator Sylvia Ashton-Warner, as she forges her visionary philosophy of “organic teaching” while teaching Māori children at an isolated school in the 1940s. Taking in romance and struggle, the drama was widely praised: Village Voice named it one of the 10 best films of 1985, while critic Andrew Sarris found “the intensely interacting performances" of the four principals "nothing short of breathtaking”. The film is based on Ashton-Warner’s books Teacher and I Passed This Way. Supporting actor Mary Regan won a GOFTA award.

Three New Zealanders: Ngaio Marsh

Television, 1977 (Full Length)

Three New Zealanders was a documentary series that looked at the lives of three of NZ's most celebrated writers: Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh. Produced by Endeavour Films (John Barnett), the final chapter of this three-part series centres on internationally acclaimed crime-writer and Shakespearean director Dame Ngaio Marsh. It contains an interview with Marsh in her later years, interspersed with comments from former students and friends, and re-enactments from her novels (with the Blerta crew as players, and John Bach as Hamlet!).

Series

Three New Zealanders

Television, 1975

This three-part documentary series was made to mark International Women's Year in 1975; it  provides rare and precious interview footage with three of New Zealand's most celebrated writers; Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh; who each reflect on their life and philosophy. In the case of Ashton-Warner and Marsh, these documentaries were filmed in the last decade of their lives. Three New Zealanders was produced by John Barnett for Endeavour Films. 

Three New Zealanders: Janet Frame

Television, 1975 (Excerpts)

This fresh, unhurried film is drawn from a substantial interview with renowned writer Janet Frame by Michael Noonan; filmed largely at at Frame’s then-home on Whangaparoa Peninsula. It was part of the Three New Zealanders series made to commemorate the 1975 International Year of Women — an early John Barnett production. The rare footage of Frame — here aged 50 — presents a confident writer in her prime, and negates any stereotypes about Frame's inarticulacy or shyness. Note: the segments from the programme dramatising some of Frame’s work are not included here.

Backch@t - First Episode

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

Backch@t was an award-winning magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, right from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, these excerpts from the first episode come out guns blazing with a debate by panellists about Tania Kovats's controversial artwork 'Virgin in a Condom', the sculpture that caused national upset when it was exhibited at Te Papa in 1998. Managing to keep a panel discussion convivial rather than confrontational, Ralston handles the catholic debate with aplomb.