Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
Stories behind 100 of more than 2 million pieces in Te Papa’s collections are investigated in this series of mini-documentaries commissioned by digital channel TVNZ6. Presenters Simon Morton and Riria Hotere talk to the museum’s curators and researchers about items ranging from the quirky to the nationally, and internationally, significant. Subjects include artworks by Colin McCahon and John Reynolds, a Fijian war club, a Samoan cricket bat, a “murder house” dental nurse’s equipment, the Playschool toys, an Egyptian mummy and the fate of the Huia.
Phar Lap — the pavlova of the equine world — is the subject of this episode in a series looking at some of Te Papa’s holdings. Bred and trained in New Zealand, he spent most of his outstanding racing career in Australia (before dying in suspicious circumstances in California) and is regarded as a national treasure on both sides of the Tasman. His fate reflects those claims, with his skeleton at Te Papa, his hide in Melbourne and his heart in Canberra. This mini-doco backgrounds Phar Lap’s life and includes some of the scarce footage available of him.
This documentary is a view into the crucible that forged museum Te Papa, which opened on Wellington's waterfront in February 1998. Fascinating fly-on-the-wall moments are captured as a new kind of national museum is conceived. This excerpt features a board meeting where Saatchi & Saatchi present branding options. As political, ideological, creative and commercial considerations collide, the frustrations of decision making by committee are palpable: the body language, tears, cautions, grumbles, and finally, smiles, as they settle on the contentious thumbprint logo.
Hosted by Jason Gunn, this popular late 90s teen talent quest became a pop culture marker for young Kiwis of the era. In this 1999 grand final at Te Papa’s marae, judges King Kapisi and Stacey Daniels assess the year's finalists. They include 11-year-old Hayley Westenra performing ‘The Mists of Islay’, which Westenra would later record after finding global fame as a classical crossover singer. The international guest is another young prodigy: violinist Vanessa Mae. Future Sticky TV/C4 presenter Drew Neemia was one of the members of house troupe The Super Troopers.
“Here is a taste of the best and worst of Backch@t 2000…goodnight.” Presenter Bill Ralston introduces this reel of outtakes and highlights from the Gibson Group arts series. The creative sector's issues of the day include installing Len Lye’s Wind Wand, arts funding, and arts patron Denis Adam’s thoughts on Te Papa’s arts displays. Ralston, reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and film reviewer Chris Knox all get tongue-tied; there’s a tiff between two architecture panelists, brief appearances by Ian McKellen and Miriama Kamo, and opera singer Jonathan Lemalu hits a low note.
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.
This episode of the Māori Television series looks at the place of the wharenui in Māori architecture. Rau Hoskins explores the origins and meaning of the structure, and looks at some iconic examples: a replica pataka being built in Hamilton Gardens; te hau ki turanga (the oldest surviving example of a wharenui) controversially taken by colonial forces, now displayed at museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington; and Ngākau Māhaki at Auckland's Unitec — designed by master carver Lyonel Grant and replete with dashboard lights from 70s Holdens.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
Play School (1972 - 1990) was an iconic educational show for pre-school children. The opening sequence — "Here's a house ..." — and the toys (Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty, Manu) were the stars. This compilation reel of various presenters features two excerpts from 1980: Barry Dorking and Jacqui Hay (future National MP), and Dorking solo; one from 1982: actor Rawiri (Whale Rider) Paratene with Winsome Dacker; and two from 1987: Eilish Wahren with Kerry McCammon, and Russell (Count Homgenized) Smith and actress Theresa (Shortland St) Healey.