Actor Kevin Smith could do it all; from brooding like Brando in a Tennessee Williams play, through Xena, to the gentle romantic lead of Double Booking, and self-parody in Love Mussel. Collected here are selections from a career cut short (he died in a 2002 film-set accident). Plus tributes from James Griffin, Michael Hurst, Geoffrey Dolan and Simon Prast.
This 1972 National Film Unit production promotes New Zealand’s national parks, from the oldest — Tongariro (established in 1887) — to Mt Aspiring (1964). Besides slatherings of scenic splendour, the film shows rangers clearing tracks, 70s après ski activity on Ruapehu, and school children at Rotoiti Youth Lodge: skylarking, river crossing, and cornflake eating en masse. When this film was made there were 10 National Parks (there are now 14). “In all their variety they’re the heritage of everyone who’s heard the call and felt the freedom of the unspoilt land.”
Going with his father to see the battleship HMS Ramilles set Peter Couling on a course that led to the New Zealand Navy. Joining at 18, he soon found himself bound for Korea where his ship escorted convoys from Japan to Pusan. He was also on hand to see the battleship USS Missouri fire its guns in anger for the first time since World War II. That was in the early stages of the Incheon Landings. In this interview he also talks about going on parade in London for King George VI’s funeral. Back home he headed south with Sir Edmund Hillary and the Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Changing Rooms star Donald Grant Sunderland visits Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for this episode of Intrepid Journeys. This excerpt features the Mexican town of Merida, where the TV interior designer is impressed with the architecture and design of his guest house, which dates back to the 1600s. Sunderland also goes shopping for food at a street market, where he samples tamales and cactus fruit (apparently with some ill effects later in the journey). Sunderland also visits the beautiful Uxmal Temples, Mayan ruins dating from 600 BC.
Jon Gadsby visits Myanmar (formerly Burma) and discovers an achingly beautiful country. But behind endless golden temples and scenes from Kipling, Gadsby finds "a place of contradiction" where many live in abject poverty, controlled absolutely by their military government (most famously the ongoing house arrest of democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi). When Gadsby visits, it is not a country to be travelled to lightly. He finds the locals to be open and willing to play host; yet he is struck overall by their "sad beauty".
This high-rating 1999 documentary follows Gary McCormick to Ireland to investigate "those strands which tie" Kiwis to the Emerald Isle, from Dublin to the north, where his forebears originated in the 1870s. He meets locals, (musicians, tinkers, playwrights, scuba divers) and Kiwi expats, and talks The Troubles, Celtic Tigers, and why Irish emigrated to Aotearoa. Irish Connection was another collaboration between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison (Heartland, Raglan by the Sea). Companion title The London Connection saw McCormick examining Kiwi links to London.
Reality TV host Marc Ellis tones down his laddish antics to present this series on other cultures and beliefs. In this episode he asks "what makes the Hare Krishna tick...what makes them so happy all of the time?". Ellis moves in with a Krishna community in West Auckland, where his strikingly casual guide teaches him what it is to be a Hare Krishna. Late night and early morning dance sessions prove to be less of a struggle than anticipated for Ellis, who seems to fit right in — although the haircut might be a little close, and the proximity of the local pubs a temptation too far.
This edition of the 1987 Inspiration series on Kiwi artists looks at potter James (Jim) Greig, and his search for the “spark of life” found in clay. The Peter Coates-directed documentary visits Greig’s Wairarapa studio to interview him and his wife Rhondda, also an artist. Greig’s influences are surveyed: the work of Kiwi potter Len Castle, nature, orphanhood, and Japan (where his work achieved renown). The film captures the visceral process of making large works for a Wellington City Gallery exhibition. Greig died of a heart attack, aged 50, while this film was being made.
This 2007 pre-World Cup profile interviews All Black hooker Anton Oliver. Oliver chats candidly from his home above a Dunedin art gallery about his long tenure in the black jersey: the 1999 RWC “mugging” by France, captaincy, and his desire not to be seen as a “rugby head”. Oliver — much-respected as a master of the dark arts of scrummaging — also had a reputation as the thinking man’s All Black, an image reinforced when he left rugby the year after this interview to study for an Msc at Oxford University in “bio-domestic conservation management”!
In this full-length Intrepid Journey, Paul Henry brings his straight-talking style to Tibet. Entering Tibet after three days in Kathmandu, Henry encounters dodgy plumbing and the occasional surveillance camera, though he finds a certain romance in the dirt. Henry makes no effort to hide his feelings on yak butter tea, fights altitude sickness en route to Mount Everest base camp, and visits Potala Palace — ex home to the Dalai Lama, now "a mausoleum to old Tibet". For Henry, now is the best time to visit, because "Tibet is being snuffed out. This is just going to be another corner of China."