Cave Creek: The Full Story of a National Tragedy

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

On 28 April 1995, the collapse of a viewing platform at Cave Creek, in Paparoa National Park on the West Coast, caused 17 students and a Department of Conservation Field Centre manager to plunge 40 metres into a chasm. 14 died, and four were injured. The documentary (from which NZ On Screen has three excerpts)  explores what happened and why, with accounts by family members, survivors, and DoC staff. Made three years after the tragedy, the programme looked at its lasting impact on those left behind. It won Best Documentary at the 1998 NZ Television Awards. 

The Chills - The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps

Film, 2019 (Trailer)

It's not too big a stretch to say songwriter Martin Phillipps 'is' The Chills, one of the most distinctive pop bands to have come out of New Zealand. This documentary examines the complicated talent behind some iconic pop songs and finds him at a crossroads in his life, facing very real consequences after years of alcohol and drug dependency. Phillipps opens up about his desire to leave a proper legacy, while a selection of ex-band mates lay bare their experience of being a Chill. The film debuted at US festival South by Southwest, where it won the first of many enthusiastic reviews.

Shipwreck - The Tragedy of the Boyd

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

This episode of Greenstone Pictures' documentary series about maritime misfortune recounts the fate of the Boyd — a shipwreck created by a bloody act of revenge. Presenter Paul Gittins travels to Whangaroa Harbour in the Far North where, in 1809, local Maori slaughtered more than 60 passengers and crew. This savagery — and the cannibalism that followed — severely strained early Maori-Pakeha relations for decades. Gittins carefully examines the lead-up to the attack and former Race Relations Conciliator, and local resident, Hiwi Tauroa provides further context.

Collection

NZ Disasters

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.

Collection

Better Safe than Sorry

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.

Collection

Wellington

Curated by NZ On Screen team

In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne. 

Christchurch Fire

Short Film, 1947 (Full Length)

The Ballantyne's Department Store fire of 18 November 1947 was — until the 2011 earthquake — Christchurch’s biggest disaster. It claimed 41 lives and, as the narration says, was “one of the greatest civil tragedies New Zealand has known.” Shot by National Film Unit crew who happened to be in the city for another film, Christchurch Fire shows the battle to beat the blaze: from the mass of hoses on Cashel St, to a fireman swapping a ciggie for a cup of tea. After the footage was rushed to Wellington, the film debuted in cinemas the night after the fire, and was also seen overseas.

Junk

Short Film, 2001 (Full Length)

A group of skylarking young boys are out canvassing the neighbourhood at the same time as an elderly woman is losing the will to live. An unlocked front door presents an opportunity for the youths to rampage, unaware that anyone is home. The different energies of youth and old age are set on a collision course for tragedy in this confronting short film from writer-director Gregory King. Junk won gongs at the 2001 NZ Film Awards for best short and for John Chrisstoffels' cinematography. King has gone on to make features Christmas (2004) and A Song of Good (2008).

Wahine - The Untold Story

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

Brian Edwards was working as a television reporter when the Wahine sank on 10 April 1968 in Wellington Harbour. Twenty-five years later Edwards presented this TV3 documentary about the tragedy, which remains New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. Wahine - The Untold Story interviews passengers and crew, and features harrowing rescue footage and stills. Interviewees criticise the way the evacuation was handled — "we'd been lied to continually" — while helmsman Ken MacLeod remembers the challenges of trying to keep the Wahine on course.  

Tala Pasifika - A Day in the Life

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

Tala Pasifika was a pioneering Pacific Island drama series. This episode was one of six films that screened on TV One in 1996. The short drama follows teenage school friends Siosi (Johnny La'ulu), Matt (Faifua Amiga) and John (Robert Luisi), who are awaiting their School Certificate results. On the day he receives his grades, Siosi is beaten by his father (Ene Pataia). The following day, he discovers a tragedy has occurred within his circle of friends. This acts as a catalyst to resolve his own troubles at home. A Day in the Life won two awards at Canadian indigenous festival Dreamspeakers.