Waitomo

Short Film, 1950 (Full Length)

This NFU short features the first 'official' colour footage of the Waitomo Caves. Perhaps wary of playing its ace card too early, Waitomo finds time to showcase local beaches and hotel ping-pong tables before moving underground. A wave of Phantom of the Opera-style organ music accompanies the tour party as they enter Waitomo’s limestone grottos, then float down an eerie underground river. Meanwhile the narrator reimagines earlier cave explorations — by English surveyor Fred Mace and local chief Tane Tinorau — into a tale of one lone white man and his candle.

Tilt to the Sun

Short Film, 1966 (Full Length)

Winter is going. This impressionistic take on spring in Aotearoa focuses on details of regeneration, from the mountains to the sea. Director Ron Bowie and cameraman Grant Foster capture signs of the season: ice melt like tadpoles under snow grass, gannets nesting on their Cape Kidnappers tenement, fern koru unfurling, kōtuku and royal spoonbills perched in Ōkārito trees like Dr Suess characters, willow buds and kōwhai flowers. And of course, lambs and daffodils. The camera aptly obeys the title to end. Patrick Flynn (Don’t Let it Get You) composed the score. 

Our World: The Best Kept Secret - Whirinaki Forest

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

In this episode of the long-running nature programming slot on TV One, naturalist David Bellamy visits New Zealand’s “dinosaur forest” — Whirinaki. Bellamy brings his famed nature-boy enthusiasm to “a living cathedral that dates back 200 million years”. He explores the North Island forest’s “big five”: 60m+ rimu, mataī, kahikatea, miro and tōtara trees; and the ecosystem that they reign over, from kākā parrots to giant tree ferns. The intro is by Gael Ludlow and features the fondly-remembered Jean Michel Jarre synthpop track that was Our World’s signature.

Misty Frequencies

Che Fu, Music Video, 2002

Taking as its subjects a boy discovering new sounds on the radio and a soundtrack that gives purpose to a woman’s life, ‘Misty Frequencies’ is a soulful hip-hop hymn to the power of music. Che Fu’s music video places the singer and his band in a giant Tetris-like computer game before plugging into a bush setting (locations representing his musical yin and yang of technology and passion?). A magic mushroom prefigures the tree ferns collapsing in a heap of CGI bricks. ‘Misty Frequencies’ won the 2002 APRA Silver Scroll for Che Fu and co-writer Godfrey de Grut.

Series

Moa's Ark

Television, 1990

Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here. 

Profiles - Neil Dawson

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Sculptor Neil Dawson — who later created major public art works including The Chalice in Cathedral Square and Ferns in Wellington’s Civic Square — is profiled in this episode from an arts series made for TVNZ. Dawson is just as enthusiastic and engaged building a tree house for his son as he is preparing an exhibition of his work. These pieces are small and deceptively simple as they explore texture and optical illusion, but his larger ambitions are also roused by a space on Auckland’s Victoria Street.

Weekly Review No. 431

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This edition of the NFU’s long-running Weekly Review series firstly looks at making of apparel for the 1950 Empire Games, including singlets "dyed in the traditional black". Then it’s down to Wellington Zoo to meet their new elephant, Maharanee; and across the harbour to examine earthmoving efforts to alter the Hutt River's course and save Barton’s Bush from being swept away. Lastly, it’s up Mt Egmont (aka Mt Taranaki) to follow good keen rangers trapping possums and shooting goats — some hiding up trees — to protect the native forest and slopes from erosion.