Arts Icon Geoff Murphy is the trumpet-player who got New Zealand yelling in the movie aisles. His road movie Goodbye Pork Pie was the blockbuster hit of the NZ film renaissance, and he completed an unsurpassed triple punch with Utu and Bruno Lawrence classic The Quiet Earth. From student heists to hobbits this collection pays tribute to the laconic wild man of Kiwi film.
This Richard Riddiford documentary collects together stories about the creative writing course at Victoria University. The storytellers are a roll call of names who have studied and taught there, from course founder Bill Manhire to current Insititute of Modern Letters director Damien Wilkins. Writers praise the gentle style of teaching and sense of community (and feedback). Eleanor Catton talks about the journey from her first novel The Rehearsal, written while at Victoria, to the first sentence of The Luminaries. The doco is named after the poem by American Wallace Stevens.
In this 1987 Radio with Pictures excerpt, visiting English singer Billy Bragg performs a song in the Victoria University Student Union Hall. The Bard of Barking is intercut with Wellington street scenes: pensioners, punks, and pigeon feeding in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall. From the Workers Playtime album (1988) Bragg’s Valentine’s Day song is far from a Hallmark card, with droll rhyming couplets telling of a bruised, but defiant lover: “For the girl with the hour glass figure time runs out very fast / We used to want the same things but that's all in the past.”
Host Richard Driver introduces this short Radio With Pictures segment on the “band that made Milwaukee famous”. For the Violent Femmes it’s a long way from Wisconsin to Wellington. RWP hands control of the camera to the band: after goofing around in the ivy in front of Victoria University’s Hunter Building, the Femmes are presented with their first gold record in a nearby graveyard (New Zealand is “obviously a country with a high level of taste”). The first Femmes break up occured the following year. The band's cover of T. Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’ plays on the soundtrack.
This film records the devising of a “work in progress” by theatre director Ashley Thorndyke (Jason Hoyte). The concept — by Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Scarfies) — mocks the gamut of thesp and drama school cliches: from ‘wanky’ director to wacky warm-up exercises (animal impersonations, primal screams, Love Boat theme song). Peter Burger, fresh out of Broadcasting School, co-directs, and the willing cast is drawn from the 90s Wellington theatre scene orbiting around Bats and Victoria University. Future Conchord Jemaine Clement memorably learns to get loose.
English activist songwriter Billy Bragg chats with Dick Driver in this interview, shot in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall in Wellington, for TVNZ’s 80s rock show. They have unlikely company in the form of Alice, an elderly passerby, and the affable Bard of Barking happily includes her in the conversation. With a rare Top 10 hit single on his hands, he discusses commercialism, his brief army career and writing both love songs and political songs. A pre-concert performance of his ‘Days like These’, recorded at Victoria University, bookends the interview.
The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early heist tale from Geoff Murphy (Pork Pie, Quiet Earth, Utu). The plot follows some university students — short on exam fees and beer money — and their scheme to crack a campus safe ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Murphy enlisted $4000 and a bevy of mates (including Bruno on bongos) to make the film over nine months of weekends. It screened on TV on New Year’s Eve 1970; its assured pace and naturalist acting stood in stark contrast to the stage-derived telly standards of the time.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
Shirley Horrocks' documentary profiles the life, work and influence of pioneering PI writer Albert Wendt (1973's Sons for the Return Home was the first novel published in English by a Samoan). The film accompanies the writer to various locations in the Pacific and addresses his Samoa upbringing, his education in New Zealand and his work as writer and teacher; and discusses the contemporary explosion of Pacific arts. "I belong to Oceania — or, at least, I am rooted in a fertile part of it and it nourishes my spirit, helps to define me, and feeds my imagination."
Aroha depicts a young Māori chief's daughter who embraces the modernity of the Pākehā world (attending university in Wellington) while confronting her place with her own people (Te Arawa) and traditions at home. The NFU-produced dramatisation is didactic but largely sensitive in making Aroha's story represent contemporary Māori dilemmas (noted anthropologist Ernest Beaglehole was the cultural advisor). Watch out for some musical treats, including an instrumental version of classic Kiwi song, 'Blue Smoke' and a performance of the action song 'Me He Manu Rere'.