For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
This instructional film for runners — fronted by Olympic 5000m silver medallist and world record holder Dick Quax — looks at implementing the techniques of coach Arthur Lydiard. From fostering world champions on Waitakere hills, Lydiard's method evolved into a system of building stamina to complement speed. Quax, Dr Peter Snell and other Lydiard protégés look at the science and practice, from training — the high mileage mantra, fartleks, catapults — to race-day strategy: front-running and 'the kick' (with John Walker's 1976 1,500m Olympic win used as an example).
Self-described as “Ewen Gilmour’s not-so-special”, this episode from stand-up showcase Pulp Comedy praises Gilmour's beloved West Auckland. Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey even presents his Cultural Ambassador with the coathanger to the city. Nothing escapes the late comedian’s warm-hearted bogan barbs, from cerebral palsy to the Avon River. Also included are an ode to hitchhiking, George Mallory’s claims to have beaten Hillary, the love-making benefits of a goatee, flying high, stoned semen, westie Halloween and using the SPCA as a cattery.
Filmmaker Tom Reilly went to Graham Gordon’s West Auckland wrecker’s yard to buy car parts. He soon found himself chronicling Gordon’s battle with the former Waitakere Council trying to clear his 100 acre property (nicknamed Gordonia) of car wrecks, and a small army of colourful but largely destitute men camping there. The result was a documentary capturing the gulf between Gordon’s cheerful but dogged non-conformity and a council determined to enforce its by-laws at all costs. The soundtrack is by guitar legend and occasional resident Billy TK Senior.
A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven by their brutally insistent chief towards safety. Two water-boys are crouched in the bow. One of them risks a bold act of compassion — towards the trophy prisoner tied to the stern. The impressively-produced portage has echoes of Werner Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo, but the story is palpably Māori. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival, and was selected for the Berlin, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand festivals.
A breathless live action cartoon for adults and twisted children, Playing Possum follows two colourful bush critters as they chase each other along and around the length of SH1, while battling over a choice piece of road kill. Possum won the Grand Prix at the L'etrange Film Festival. Creator Peter Salmon went on to direct episodes for TV series Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls, and Offspring. In 2007 Salmon's dramatic short Fog was invited into International Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival.
This acclaimed drama from 1975 adapts a Katherine Mansfield story about three travellers who encounter a strange woman and child, at a remote country store. Co-directed by Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune, it won Feltex Awards for Best Script (Mune and Peter Hansard) and Actress (Ilona Rodgers). Mune and Donaldson used the drama's success and innovative financing model as a 'proof of concept', to secure funding for their 1976 series Winners & Losers. The Woman at the Store debuted on Kiwi TV screens in March 1975; it was sold as part of the Winners series overseas.
This NFU classic tells Peter Snell's story, up until just before his triumph at the Tokyo Olympics (he'd already won 800 metres gold in Rome, and beaten the world record for the mile). Snell's commentary — focused, candid — plays over footage of training and some of his key races. "It always gives a feeling of exhilaration to run in the New Zealand all black singlet." Snell offers insights into the marathon-style training of coach Arthur Lydiard (15 miles daily, 100 miles a week), and there's priceless footage of Snell running through bush and leaping fences in Auckland's Waiatarua hills.
An urban Maori trust, Te Whanau o Waipareira has developed from modest beginnings as a vegetable selling co-op into the biggest employment and training organisation in West Auckland. This documentary by Toby Mills and Aileen O'Sullivan examines its operations through the eyes of four people who have had their lives turned around by its all encompassing social, health, justice and education programmes. Interviewees include Pita Sharples and trust CEO John Tamihere (who recounts early struggles to be accepted by government, council and business sectors).
In this dark whodunit Gareth Reeves (The Cult, A Song of Good) stars as a crime writer who goes bush with strangers, while on a break from researching a story on a serial killer. Soon there’s death in the muddy Waitakere backblocks. The film marked the big screen debut of filmmaking partners James Napier Robertson and Tom Hern, en route to their high profile drama The Dark Horse. The results won support from a strong ensemble cast (Ian Mune, Ilona Rodgers), an invitation to the NZ film festival, and praise from NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder for "smart writing and good acting".