New Zealand Munitions was the 26th National Film Unit effort, and the longest made in the Unit's first year. The NFU was established in August 1941 to make films illustrating New Zealand's war effort. Completed in December of that year, this is a classic propaganda piece. As World War II intensifies, New Zealanders are reassured that the country has the heavy industry required to supply its army. Factories are converted to wartime needs and munitions pour out. A suitably bellicose script informs viewers "This is our striking power: men and munitions."
Kicking off in an inner city laundromat, this K' Rd Story travels strange places indeed. An unassuming man is going about the business of getting some clothes washed, when he realises that his clothes have disappeared mid cycle. Opening the washing machine, surprised by what he sees, he climbs in... Grant Lahood's pedigree in quirky, low or no dialogue short films dates back to the classic Snail's Pace in 1989. Peter Tait, who stars, played the hunter in Lahood's short The Singing Trophy — which scored an award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
This NFU documentary goes behind the scenes as Selwyn Toogood and his team prepare an episode of 50s radio quiz show It's In the Bag, long before it hit the telly. Questions are prepared and booby prizes — epsom salts, toy ducks — selected, before Toogood hits the stage at the Lower Hutt Town Hall to utter the ultimate poser. The big prizes du jour included washing machines and flash (New Zealand-made!) fridge-freezers. The show was so popular with '50s radio audiences it was said cinemas closed their doors on Tuesday nights when it went to air.
This 1967 NFU instructional film demonstrates breathing exercises developed by Bernice ‘Bunny’ Thompson, to help children suffering from asthma and bronchitis. The film was based on the pioneering physiotherapist's 1963 book of the same name. Director Frank Chilton won renown for his documentaries dealing with the health and welfare needs of children. Asthma and Your Child was commissioned by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, and was an early example of a privately-funded socially-useful film. The animation of respiratory processes is by Morrow Productions.
This short profiles the work of Gisa Taglicht. A pioneer of women's rhythmical gymnastics, Taglicht advocated the benefits of physical exercise for women. Risqué at the time for the women’s skimpy outfits, the Wellington-set film sees women escaping machine and washing line oppression via a YWCA hilltop session: limbs reaching and stretching towards a stark sky. The National Film Unit's post-war Weekly Reviews became less overtly patriotic, and some, like this Michael Forlong-directed one, were unabashedly experimental. The score was composed by Douglas Lilburn.
In director Garth Maxwell’s 1993 gothic horror twins Jack and Dora (late US actor Alexis Arquette and Kiwi Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) are separated while young; their adult reunion sees them battling the trauma of their past while being pursued by Jack’s sadistic step sisters. Complete with ESP,and a steam-driven hypnosis machine, Maxwell makes an exuberant and surreal contribution to the cinema of unease. New York Times’ Stephen Holden lauded the heady head-spinner as “a superior genre film” with a “feverish intensity that recalls scenes from Hitchcock and De Palma.”
Jude Dobson became a familiar television presence in the 1990s presenting a run of lifestyle shows, and then her own five night a week series. After beginning on quiz show Sale of the Century, she went on to helm almost 1000 episodes of 5.30 with Jude and its follow-up. In 2002 she set up production company Homegrown Television to make documentaries and educational films exploring parenting and family.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.