For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
After being made redundant, Mike James becomes one of thousands searching for a new employer in Auckland. This episode of documentary series First Hand chronicles the instability faced by the accountant and his family. With their savings dwindling, plans for kids' sports teams and wife Margaret’s prospective tertiary study must be seriously reconsidered. This episode was directed by Seth Keen, who directed further television documentaries (Godzone Sheep) before going on to lecture in new media at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
In the theatre world of the 70s and 80s, playwright Mervyn Thompson was an outspoken figure. He wrote, directed, and acted in theatre that presented New Zealand working class history and experience. This doco features a rare interview with Thompson before he died in 1992, as well as footage from his last work Passing Through (1991). Thompson discusses his upbringing on the West Coast of the South Island, his approach to theatre, and alludes to some of the controversies that beset his career.
The creation of Aotearoa gets spectacular treatment in this quirky short film, which won a 2010 Tourism New Zealand contest aimed at capturing the spirit of "the youngest country on earth". Argentinian writer/director/actor Andrés Borghi dominates the screen as a man having breakfast, before having an unexpected encounter with the tangata whenua. Your Big Break judge Peter Jackson found the film "fresh and original". The competition gave finalists a chance to have their script realised with help from producer Barrie M Osborne (The Lord of the Rings).
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. He worked for the Magnum cooperative, and snapped famous shots of Pablo Picasso at a bullfight and the Monsoon series for Life magazine. In this Inspiration documentary — made shortly before his 1988 death — Brake reviews his lifelong quest for “mastery over light”, from an Arthur’s Pass childhood to a fascination with Asia. He recalls time at the National Film Unit and is seen capturing waka huia, Egyptian tombs, and Castlepoint’s beach races (for a new version of book Gift of the Sea).
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.
This was a series of stand-alone documentaries that examined the work of some of New Zealand’s iconic visual artists. Commissioned from some of NZ’s best producers and directors, Work of Art was the result of a funding initiative from NZ On Air. With slightly more generous budgets and a broad creative brief, the Work of Art series gave our more accomplished television and film practitioners a canvas for their own art. This was a forerunner to the Artsville and Festival documentary strands.
Four-part series Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over a century from September 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This third episode, directed by Melanie Rodriga, looks at women over a century of work — plus education, equal pay, family, art, and Māori life. Interviews are mixed with archive material – including a mid-80s 'girls can do anything' promotion – and reenactments of quotes by Kiwi feminist pioneers. Writer Sandra Coney also authored a tie-in book for the series.
This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across New Zealand. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The documentary includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media filmed him.
This collection celebrates women and feminism in New Zealand — the first country in the world to give all women the vote. We shine the light on a line of female achievers: suffrage pioneers, educators, unionists, politicians, writers, musicians, mothers and feminist warriors — from Kate Sheppard to Sonja Davies to Shona Laing. In her backgrounder, TV veteran and journalism tutor Allison Webber writes how the collection helps us understand and honour our past, asks why feminism gets a bad rap, and considers the challenges faced by feminism in connecting past and present.