On the evening after the Christchurch earthquake of 22 February 2011, Alexandra’s three person rural drink-drive squad was sent to the city to assist rescue efforts. They were accompanied by field director Pip Wallis, who had been filming them for TV2 series Highway Cops. Hers was the only media camera allowed behind the cordon in the devastated central city Red Zone during those first few days. This documentary intersperses news coverage with her footage as the Central Otago police confront unimagined destruction, ongoing aftershocks and the human face of the tragedy.
Featuring cameos from numerous softball legends (including the late Kevin Herlihy), Strike Zone is a love letter to the game from late director and New Zealand under-16 pitcher Cameron Duncan. Duncan stars as a dying coach trying to motivate his team to win a key game. The messages of teamwork and not giving up are made more poignant by the many real life parallels: during filming torrential rain turned the diamond into a quagmire, and Strike Zone's teen director, himself stricken by cancer, almost died on set, before going on to compere the film's premiere.
Feature documentary In the Zone tells the story of American Terrance Wallace. In 2011 he launched The InZone Project; its aim was to transform the lives of disadvantaged Māori and Pasifika teens by moving them into supportive homes, in zones that enable them to receive opportunities at top Auckland schools like Auckland Grammar. Director Robyn Paterson (Finding Mercy) follows Wallace as he attempts to take the programme back to his hometown of Chicago. Paterson developed the project after winning a 2015 pitching competition at Kiwi documentary festival Doc Edge.
As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.
This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
Florian Habicht first won attention for 2003's Woodenhead, a fairytale about a rubbish dump worker and a princess. By then Habicht had already made his first feature-length documentary. Many more docos have followed: films that celebrate his love for people, and sometimes drift into fantasy. In this collection, watch as the idiosyncratic director meets fishermen, Kaikohe demolition derby drivers (both watchable in full), legends of Kiwi theatre and British pop, and beautiful women carrying slices of cake through New York. Ian Pryor writes here about the joys of Florian Habicht.
In this one-off documentary Te Radar takes his roving reporter skills to Takaka, and immerses himself in the groovy world of The Gathering. The New Year's dance music festival ran from 1996 to 2002. Radar proves the master of the quote, whether chatting to 'Lords of the Ping', electronic act Pitch Black or avoiding immolation from fire poi enthusiasts ("who doesn't love a fire poi", he says grimly). Watch out for Black Seed Bret McKenzie, laidback DJ star John Digweed and the earnest 'Jesus Food' crew, whose free dosh proves a bit too popular for rival food stalls.
This documentary travels to nine Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to chronicle the long struggle to create a regional nuclear arms free zone. Interviews with politicians, activists, radiation victims and American and French admirals are counterpointed. When hopes of a treaty are dashed at a South Pacific Forum meet, it is pointed out that the David Lange-trumpeted independence of NZ's nuclear-free policy is evidently "not for export". Local music scores the doco, including Australia's Midnight Oil, whose lead singer (future MP Peter Garrett) is interviewed.