Aotearoa is the last big land mass on earth discovered and settled by people (orthodox history suggests Māori arrived around 1280). Directed by Mark McNeill, this Greenstone TV documentary examines controversial evidence put forward to claim an alternative pre-Māori settlement — from cave drawings and carvings, to rock formations and statues. Historians, scientists, museum curators, and amateur archaeologists weigh up the arguments, DNA, carbon, and oral stories of the early Waitaha people, to sift hard fact from mysticism and hope.
Kora’s formation in Wellington in 2002 saw them associated with the city’s burgeoning dub-roots scene, but the Whakatane brothers’ music mix also extends to elements of funk, soul, rock, house and metal. That genre-defying diversity is in evidence on this track from their debut album, as a relaxed reggae intro gives way to stomping electronica-tinged funk rock. This performance video shot in Auckland at AUT’s Vesbar captures the band in their live element, complete with a crowd-pleasing freeze that turns them into a 3D tableau, and strobe-lit climax.
This award-winning film looks at the strange and ethereal world of New Zealand's limestone areas. The rocks and caves reveal ancient whale fossils, moa hunter art — and evolutionary one-offs (like giant carnivorous snails) that live in a limestone world. The film goes into the darkness to find glow-worms, cave wētā, albino crayfish and skeletons of moa who met their death falling down tomos (shafts). In underground cathedrals, exquisite formations formed by the alchemy of water and limestone are captured. There is also footage of Waitomo Caves and Te Waikoropupu Springs.
The Waitomo Caves are a longtime tourist magnet, thanks to their bioluminescent glow-worms and spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations. Aside from the glories of the caves, this National Film Unit tourism film mentions the surrounding countryside as “a good reason to stay another day”. Set to a laid-back jazz score, a tour from Waitomo Caves Hotel takes in lambing, limestone outcrops, scenic driving and a picnic by the Marokopa waterfalls. But "to float down the underground river as galaxies pass silently overhead is the crowning pleasure in the valley of Waitomo.”
Following the demise of Pacific Funk band Big Sideways, vocalist Debbie Harwood launched a solo career with this cover of an Ashford and Simpson song written for Gladys Knight and the Pips. The single was dedicated to recently deceased Dragon keyboards player Paul Hewson, and it won Harwood a NZ Music Award (at a ceremony which provided the impetus for the formation of When the Cat’s Away). The video, produced by TVNZ at Avalon, is a straightforward studio performance, but is notable for the extended, two minute long tracking shot that comprises its second half.
This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.
Reg Dunbar’s war was mostly fought in the skies above Europe and North Africa. His first bombing raids over Germany were as an RAF tail gunner in a Vickers Wellington plane - a cold and lonely job he says. For the rest of that tour he was in the wireless operator’s seat, the job he’d trained for. In North Africa the squadron supported the Eighth Army, the famous Desert Rats. Reg also took part in the first thousand bomber raid over Cologne. Later he worked on the secret 'Moonshine' radar, which fooled the Germans into thinking a bomber formation was on the way.
Since the 1970s, producer John Barnett has been instrumental in bringing a host of uniquely Kiwi stories to local and international screens, from Fred Dagg to Footrot Flats, from Whale Rider to Sione’s Wedding and What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, from iconic soap Shortland Street to the wildly successful Westie family drama Outrageous Fortune.
A flagbearer for Māori storytelling on primetime television, E Tipu e Rea (Grow up tender young shoot) was a series of 30 minute dramas touching on a range of Māori experiences of the Pākehā world — from rural horse-back riding and eeling, to urban hostility and cultural estrangement. It marked the first anthology of Māori television plays, and the first TV production to use predominantly Māori personnel. E Tipu e Rea's mandate and achievement was to tell Māori stories in a Māori way.
In this series celebrating New Zealand's national parks, Peter Hayden travels through some of Aotearoa's most awe-inspiring environments. This episode — looking at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tūhoe people, and the birds and bush of Te Urewera National Park — was directed by Barry Barclay (Ngati). Barclay used his fourth cinema philosophy of indigenous filmmaking, "to tell the contemporary story of the park through their [Tūhoe] eyes". The film attracted controversy for its then exceptional use of te reo. Catherine Bisley writes about the Journeys series here.