French Connection

Television, 2011 (Full Length)

In the northern French town of Le Quesnoy, the names of local streets and landmarks serve notice of a debt to New Zealand. In the final week of World War I Kiwi soldiers freed Le Quesnoy from its German occupiers — thanks partly to a 'magic' ladder, daringly used to scale the town’s 90-foot-high ramparts. Director David Blyth heads to France for the anniversary of Le Quesnoy’s liberation, following the path of one of the liberators: his late grandfather ‘Curly’ Blyth. The doco also includes an interview with Curly, conducted by historian Christopher Pugsley.

Ngā Morehu - End of An Era (First Episode)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

This series of portraits of Māori kaumatua, by Toby Mills and Moana Maniapoto, won Best Māori Programme at the 2000 NZ TV Awards. In this first episode, Kaa Rakaupai reminisces about catching crayfish with socks; master carver Paki Harrison spurns his family to follow his ambitions; Tawhao 'Bronco' Tioke's grandfather was jailed with prophet Rua Kenana; and Joan Mohi muses on being Pākehā and Māori. The millennial morehu ('survivors') talk of hopes for tamariki, and lament lost traditions — but not the bad old schooldays when they were forbidden to speak te reo. 

Savage Play - Part Three

Television, 1995 (Full Length Episode)

In the third episode of this drama based on the 1888-89 tour of Great Britain by the NZ Natives rugby team, the romance between Pony and Charlotte is gathering momentum. Charlotte’s grandfather — the Earl — might be alarmed by the tryst, but the Cambridge University rugby team has a far blunter way of expressing their displeasure with a Māori rugby player trying to cross class and racial lines. In the face of such opposition, Charlotte and Pony attempt to follow their hearts, but can they resist the pressures now being exerted by both of their cultures?

Weekly Review No. 367 - Crippled Children Society

Short Film, 1948 (Full Length)

This postwar Weekly Review joins a welfare officer from the Crippled Children’s Society on her Wellington rounds: advising parents, chaperoning children to hospitals to undergo physical and speech therapy, and overseeing the supply of specialist footwear and splints. There’s also a Kiwi take on Heidi as a boy is offered a farm holiday, walking on crutches among the cows: “No care and treatment can substitute for the uplift of two weeks in the country.” Released in September 1948, the film was made by decorated war correspondent Stan Wemyss (grandfather of Russell Crowe).

Journey to Arras

Television, 1997 (Full Length)

This documentary unearths the story of the soldiers in the New Zealand Tunneling Company, whose daring World War I raids involved digging tunnels through chalk rock, laying explosives underneath enemy lines, and countermining German tunneling efforts. The story is told through the eyes of a New Zealand woman who retraces her grandfather’s war story to Arras, France, and sees the Kiwi-tagged cavern 'city' nearly 80 years later. The company played a key role on the Western Front, and was especially recruited in NZ, made up of miners, bushmen and labourers.

Weekly Review No. 215 - New Zealand Cameraman in Singapore

Short Film, 1945 (Full Length)

This 1945 newsreel reports on the repatriation of New Zealand prisoners held in Japanese camps during the war in the Pacific. Cameraman Stan Wemyss (grandfather of Russell Crowe) ranges across Asia with the RNZAF — from Changi in Singapore, to camps in Java (Indonesia), and Siam (Thailand). The narration notes grimly that “the movie camera does not record the stench of death”; and returned PoW, Dr Johns of Auckland, implores for the sake of the children: “that the experiences that we have gone through at the hands of the Japanese shall never, never again be possible.”

Series

The Factory

Web, 2013

Web series The Factory is the tale of a South Auckland family and their love of music — and one another. The Saumalus compete at a $50,000 talent contest, on behalf of the textile factory where their father and grandfather Tigi work. But the family are keen to play something more modern than the traditional Samoan music Tigi favours. The 20-part web series features the Kila Kokonut Krew team, who originally created The Factory for the stage. The pioneering Pasifika musical went on to headline the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival, and was performed at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Weekly Review No. 140 - Easter Action on Bougainville

Short Film, 1944 (Full Length)

This intense newsreel reports from the war in the Pacific in Easter 1944, as American, Fijian, and New Zealand soldiers battle the Japanese in the Bougainville jungle. Cameraman Stan Wemyss found himself isolated with a Fijian patrol, amidst casualties and under fire from 'Japs'. He later recounted being so close to the action he could hear troops talking in two languages he couldn't understand; at one point he lays down his camera to pitch a grenade. Grandfather of future actor Russell Crowe, Wemyss was awarded an MBE in 1947 for his services as a war correspondent. 

2 for Todd - A Profile of Mark Todd

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

In this documentary from 1991, two-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Todd searches for his second win at the 1989 Badminton Horse Trials. Adding to the challenge, he's riding a horse — The Irishman — that he's only just met. Elsewhere in Chris Wright's documentary Todd rides horses on his grandfather’s Cambridge farm, and has early unlikely success at Badminton riding Southern Comfort and legendary horse Charisma. Todd would go on to win several Olympic medals, before triumphing at Badminton for the fourth time in 2011 — nearly 30 years after his first success.

Moonrise (aka Grampire)

Film, 1992 (Excerpts)

While visiting family down under, American teen Lonny catches up with his grandfather, a man with an infectious giggle, a thirst for adventure — and two vampire-sized incisors. Released locally as Grampire, this family-friendly adventure combines local names (among them future Pluto singer Milan Borich) with a winning turn as nice guy vampire by American Al Lewis (cult series The Munsters). Director David Blyth was won over by Michael Heath’s script because it reversed convention, and “was a plea for children to be allowed to keep and develop their imaginations”.