Produced by Stanhope Andrews, Country Lads was used to advocate for a reorganised government filmmaking body to publicise the war effort, before screening in cinemas as the first National Film Unit production. Lads shows footage of soldiers as they leave for the front. Adolf Hitler had called the Kiwi soldiers "poor deluded country lads"; but here the description is co-opted as a compliment. A national character is expressed — pioneers who had "helped make this country what it is: happy, prosperous and free" — and is used to underpin the soldiers' mission.
Directed by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One), this 1995 TV documentary explores the story of Cecil Holmes, who won Cold War notoriety in 1948 when he was smeared as a communist agent, while working as a director for the National Film Unit. This excerpt — the opening 10 minutes — revisits the infamous snatching of Holmes' satchel outside Parliament, his Palmerston North upbringing, war service, and the founding of the Government's National Film Unit. There are excerpts from a 1980 interview where Holmes describes his inspirations (including UK film Night Mail).
Got a major live event you want to put on television? Ron Pledger has long been one of the first people to get on the phone. The MBE-awarded director has commanded live coverage of Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral, Kiri Te Kanawa in concert, This is Your Life and roughly 20 Anzac Day ceremonies. His screen career also encompasses church choirs, Canadian soap operas, the infamous GOFTA awards, and the madness of Top Town.
An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.
In this short James Rolleston (Boy) stars as a Kiwi lad who banters with an elderly bearded fulla (Bruce Allpress) who claims to be God; the 'BMX Kid' challenges him to a Lake Wakatipu bomb competition to prove it. Kiwi stuntman/director Tim McLachlan's film was a finalist in Your Big Break, a filmmaking contest run by Tourism New Zealand which attracted over 1000 scripts from around the globe. Five finalists were given the chance to turn their scripts into a short film. The brief was to "capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand — the youngest country on earth".
Cyril Morton's career began in the 1920s, during New Zealand's first sustained burst of filmmaking. Morton helped create Government filmmaking body the National Film Unit. The former cameraman was later second-in-command at the Unit for 13 years, until retiring in 1963. Morton passed away in 1986.
The long journalism career of Pulitzer-Prize winner Peter Arnett includes interviews with Fidel Castro, General Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. But his international fame stems most from two months during 1991, when he reported on the Gulf War for CNN — the only Western journalist then left in Baghdad.
John Day rolled film on a wide range of screen projects before establishing company Matte-Box Films in 1980. He went on to mix a busy trans-Tasman commercials career with directing gigs on a number of non-fiction titles (The Power of Music, The Hunt for the Pink and White Terraces), plus ghost movie The Returning. Day passed away on 7 January 2015.
Peter Read began his screen career in 1968 at the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, as a trainee editor in his hometown of Christchurch. He decided camera operators had more fun, so after an OE to London and a move to Wellington he became a camera operator. Read worked on a wide variety of shows from lifestyle (Country Calendar) to drama (Cuckoo Land) and commercials. Read passed away on 21 June 2018.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the multi-talented Dave Fraser brought his multiple musical talents to score everything from features and National Film Unit documentaries to television dramas and commercials. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-215042-F (Detail)