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.
Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs) sees 12-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) and his mate trying to win a local trolley derby in memory of Ben’s father. In their way are schoolboy loan sharks, competition from Australia — a family led by Wayne (Vince ‘Beaureparies’ Martin) — plus getting permission from Mum (Tandi Wright). There’s plenty of Boy’s Own action and slapstick (aided by comedian Dai Henwood playing a bumbling teacher), as Ben channels the DIY spirit and races for glory. Tony Simpson’s low-budget heartwarmer was based on Nelson’s annual Collingwood St Trolley Derby.
Director Florian Habicht's follow-up to his offbeat fairytale Woodenhead is a documentary tribute to a community of characters, drawn together by a desire to jump in a car for the local demolition derby. Behind the bangs, prangs, and blow-ups, the heart and soul of a small Far North town — Kaikohe — is laid bare in this full-length film, thanks to a cast of fun-loving, salt of the earth locals. Kaikohe Demolition won rave reviews, and The Listener named it one of the ten best films of 2004. Filmmaker Costa Botes writes about the film's characters and qualities here.
In this 2011 Jam TV series, reporter Hadyn Jones motors around Aotearoa in a 1966 Ford Falcon and caravan to meet the locals. He starts his engine in Dargaville, where he meets mechanic Ken, who gets the 'blue beast' going; Ange, a mother of three who got a burnout car for her wedding anniversary; he chats with axe-man Jason Wynyard at the Arapohue A&P Show; plus a heap of Dalmatian Kiwis. Critic Karl du Fresne rated the series appointment viewing, with Jones possessing a "rare knack of being able to make them [interviewees] relax and reveal themselves on camera."
Joan Daniel was excited to learn she was going overseas as a volunteer nurse in World War II — her mother less so. But it was the beginning of a three year adventure for Joan, as she recounts in this interview. First it took her to Egypt. The cases there were mainly related to ordinary illnesses, and there was time for sightseeing and fun too. Tragedy struck though, when three nurses were killed in a traffic accident. From the Middle East she was sent to Italy and a hospital close to Cassino. The patients now were casualties of war: the wounded, the shell-shocked and the dying.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
This classic video takes a band, then throws them in the back of a moving vehicle as they try to play their song without falling over. Greg Page, a music video veteran ('Verona', 'Stop the Music'), remembers that "the concept was enormous, but sadly unrealised. But what we ended up with was a piece of magic I've never quite been able to reproduce." He talks about making this and another D4 video in a single weekend, here.
This documentary offers a glimpse into the life, art, and inimitable cheeky-as-a-kaka style of late Kiwi poet, Hone Tuwhare. In the Gaylene Preston-directed film, the man with "the big rubber face" (cheers Glenn Colquhoun) is observed at home, and travelling the country reading his work; polishing a new love poem; visiting old drinking haunts; reading to a hall full of entranced students; and expounding his distinctive views on everything from The Bible to Karl Marx's love life. He reads some of his best-known poems, including Rain and No Ordinary Sun.
Though most of his films have been documentaries, Florian Habicht's work has often blurred the boundaries between truth and fiction. His CV includes offbeat fairytale Woodenhead, two love letters to New Zealand's far north (Kaikohe Demolition, Land of the Long White Cloud), films on theatre legend Warwick Broadhead and Brit band Pulp, and his award-winning, genre-stretching romance Love Story.
Keen for Kiwi children to see themselves on the big screen, Tony Simpson made his movie directing debut in 2012 with trolley tale Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs). The film was inspired by memories of racing in Nelson’s annual trolley derby as a child. After completing 2016's A Mindful Choice, a documentary about mindfulness, he began work on Santa downunder movie, Kiwi Christmas. Simpson's screen career began long before any of these; he has directed for Shortland Street, created 2002 animated series The Adventures of Cumie the Cloud, and worked on a run of titles as an assistant director.