This selection — in partnership with the NZ Film Commission — showcases award-winning examples of Kiwi short filmmaking. From the the tale of two men and a Cow, to the sleazy charms of The Lounge Bar, from Cannes to Ngawi; this collection is a celebration of "a beautiful medium for nailing an idea to the fence post with a piece of No.8 wire."
In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
Recut from material shot at least five years before, this National Film Unit short appears to have been driven by the Tourist and Publicity Department. Coming in for praise are New Zealand’s primary exports (farm products), road and railways, and social security. In the 50s long distance air links were opening NZ up to the world but international tourism was not a major industry, and NZ was focused firmly on agriculture. People are shown farming, “a little unsmiling” on city streets, and at play (fishing, sailing and skiing). Kids drink milk and Māori are assimilating.
In the pop-plastic milk-bar universe of Bubblegum Valley, true love is on the rocks. Blue pulls up to the Paperdoll Diner in his mint cadillac. Inside, Candy hears gossip that Blue has been untrue. Will Blue's musical extravaganza fantasy reunite him with his true love? Will his gel hold his quiff up for the length of the film? This is an excerpt from Kezia Barnett's confectionary tale of marching girls and rock'n'roll dreams on rollerskates. It was the first funded short shot by cinematographer Ginny Loane; and was scored by indie duo The Brunettes.
In this 1972 documentary writer James McNeish visits Opononi to examine the life and controversial death of Opo the dolphin. Working from a McNeish idea, director Barry Barclay uses Opo’s mid 50s visit to the Hokianga as the basis for a probing film essay on people, and other animals. Witnesses recall Opo “oomping away”; they include local Piwai Toi, filmmakers Rudall and Ramai Hayward, and author Maurice Shadbolt. Opo is provokingly not shown on screen. Michael King praised Miracle as “without a doubt the most interesting and evocative” slot in the Survey series to date.
Scenic vistas of Aotearoa have become an important part of New Zealand identity. Hand-coloured photos produced by Whites Aviation from 1945 were formative in the genre, and hugely popular after WWll. This 2016 Loading Doc profiles 'colouring girl' Grace Rawson, now 83, who uses cotton wool and brushes to demonstrate the meticulous process behind colouring the images. The short was co-directed by artist and commercials director Greg Wood, and author Peter Alsop (Selling the Dream), whose book on the photos, Hand-Coloured New Zealand, was published in 2016.
This was the 24th edition of New Zealand Mirror, a 1950s National Film Unit series promoting New Zealand to British audiences. The first clip, about rugby's Ranfurly Shield, was deemed “too topical” by the UK distributor, and cut from later editions. The clip in question captures the colour of the national obsession (knuckle bones, livestock parades) at Athletic Park, where Taranaki challenge shield holders Wellington. It was later seen in Kiwi theatres as a short, playing with 1982 rugby tale Carry Me Back. The latter segments show Kaiapoi ploughing, and Wairakei thermal energy.
A Friendly Career (or The Story of the Training and Life of the New Zealand School Dental Nurse) was a promotional film made by the National Film Unit for the Department of Health. The plot waltzes through the idyll of one doe-eyed careerist's sugar-coated journey to a respectable job in the 'murder house', caring for the teeth of the Dominion's children. Focusing on the hard work and 50s fun times of hostel life, with its friendships, matrons, tooth-pulling and en masse doing-of-the-hokey pokey, the end of this careerist road is pitched as one of great satisfaction.
In 1951, New Zealand temporarily became a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, freedom of speech denied, and people could be imprisoned for providing food to those involved. This award-winning documentary tells the story of the 1951 lockout of waterside workers, and what followed: an extended nationwide strike, confrontation and censorship. There are interviews with many involved, from workers to journalists and police. At the 2002 NZ Television Awards, 1951 won awards for Best Documentary and Documentary Director (John Bates). Costa Botes backgrounds 1951 here.
This isn't an apartheid manual or minimalist design code, but a 1952 road safety film from the National Film Unit. The film follows 'Mrs White' and 'Mrs Black' leaving their respective homes (on foot) for a bridge evening. Mrs White wears visible clothing and faces the traffic (would a modern colour remake see a Mrs Fluoro?). Mrs Black dresses eponymously and walks with her back to the traffic. Predictable results ensue. Modern viewers who associate such character names with Reservoir Dogs will not be disappointed by the suspenseful denouement.