This collection brings together over 60 titles covering Kiwis at war. Iconic documentaries and films tell stories of terrible cost, heroism and kinship. There are also background pieces by historians Chris Pugsley and Jock Phillips, and broadcaster Ian Johnstone. Pugsley muses, "It is sobering to think that in the first half of the 20th Century the big OE for most New Zealanders was going to war."
This Sunday item is based on an interview with Daniel Rockhouse, one of two survivors of the Pike River mine disaster. The interview screened on 27 March 2011, less than five months after the November 2010 tragedy, when a series of methane gas explosions resulted in the deaths of 29 of Rockhouse's workmates, including his brother. Deafened and stunned, Rockhouse dragged workmate Russell Smith a kilometre through noxious gas to safety. Here the reluctant hero, cradling a newborn daughter, reflects on the events. In 2015 Rockhouse was awarded the NZ Bravery Medal.
In 1982 bad weather left Mark Inglis and Phil Doole trapped for 13 days in a crevasse, close to the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook. No Mean Feat chronicles the path taken by Inglis since — from rescue, and the discovery he would lose his lower limbs, to his reinvention as research scientist, winemaker, and paralympic cyclist. In 2001 cameras followed Inglis back to Cook, where he attempted another climb using custom-designed prosthetic legs. Topped off by stunning aerial footage of Mt Cook, No Mean Feat won best documentary at the 2003 NZ TV Awards.
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that Kiwi soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative New Zealand nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play Once On Chunuk Bair.
This epic Lee Tamahori-directed promo for the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games imagines the stirrings of Games spirit in the mud of the Western Front, 1917. Behind the lines, soldiers from various 'British Empire' nations (Bruno Lawrence, Tony Barry and a young Joel Tobeck) lay bets to see who is the fastest. After racing they pledge to "do this again sometime eh brother" (referring no doubt to the shared joy of competition, as opposed to 1,115,597 Commonwealth war dead). The first Commonwealth Games were held in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), in 1930.
When people tell the amazing story of Kiwi legend Julian Harp, Nicky doesn't get a mention. Now, in one of the New Zealand screen's classic monologues, Nicky (Lucy Sheehan, from Talkback) takes the opportunity to let us in on what really happened: her relationship with Julian, his plan to destabilize the Government via a letterwriting campaign, and the couple's preparations for the day he achieved engineless flight and rose into the sky from the Auckland Domain. This episode of anthology series About Face is based on the classic story by CK Stead, author of Smith's Dream.
Shipwreck told dramatic stories of mystery, heroism and tragedy at sea, as it explored eleven notable shipwrecks in New Zealand's maritime history. In each episode tales of buried treasure, massacre, death and survival are evocatively retold. Wrecks covered included The Boyd,The Ariadne and The Orpheus, the worst martime disaster in the nation's history. Shipwreck was presented by actor Paul Gittins (Epitaph). The Greenstone Pictures production won Best Information Programme at the 2000 Qantas Media Awards.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
In Gaylene Preston's documentary, seven elderly women recall their personal experiences of World War II. Their intimate, unadorned stories are filmed talking heads style, interspersed with personal photographs and period newsreel clips. From tragic love stories to long-suppressed revelations of sex and death, War Stories is a revealing touchstone of New Zealand history. It received international acclaim. LA Times writer Kevin Thomas enthused that Preston takes "a simple idea and turns it into a rich, universal experience".
Charlotte Purdy’s CV ranges from reality TV to Antarctic disaster. After a television OE in the United Kingdom, she helmed documentaries and factual TV back home. Under her Rogue Productions banner she created reality format The Big Experiment, and made Reel Late with Kate. After a decade producing current affairs, she co-directed docudrama Erebus: Operation Overdue and rugby doco By the Balls.