Keith Boles was certain he wanted to join the air force when the Second World War broke out, and it wasn’t long before he was a flying instructor. Evacuated from Singapore when the Japanese invaded, Boles eventually found himself in the United Kingdom, with an Advanced Flying Unit. A transfer to operations with Bomber Command saw him piloting de Havilland Mosquito bombers and being trained in the use of the top secret Oboe targeting system. Being part of a pathfinder unit was, he says, the safest job in Bomber Command and he came through his service unscathed.
This episode of archive-compiled The Years Back series sees presenter Bernard Kearns exploring how New Zealand coped on the home front as World War II expanded into South East Asia and the Pacific. Access to imports was hampered and rationing bit. Fuel and rubber shortages are overcome with novel approaches and farmland becomes the garden for our allies. The episode also examines how industry switched from civilian needs to making war materials. The Home Guard changes from a bit of a laugh to deadly seriousness as the threat grows of invasion by Japan.
When Frank Sanft’s older brother was killed early in World War ll, it only intensified Frank’s determination to serve. Joining the Royal Navy, he was eventually assigned to Operation PLUTO, which involved laying an undersea fuel pipeline between the UK and Cherbourg (vital in keeping Allied vehicles moving, directly after the invasion of France). Frank laughs now at a close call with a sniper ashore in France. Serving in the Pacific, he was there after Singapore’s notorious Changi PoW camp was liberated. In 2017 Sanft was awarded a prestigious French Legion of Honour.
Sixty-five years of life are condensed into three minutes in this 2016 Loading Doc, which profiles two pioneering kumara growers and Kiwi characters: Fay and Joe Gock. The Gocks were refugees from the Japanese invasion of China, who met in 1953. It was then illegal for Chinese to own land, but they went on to became the largest market gardeners in Mangere. In 2013 they won Horticulture New Zealand’s highest honour. Told as a poem, narrated by Ian Mune, the film was directed by commercials director and ex Cassandra's Ears bass player, Felicity Morgan-Rhind.
Gwen Stevens was one of the last survivors of World War ll's top secret Auckland Combined Military Headquarters. There she plotted grid references from New Zealand’s coastal radar, tracking the coming and goings of ships and aircraft. The threat of a Japanese invasion had everyone on edge. At one point there was panic when it was believed an aircraft carrier had been detected off the coast. All services were mobilised, but it turned out to be a mistaken reading of the Three Kings Islands. Over 70 years later, Stevens' recall remains clear. Stevens passed away on 1 January 2018.
Andrew Niccol is one of the rare Kiwis to have made a career in Hollywood, and to boot he has done so largely with films based on his original ideas. His directing debut was dystopic GE future tale Gattaca, and he wrote one of the most acclaimed films of the 90s, reality TV saga The Truman Show. He has directed A-list actors Al Pacino, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Nicolas Cage, and Justin Timberlake.
Niki Caro's near wordless Sure to Rise was nominated for best short film at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Four years later her debut feature Memory and Desire was invited to Cannes. Caro followed it with Whale Rider, winner of more than 27 awards, and still one of New Zealand's most successful films abroad. Since then Caro has directed everywhere from vineyards in France to mining towns in Minnesota.
Not to be confused with the newsreader of the same name, Richard S Long has had a prolific career as a cameraman and director. Since starting out in 1977, he’s shot news, run his own production company, and worked abroad, directing commercials and music videos in Asia and the US. In 2015 Long directed his debut feature Not For Children.
Whai Ngata worked in Māori broadcasting at Television New Zealand for 25 years, a period when the quantity of Māori broadcasting underwent a major expansion. Starting as a reporter, he rose to become TVNZ's general manager of Māori Programming, a post he held from 1994 until retiring in 2008. Ngata was named an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007. He passed away on 3 April 2016.