For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
This classic ad was made on a shoestring budget: milk bottle silver caps stood in for soldier’s dog tags and a Wellington quarry apes a Korean War-zone of the evergreen MASH TV series (from the naming of “O’Reilly” at the top of the mail call through to the 1953 country and western tearjerker used in the soundtrack, sung by Jacqui Fitzgerald and adapted by Murray Grindlay). The anachronism of cassette tapes in Korea proved a charming twist on the traditional ‘Dear John’ letter; and the ad was later voted Best Australasian commercial of the 80s.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
It started with grunge and ended with Spice Girls; Di died, Clinton didn't inhale and the All Blacks were poisoned. On screen, Ice TV and Havoc were for the kids and a grown-up Kiwi cinema delivered a powerful triple punch. Tua's linguistic jab proved just as memorable, Tem got a geography lesson and Thingee's eye popped and reverberated around our living rooms.
It's hard to reduce legendary band Split Enz down to a single sound or image. Soon after forming in 1973, they began dressing like oddball circus performers, and their music straddled folk, vaudeville and art rock. Later the songs got shorter, poppier and — some say —better, and the visuals were toned down...but you could never accuse the Enz of looking biege. With Split Enz co-founder Tim Finn turning 65 in June 2017, this collection looks back at one of Aotearoa's most successful and eclectic bands. Writer Michael Higgins unravels the evolution of the Enz here.
For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
An old woman (Olive Bracey) recounts to her nephew (actor Martyn Sanderson) memories of her life in Hokianga. The film is a mix of personal return journey for Sanderson and an affectionate record of his spirited aunt (she's "the one who ate wheatgerm" in the family). Autumn Fires mixes conversations, photos, and dramatisations of romantic letters. Sanderson rambles on the farm, picks mussels in bull kelp sandals, muses on industrial agriculture and on the "unambitious peaceful life". Directed by Barry Barclay, the elegiac film screened in TV1's Scene series.
'Land of Plenty' is a love letter to Aotearoa, featuring another take on the conversational vocal stylings heard on global smash 'How Bizarre'. Channelling his Niuean father's love of NZ, Pauly Fuemana namechecks favourite streets, Mt Ruapehu, white water and "open caves that glow supreme". Taisha Khutze (now in The Lady Killers) supplies some impressive vocal stylings of her own. In 2013 co-writer Alan Jansson joined Fuemana's widow in criticising what they saw as "noticeable similarities" between this top five hit, and the song for a 'Land of Plenty, Land of Quattro' car ad.
Love Story sees director Florian Habicht finding a movie, a plot, and a beautiful Ukranian on the streets of New York. The offbeat romance is part love letter to New York City, part the story of Florian and Mash... and possibly part true. The script to this genre-bending tryst is written before our eyes, via story ideas from real life New Yorkers. Love Story won Aotearoa awards for Best Film and Director, and raves from Variety and the NZ Herald’s Peter Calder — who described Auckland Film Festival audiences gasping at the "strange, surprising and wildly romantic ideas sprinkled through it".
Director Julie Zhu's love letter to a Chinese East Auckland community follows her grandmother as she carries out what may seem a mundane task — grocery shopping. But to Fang Ruzhen, her daily ritual of buying food is what connects her to several other aged Chinese grandparents, who hop on buses in large groups to head to the supermarket. Ruzhen moved to New Zealand nearly 20 years ago to help look after her grandson. Now she is 79 and can barely speak any English. "Going shopping every day…well, that’s our strength. Without this, what would we do?"