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."
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
This collection is a celebration of the eccentric, exuberant career of NZ screen industry frontrunner Tony Williams. As well as being at the helm of many iconic ads (Crunchie, Bugger, Spot, Dear John) Williams made inventive, award-winning indie TV documentaries, and shot or directed pioneering feature films, including Solo and cult horror Next of Kin.
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.
Wedding photographs are attempts to create and preserve perfection, taken under pressure. Can the results be art as well as personal history, or are they neither? Such questions are the focus of this Artsville doco, which benefits from insights by a multi-cultural cast of wedding photographers. Geoffrey Heath questions the reality of glamour and romance in some of his own art photography, while labouring to capture beauty in his wedding work. Others recall the challenges of getting good shots amidst drunkenness, dysfunctional families, and grooms in their undies.
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 Wild South edition joins two legendary New Zealand wildlife documentarians — photographer Geoff Moon and sound recordist John Kendrick — on a 1988 trip to Kāpiti Island. Rangers are learning about, and looking after, the sanctuary’s manu (birds), who are “biological refugees” from the mainland, escaping introduced predators. Dogs monitoring kiwi, a kākā census, and tīeke (saddleback) nest boxes are featured. The two old mates narrate the visit, which includes Moon building a bush hide, and footage of a pioneering 1964 tīeke relocation from Hen Island.
Using plenty of his own photographs to illustrate his story, Errol Schroder takes us back to the 50s, 60s and 70s to provide his memories of being a photographer with the New Zealand Air Force (Schroder also spent three years in the navy). His Air Force career saw him posted through the Pacific and South East Asia. In Vietnam, there are tales of nervous times on American bases, and a hair-raising patrol in an OV-10 Bronco aircraft. Even in retirement, action came Errol’s way — his home was wrecked in the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake.
After the passing of a family member, the Bell family discovered a selection of late 19th century photographs tucked away in a closet. Taken by a man named William Partington, the photos documented local Māori around the Whanganui River area, and were subsequently of incredible cultural and financial value. The owners of the photographs opted to sell them at auction. Local iwi on the other hand, felt it important that their whakapapa returned home. Winner of an Aotearoa TV Award, this documentary tells the story of finding compromise when dealing with precious taonga.