This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
Made six years after local TV broadcasting began, this wide-ranging 1966 documentary looks at the past and future of television in NZ. Political science lecturer Reg Harrison examines local content, a second channel, private enterprise, transmission challenges, editorial independence, sports coverage, and how TV’s expansion has affected other pursuits, and children. The doco includes interviews with privacy-keen Gordon Dryden and film legend Rudall Hayward, and MPs. Director Gordon Bick later argued that the NZBC had allowed "a good deal of criticism against itself" on screen.
Presented by John Kirwan, this film looks at the 1990 decision of Kirwan's young All Black teammate Matthew Ridge to ‘defect’ from rugby, to play professional league for the Manly Sea Eagles. Ridge had been the uncapped understudy to 1989 World Player of the Year John Gallagher. Ironically Gallagher converted to league shortly after Ridge, news that Ridge receives while preparing for his league debut. Ridge went on to captain the Kiwis. His code shift began a trend that transformed union and league in NZ; union turned pro in 1995. Ric (Sports Cafe) Salizzo directs.
The theatre of sport is given full-blown operatic treatment in this National Film Unit classic. Footage from the French 1979 rugby tour of New Zealand is rendered in slow-motion and cut to a Tchaikovsky score. The result is an often glorious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, paean to rugby. Balletic lineouts, driving tackles, and the dark mysteries of the ruck, make for a ballsy Swan Lake in the mud. It includes the Bastille Day French victory over the All Blacks. Directed by NFU stalwart Arthur Everard, it won a jury prize at the Montreal World Film Festival.
Lew Pryme's life was a wild ride that took in everything from rock and roll to rugby before it was cut short by AIDS in 1990 (he was 51). This moving documentary interviews an ailing Pryme reflecting on his journey and (still secret) sexuality; it follows him from Waitara to becoming one of the most popular hip-swinging music stars of the 60s. He went on to manage singers Mark Williams, Rob Guest and Tina Cross; and in the early 80s he became the first executive director of Auckland Rugby Union, introducing cheerleaders and 'pizazz' to Eden Park.
When New Zealander Jared James moved to Japan, he found himself isolated by the distance, the culture and the language. A co-worker recommended he try out for the local rugby union team. After coming to terms with the difficulties he might face — the language, his fitness — he finally gave it go. James found not just a team, but an opportunity to share culture and friendship. Made as part of 2017 web series Loading Docs, the film began after director Jericho Rock-Archer met Jared on a flight to Japan; the two kept in touch as each found a home there.
Men of the Silver Fern was a four-part celebration of all things All Black, made in 1992 for the centenary of the NZRFU (now known as New Zealand Rugby). This first episode covers the early period from when Charles Monro kicked off the sport in NZ in Nelson on 14 May 1870, through the establishment of rules, provincial unions and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. The programme surveys the front-running international tours — from the 1884 Flaxlanders to the 1888 Natives, 1905 Originals and 1924 Invincibles — where the All Blacks’ "winning reputation" was forged.
This episode of rugby series The Game Of Our Lives looks at the impact the sport has had on race relations in New Zealand. The country's history of rugby forging bonds between Māori and Pākehā is a stark contrast to South Africa's apartheid policy. Tries and Penalties focuses on the troubles between Aotearoa and South Africa — from coloured players George Nepia and Ranji Wilson being excluded from All Blacks tours to South Africa, to the infamous 1981 Springboks tour, and Nelson Mandela opening the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between the two teams.
Hosted by Phil Keoghan not long before he left for the US, Short Sportz was a TV3 sports show encouraging kids to get involved in sports. Keoghan (later to win fame as host of Amazing Race) often kitted up himself Paper Lion-style: here he takes base against Black Sox pitches and cycles with future ironman champion Cameron Brown. This 1991 ‘best of’ show is notable for a segment presented by a rising Wainuiomata league star who’s just been signed by Newcastle Knights: Tana Umaga. Umaga’s NRL career was short-lived, and he went on to become an All Black legend.
The birth of television in the 1960s meant that suddenly protests and civil unrest could be broadcast directly into Kiwi homes. This episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television looks at many of those events — involving everything from the Vietnam War and the Springbok tour, to Bastion Point and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. It also examines how being televised altered their impact. Interviews with both protestors and reporters provide a unique insight into what it was like to be living through extraordinary periods of New Zealand history.