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Hero image for Heartland - Dunedin North

Heartland - Dunedin North

Television (Full Length Episode) – 1995

A Series Perspective

Heartland grew out of the success of a one-off collaboration between presenter Gary McCormick and director Bruce Morrison

Raglan By The Sea (1987) was a gentle and affectionate ramble through a well-loved landscape. Its stories were brought to life by a number of local personalities interacting with McCormick. He was less the expert host than a stand-in for armchair travelers.

The show rated well, and a series was pitched to TVNZ. Morrison was the overall series director, but other directors worked on Heartland too, notably Sean Duffy. The series ran from 1991 to 1996, with more than forty 46 minute episodes.

Heartland became a touchstone for urban New Zealand's romantic nostalgia for the small or faraway corners that epitomised something of the nation's soul. Each show was a picturesque cocktail of fondly rehearsed facts, legends, and common truisms about a given community; leavened with very occasional surprises. At its best, Heartland's blend of preparation and 'on the hoof' filmmaking made for outstanding local telly. The strengths of the programme were twofold. McCormick's easy charm and unflappable presenting skills were key. But so was the ability of the format to allow individual subjects to shine.

Every episode had its 'characters', but surely Chloe of Wainuiomata made the most indelible impression. With her vaguely alien demeanour, Chloe amply justified the nickname, 'Wainui-o-martian', given to residents of this outer Wellington suburb. Paradoxically, she also projected a genuine sense of struggle. Her values and dreams were so intrinsically Kiwi; if a heartland could be located in a person and not a place, then Chloe was us, tiger slippers and all.

Heartland won Best Factual Series at the New Zealand Film and Television Awards in 1994 and 1996. It was the winner of a 1995 World Gold Medal and 1993 Bronze Medal at the New York Film Festivals. A Heartland book by McCormick and John McDermott was published by Moa Beckett in 1994.

Costa Botes has directed short films and a long run of feature-length documentaries on everything from eskimo dogs to jelly bean inventors. After coming up with the idea, he directed 1995's Forgotten Silver with Peter Jackson.

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