With the establishment of TVNZ in 1980, Lookout was introduced as TV1’s local documentary slot featuring 45 minute programmes on Friday nights. The series didn’t have a unifying theme but, instead, featured work made in-house and independently (with the latter including a number of NFU productions). As well as documentaries, Lookout also included a number of episodes of Trial Run where juries of everyday people examined current issues. In 1981, TV1’s documentary strand was renamed Contact but it returned sporadically as Lookout in 1982. 

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Antarctica

Film, 1980 (Full Length)

The fierce cold and awesome isolation of Antarctica is evoked in this 1980 NFU survey of scientific projects and life on New Zealand’s Ross Dependency. Geological and wildlife work is counterpointed by domestic details: a “housewifely” cleaning regime, an impressive liquor order, time-marking beards, and radio chatter at odds with the desolation. There’s poignant footage of one of the last sightseeing flights before the Erebus disaster; and the doco grapples with the uneasy possibility that research may lead to exploitation of the continent’s natural resources.

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Bob Jones - Doing God's Work?

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across New Zealand. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The documentary includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media filmed him.

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Centrepoint: A Spiritual Growth Community

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

Founded in 1977 by ex-vacuum salesman Bert Potter, Centrepoint was an alternative lifestyle settlement that promoted intimate communal living, along with personal and sexual freedom. This documentary observes members' struggles to reconcile the values of their new home with the outside world. Director Geoff Steven threatened to take his name off the credits, in a successful bid to avoid the cutting of emotional scenes of 'encounter group' style psychotherapy. Potter and others were later convicted for a spate of child sex abuse and drugs charges. 

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Cinema

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

Screening as Goodbye Pork Pie packed cinemas and gave hope that Kiwi films were here to stay, this 1981 TV documentary attempts to combine history lesson with some crystal ball gazing on what might lie ahead for the newly reborn film industry. Host Ian Johnstone wonders if three local movies per year might be a "fairly ambitious" target; producer John Barnett argues for the upside of overseas filmmakers shooting downunder. Also interviewed: Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy, veteran producer John O'Shea, and the NZ Film Commission's first Chairman, Bill Sheat.

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Flight 901 - The Erebus Disaster

Television, 1981 (Excerpts)

On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and at the time, the fourth worst in the world. Made independently of state TV, Flight 901 was the first in-depth documentary on the accident. It surveys the novelty of Antarctic tourist flights, the search and rescue operation, and controversy over causes stirred by the Peter Mahon-led Royal Commission of Inquiry. This 15 minute excerpt was edited for NZ On Screen by director John Keir.

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Hunchin' Down the Track

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this documentary following two cowboys travelling the circuit in a 1950s Chrysler. They compete in events in Fairlie, Rerewhakaaitu and Warkworth, and encounter American and Australian stars along the way. Broncos, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place goes to spectacular shots of them using rodeo skills to capture deer by helicopter. A parade, the 'Cowboy's Prayer' and fearless rodeo clowns also feature. Legendary commercials maker Geoff Dixon (founder of company Silverscreen) directs.

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In Bligh's Wake

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This documentary charts the voyage from New Zealand to Tahiti of a replica of the HMS Bounty, destined to be the star of Kiwi director Roger Donaldson’s film of the famous mutiny. The boat was built in Whangerei from The Bounty’s original Admiralty plans, commissioned for an unmade David Lean film of the story. It's not all plain sailing as engines fail, the power supply falters and winds drop, but she arrives in Tahiti in time for the first scenes of the Mel Gibson-starring film. A parallel voyage in an open boat by one of Bligh's descendants also features.

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Moriori

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows two grandchildren of Tommy Solomon — the last full-blooded Moriori — on a pilgrimage to Rēkohu in the Chatham Islands, to rediscover their heritage. They learn about 1000 years of Moriori settlement: Polynesian origins, pacifist beliefs (tragically tested by 19th Century Māori invasion), carvings and a seafood-based way of life. Years before Michael King’s 1989 book Moriori: A People Discovered and Barry Barclay film Feathers of Peace, this 1980 doco launched a revival of Moriori culture, and revised popular misconceptions.

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New Streets - Auckland Fa'a-Samoa

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

This 1982 Lookout documentary charts Samoan novelist and poet Albert Wendt’s personal view of Samoans in Auckland. Set mainly in what was then predominantly Samoan Grey Lynn, Wendt looks at how New Zealand-born Samoans maintain the traditions of their homeland. He also examines the close ties between those in New Zealand and the wider ainga, or extended family, back home. The church’s role in the community is highlighted, along with sports. Wendt also addresses what he sees as the double edged sword of remittance: sending money back to islands.

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New Streets - South Auckland, Two Cities

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

Reporter Neil Roberts ventures into South Auckland in this TVNZ documentary, and finds two rapidly growing but very different communities. Otara and Mangere are becoming New Zealand’s industrial powerhouse, but a huge influx of Māori and Pacific Island workers and their families are struggling to adapt in a brand new city that was farmland just decades earlier, and lacks amenities for its new citizens. Meanwhile, to the east, Howick and Pakuranga are also booming but their more upwardly mobile, prosperous and very Pākehā citizens seem to be living in a world of their own.

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The City And The Suburb (part one)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

In this two-part Lookout documentary from 1983, critic Hamish Keith explores how New Zealanders have housed themselves over the 20th Century. This first part builds to 1935: it begins in Auckland War Memorial Museum, with Keith asking how Kiwis would represent themselves if they were curators in the future. He presents the state house as the paramount Kiwi icon, and examines the journey from Victorian slums and Queen Street sewers to villas, bungalows and suburbia; plus the impact on housing of cars, consumerism, influenza, war, depression, and new ideas in town planning.

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The City And The Suburb (part two)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.

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Two Days to Soft Rock Cafe

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This Feltex Award-winning documentary dives, abseils and squeezes under the mountain — Mt Arthur in Kahurangi National Park — to record the exploration of the subterranean world of the Nettlebed Cave System. At nearly one kilometre underground the system is New Zealand’s deepest cave, and a mecca for cavers from around the world. The cavers relay their motivations and anxieties as they negotiate the uncharted water-carved limestone labyrinth. Directed by Ian Taylor, it screened in the Lookout series. Claustrophobes beware: there are no lattes at Soft Rock Cafe.