Short Film, 1952–1971
Government filmmakers the National Film Unit launched Pictorial Parade two years after the demise of Weekly Review. It was another 10-minute magazine programme, but this time monthly, rather than weekly. It was the NFU’s major product for the next 20 years. In 1950 the NFU had been moved from under the wing of the Prime Minister’s Department, to be controlled by the Tourist and Publicity Department. The Pictorial Parade was seen as a move away from the political in government filmmaking, and a return to the promotional role of the early scenic films.
This upbeat National Film Unit award-winner is about late New Zealand artist, conservationist, and rail enthusiast Barry Brickell. Filmed at his first studio and home in the Coromandel, it follows the progress of his large-scale works from start to finish. Accompanied by a jazzy soundtrack, Brickell works his clay alone in the sun. Amidst the five-finger and harakeke of the Coromandel bush, the making of New Zealand art has never looked more picturesque. Brickell died on 23 January 2016, at the age of 80. The short documentary was made as part of the Pictorial Parade series.
This short film evokes a day fishing from Karioitahi’s black sand beach: balloons are tied to bait lines then sent out, and the fisherman yarn, drink Fanta, and reel in the catch. Expressively shot by Lynton Diggle in black and white, and backed by an accoustic guitar score, the narration-free Pictorial Parade marked an early entry for director John Laing (Beyond Reasonable Doubt). In 2001 Laing proudly recalled his NFU employers' outrage at the film's “pseudo-Japanese bullshit.” He left the Unit shortly after; ironically the film would win him a job at Canada’s National Film Board.
In this 1971 film pianist Barry Margan ‘humps’ his grand piano around NZ, on a mission to bring classical piano to places where it might not typically be heard. Aiming to break down barriers to enjoying live chamber music, Margan plays his pop-up piano (including Douglas Lilburn’s ‘Sonatina’) at coffee bars, libraries and art galleries. The trailer-borne grand is not easy to set up, but the audiences (from soldiers to children) are willing. Narrated by Margan, this was the last film in the National Film Unit's three decade-spanning Pictorial Parade magazine series.
In this first edition of the NFU’s monthly magazine series, the US Davis Cup team — featuring tennis legend Vic Seixas — plays a demonstration match in Wellington, en route to Australia. Further south Christchurch hosts the annual A&P Show. Motorbike-riding traffic cops keep the traffic moving on one of the busiest days of the year, and a shot of Cathedral Square is a reminder of pre-quake days. Then Ohakea farewells No. 14 Squadron, led by World War II air ace Johnny Checketts, as its de Havilland Vampires jet off to Cyprus and Cold War peacekeeping duties.
This edition of the National Film Unit’s long-running monthly magazine series features a diverse line-up. The first report covers the opening ceremony of the meeting house at Waiwhetu Marae, Lower Hutt, where Prime Minister Walter Nash and Sir Eruera Tirikatene receive the pōwhiri and haka. Then it’s a canter to Auckland’s 1960 Pony Club Championships; before flowing down south for the diversion of the Waitaki River in the Otago town of Otematata, as part of the Benmore hydroelectric scheme: a massive earth dam destined to be the “powerhouse of the South Island”.
This National Film Unit magazine film begins with a choir performing the classic 'Pokarekare Ana' in the acoustically-blessed depths of the Waitomo Caves. The second item involves a visit to a toy factory, deep in preparation for Christmas. Disembodied doll heads fill a bin, while elsewhere factory staff add eyes, and blacken the teeth of rocking horses. There are also teddy bears, electric trains and rows of toy trucks. The narrator explains the joy the toys will bring come Christmas: “a production line to delight children everywhere — fantasy from an industrial Santa Claus”.
This 1961 edition of Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from New Zealand. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted to self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is filmed marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of locals moving downunder to study, such as medical student Margaret Stehlin.
After nearly 50 years living under New Zealand rule, Western Samoa gained its independence on 1 January 1962. Pictorial Parade visits Apia to witness the special occasion. Among the dignitaries taking part in the ceremony are Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Mata'afa Mulinu'u II, joint heads of state Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole and Malietoa Tanumafili II, and Kiwi PM Keith Holyoake. The Western Samoa flag is hoisted before the first parliament sits, while hundreds of locals sing and dance in the heat of the day. The country dropped the first part of its name in 1997.
"New Zealand congratulates Peter Snell, one of the fastest men in the world." Middle distance runner Snell sets two world records on the grass track at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, in the 800 yards and half mile. "I was almost horrified at the pace ... I was had it by the time I reached the back straight ... I just went on on the thought of that world record." He reflects on a relaxing trip to Milford Sound, and champion coach Arthur Lydiard is interviewed. Also featured is the 1962 swimming champs at Naenae Olympic Pool under floodlights.
This Pictorial Parade visits the Auckland Athletic Champs at Eden Park, where a water-logged grass track makes the going tough. Peter Snell wins the half-mile and Murray Halberg the three-mile ("you know Mother I think he'll win" deadpans the narrator); then heads to the Bay of Islands for the 1st Underwater Fishing Champs, where a 235lb stingray is the biggest catch; and finally to the Turn and Gymnastic Circle of Hamilton, an acrobatic family fundraising for a world tour by scrub-cutting and pie-baking: "no job is too small or too big."
This special edition of the National Film Unit’s monthly magazine series looks at some of the “people, places and events filmed by our cameramen during the years 1941 - 1962”. The NFU’s 21st birthday review — compiled by David H Fowler — ranges from wartime newsreels to the post-war boom (factories, dams, industrial agriculture), from salvos to Peter Snell. Other images include Kiwi soldiers playing rugby in Korea, and cigarettes hanging from the lips of firemen fighting Christchurch's Ballantyne Department Store fire in 1947.
This excerpt from a 1962 edition of the National Film Unit's magazine film series features reigning Olympic 800m champion Peter Snell participating in a charity road race on Auckland streets. "Any one of 20 charities stands to make a hundred pounds as 20 roadsters hot-foot it around Auckland's Top o' the Town course." Roadsters also include Bill Baillie and Barry Magee. National hero Snell is in the bunch early on, but coming down a crowded and wet Karangahape Road he is of course, "the man to watch".
In this edition of the National Film Unit's long-running newsreel series 2000 people attend the opening of Palmerston North's brand new railway station (with up-to-the-minute signals, communication technology and cafeteria); under the watchful eye of Prime Minister Keith Holyoake a fashion show is held in Wellington to display New Zealand styles for Australian buyers; and the Osbourne family (complete with toddler) travel the country in a caravan with their road-marking business (and Mum still finds time for the housework too).
A military exchange between New Zealand and the United Kingdom is the focus of this National Film Unit short. About 150 Kiwi soldiers head to London for Exercise Powderhorn in 1964, which includes guard duty at Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. And they still have time to see the sights. Meanwhile a contingent from the Loyal Regiment in North Lancashire arrives in New Zealand for Exercise Te Rauparaha. They experience jungle warfare in a mock battle on the West Coast and practise mountain craft in the Southern Alps.
This episode of Pictorial Parade, a long-running National Film Unit newsreel series, presents three events: at Mt Bruce, a native bird reserve is opened, the New Zealand Cricket Team’s tour of India is lost 1-0, and Miss World, Ann Sidney (UK), leads the way in fashion at the 1965 Wool Award and Fashion Parade in Lower Hutt. Watch for takahē feeding from the hand, a disconsolate kiwi being held by the Minster of Internal Affairs, Miss Hutt Valley Wool Princess finalists sashaying in the latest fashions, and the New Zealand cricket team sightseeing in India.
This 1966 edition of National Film Unit’s magazine slot heads to Christchurch International Airport to explore weather measuring devices being launched there. Helium 'Ghost Balloons' are sent into the sky by an outpost of the United States' National Center for Atmospheric Research. Meanwhile Christchurch weathermen send up hydrogen balloons, read satellite data, and provide a flight plan for a U2 reconnaisance plane from the US Air Force. The pilot’s preflight routine involves breathing pure oxygen to prepare him for the ultrahigh altitude plane’s steep ascent into the sky.
The Central Otago gold mining town of Cromwell celebrates its centenary in this 1960s National Film Unit documentary. For a fortnight the townsfolk go about their ordinary business, but in colonial-era costume. They also reenact the frontier-style life of gold rush New Zealand. Just 20 years before the film was shot, Cromwell banks were still receiving deposits of gold dust from customers. The Cromwell put on film in 1966 is also now just a memory. While the old main street still exists, much of the town was flooded with the completion of the Clyde dam in 1993.
President Lyndon B Johnson's whirlwind visit to New Zealand on 19 October 1966 is chronicled in this National Film Unit documentary. The visit came as controversy grew over Kiwi involvement in the Vietnam War. But aside from a few protestors, the first visit to NZ by a serving US President and his wife was greeted with enthusiasm by about 200,000 Wellingtonians. State and civic receptions were followed by the obligatory farm visit to watch a shearing gang, before the President flew out at the end of 'New Zealand’s day with LBJ'.
Pictorial Parade was a long-running series produced by the National Film Unit. This brace from 1966 tees off with ‘Championship Golf,’ where a jaunty commentary narrates the final game (at Auckland’s Middlemore golf course) of a touring four-match series, played between US champ Arnold Palmer and left-handed local hero and 1963 British Open winner, Bob Charles (30 years-old here). The next clip, ‘Sounds of Progress,’ is an instructional film from the Department of Health, drawing attention to the dangers of industrial noise, with advice on how to avoid it.
This fondly-remembered Pictorial Parade plunges down the famously steep grade of the Denniston Incline. The cable railway was the key means of transporting ‘black gold’ from the isolated Denniston Plateau to Westport. The engineering marvel fell 518 metres over just 1670 metres. It brought down 13 million tonnes of coal and many hardy families, despite notorious brake failures. This film was made just before the mine and railway ceased operating, as “old king coal” was supplanted by oil. Director Hugh Macdonald writes about making it, and a companion film, here.
Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
“There are six of them: three school teachers, an architectural draughtsman, a student of anthropology and a bus mechanic.” This lively and light-hearted 1968 National Film Unit production profiles The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, who come together in Auckland to play in a villa, a recording studio, and at the Poles Apart Folk Club (where they would record a live album the same year). The band brought the sounds of Kentucky to New Zealand via a prolific run of albums, and regular appearances on 60s TV show The Country Touch. They turned professional in 1969.
Released in February 1969, this National Film Unit documentary offers an impressionistic view on the making of sheet glass. Director Lynton Diggle follows the raw materials (sand, limestone, dolomite) to a Whangarei factory, where they’re combined with broken glass. There, men in protective gear look like they’re enacting an alchemical ritual, as the ‘frit’ mixture is melted in the “punishing heat” of a crucible. Then it’s transferred to the drawing chamber where a toffee-like wall of glass is pulled up for cooling and slicing. Ambient sounds are used to forge a percussive score.
This film outlines the efforts to transform the “barren” pumice lands of the North Island’s Central Plateau into arable farmland. Once scientists discover the magic missing ingredient that will make the soil more fertile (cobalt chloride), the serious job of burning scrub, ploughing and sowing begins. The film uses a traditional 'triumph over nature' narrative, but director John Feeney makes elegant use of montage and composition. Author Maurice Shadbolt, who spent time working at the National Film Unit, regarded it as "without doubt the best film to come from the Unit".
Members of the NZ team for the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games are profiled in this edition of the Pictorial Parade series. Yvette Williams demonstrates the long jump technique — filmed in slow motion — that had made her an Olympic champ and world record holder (and would win her the gold medal at Vancouver), and there’s a brief shot of a young Murray Halberg. Other features are a piece about the canine star of Dick Campion and the NZ Players' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a multi-national approach to treating children with cerebral palsy in Rotorua.
The inventions of Bill Hamilton dominate this instalment of long-running cinema series Pictorial Parade. Hamilton tests his pioneering jet boat on Canterbury's Ohau River, while new inventions including a hydraulic digger are put to the test on the hard rocky soils at Irishman Creek. Meanwhile on the production line in Christchurch, engineers and machinists are hard at work getting graders and loaders in top working order. Also featured is a new diesel railcar on New Zealand’s train network, and the crew of the HMNZS Hawea and HMNZS Black Prince training in the Cook Strait.
A beautiful Wellington day greets passengers from the Southern Cross at the start of this 1950s magazine film. Seen here on her maiden voyage around the world, the cruise ship Southern Cross was built to carry immigrants from Europe. Meanwhile, students at what was then New Zealand's only fully residential teachers' college (near Auckland) are seen studying, before taking time off for dancing and sport. A trip to New Caledonia rounds up the report with the unveiling the Cross of Sacrifice, a memorial to the 449 Kiwis who died without a grave in the South Pacific during WWII.
This edition of the NFU magazine series first travels to Waiouru to observe the NZ Army’s elite Special Air Service, in the year it was established. The soldiers undergo bush exercises, an obstacle course and a mock ambush, training for deployment to Malaya. Then it’s up to Auckland Zoo to meet husky litters destined for an Antarctic Adventure with Hillary and the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (the dogs are related to Captain Scott’s huskies). And finally, it’s further north to go shark fishing for “a day on the Kaipara” in a segment directed by Maurice Shadbolt.
Pictorial Parade was a newsreel series made by the National Film Unit. The trio of items in this 1956 entry starts with 'Salute to Sālote,' in which the Queen of Tonga admires the territorial army recruits at Papakura military camp. In 'What is Dutch for Easter?', Dutch settlers hide painted Easter Eggs for the children of Roseneath school in Wellington. Finally 'The Life of Opo' shows priceless footage of Opononi's world-famous dolphin Opo, and her Marlborough Sounds cousin Pelorus Jack. Shots of 'gay' Opo tossing bottles and frolicking with swimmers are set to a jaunty ditty.
This item from the long-running National Film Unit series tails cats and feline lovers. The humorous clip from 1956 begins in a woman's bedroom at 6am; the devoted cat owner preens herself and her Siamese cat, in preparation for the Auckland Champion Cat Show. Felines are examined at Auckland's Town Hall for diseases, since "an outbreak of ringworm would be a cat-astrophe"; and a judge dressed in her Sunday best checks over animals before kitty lovers are let into the hall. The Pictorial Parade series began in 1952. In its early years, each Parade consisted of multiple items.
An elegiac profile of artist Eric Lee-Johnson, by Maurice Shadbolt, is the high point of this NFU magazine film. Johnson gave up a lucrative commercial career to pursue his vision of a New Zealand art moving beyond European tradition; and he is observed chronicling abandoned homesteads and churches, built in remote reaches of Northland's Hokianga harbour by early Pākehā settlers. There's light relief in coverage of a chimpanzees' tea party at Wellington Zoo, while a suitably breathless piece looks at a new industry manufacturing fibreglass boats.
This edition of the long-running National Film Unit magazine series goes from south to north, then loops the loop. In Christchurch the cathedral and its history are toured and a service for Queen Elizabeth II is shown. Then there’s international get-togethers: a “Jaycees” congress in Rotorua; then Massey, for a Grasslands Conference. At Milson Aerodrome legless British war-hero Douglas Bader is amongst the attendees at the world’s first International Agricultural Aviation Show, and top-dressers demonstrate their “need for speed” skills above a hill country farm.
The race to build a new hotel at Mount Cook to replace the original Hermitage (which burnt down a year earlier) leads this edition of the National Film Unit's magazine series. A two year construction job was finished in just eight months and Prime Minister Walter Nash cuts the cake at the grand opening. The recording industry is booming and sales of LPs soaring as the cameras visit a pressing plant to find out "what's behind putting the chatter on the platter"; and the NZ team for the 1958 Cardiff Empire Games gets ready to fly out with high hopes for medals.
A salient public safety segment in this edition of the National Film Unit’s long-running magazine series looks at 'prudence at home', and the ways that stoves, jugs and fires can be dangerous to children. Other segments include a visit to a Gisborne health camp where youngsters are finishing their seven week course of dietary and exercise lessons. And a jaunt to Canterbury’s frozen Lake Ida for skating, pies, and ice hockey concludes that ‘winter can be fun’. A car-drawn toboggan looks it — though the ice rescue demonstration will not convince all viewers.
The Wellington region is the focus of this 1958 edition in the long-running NFU series. The newsreel shows the rapidly developing town of Porirua, where farmland is being converted into state housing. Meanwhile in Taita the Hutt Valley Youth club provides entertainment for bored young people on Sunday afternoons. Highland dancing vies with skiffle and rock and roll, and Elvis-style quiffs date the teen spirit. Such clubs were set up after the 1954 Mazengarb inquiry into juvenile delinquency. And at Athletic Park a classic All Black line-up wallops the Wallabies 25-3.
This NFU documentary goes behind the scenes as Selwyn Toogood and his team prepare an episode of 50s radio quiz show It's In the Bag, long before it hit the telly. Questions are prepared and booby prizes — epsom salts, toy ducks — selected, before Toogood hits the stage at the Lower Hutt Town Hall to utter the ultimate poser. The big prizes du jour included washing machines and flash (New Zealand-made!) fridge-freezers. The show was so popular with '50s radio audiences it was said cinemas closed their doors on Tuesday nights when it went to air.
The Cathedral Bells ring out in Christchurch as New Zealand celebrates the coronation of Elizabeth II. Inside the cathedral and in other places of worship, like the chapel at Longbeach Estate (near Ashburton) and the picturesque St James church at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier, the faithful give thanks (including pioneering mountain guides Peter and Alex Graham). Outside, the day is marked by processions and military parades in the main centres (filmed on 2 June 1953). In Wellington Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie commands "God Save the Queen!"
This 1959 Pictorial Parade edition begins with the opening of the ‘Milson Deviation’: a rail bypass which diverted trains from the Palmerston North CBD. Then it’s to Hastings for the National Ploughing Championship, where the prize is a silver plough modelled on the first (Pākehā) plough used in NZ. Lastly, the Echo (a flat-bottomed Kauri scow that sailed between Wellington and Blenheim) turns a wetter furrow and sails up the Opawa River. With the onset of competition from ferries the Echo was retired in 1965; she’s now ‘on the hard’ on the Picton Foreshore.
An edition of the Pictorial Parade magazine-film series, 'The New Army' provides a short potted history of Kiwis in combat overseas, from World War I to the then-current Malayan Emergency. From the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force being reviewed by King George V in England, through desert warfare and island hopping in World War II, to the New Zealand Regiment's 2nd Battalion training for jungle warfare. The reel finishes with the battalion displaying new weapons and techniques, before parading through Wellington and embarking for Malaya.
It’s possible that Auckland’s early 60s urban growth has never seemed bigger, brighter or bolder than it does in this breathless NFU newsreel. As the city encroaches ever further into the countryside, suburbs blossom and improved roads, motorways and the new harbour bridge keep the citizenry moving. In the CBD, construction is booming with a 23 storey civic centre on the way up and an obsession with bigger and better parking buildings. Improved infrastructure is also demanded — with upgrades to ports, railways, telephone exchanges and sewage facilities.
This edition of the NFU's long-running magazine film series boards the Wellington to Auckland 'experimental express', to test its 11 and a half hour trip claims. Then it's south for the opening of Christchurch Airport's new modernist terminals, designed by architect Paul Pascoe. At Waitangi, ships and a submarine from the New Zealand, Australian and British navies train, and Waitangi Day is commemorated. A reel highlight is Australian Formula One champion Jack Brabham meeting jet boat inventor Bill Hamilton, and trying out a 'Hamilton turn' on the Waimakariri River.