A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...
Early Days Yet, directed by Shirley Horrocks, is a full-length documentary about New Zealand poet Allen Curnow, made in the last months of his life. The poet talks about his life and work, and visits the places of some of his most important poems. It includes interviews with other New Zealand poets about Curnow's significance as an advocate for New Zealand poetry. As Curnow famously mused in front of a moa skeleton displayed in Canterbury Museum: "Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here."
This Philip Temple-scripted episode of Our People, Our Century covers stories of New Zealanders and their turangawaewae: a piece of land they call their own. The importance of the land to farming families, and to the economy of NZ is explored through the eyes of three families. Elworthy Station in South Canterbury is being farmed by a 5th generation Elworthy. Two elderly ladies reminisce on their childhood in remote Mangapurua, near Raetihi in the central North Island. And a Māori family in Taranaki reflects on their decision to sell the family farm.
This 1974 end of year special for music show Popco features cover songs performed in the studio and around Christchurch. Presenting and singing are Rob Guest (before musicals fame), Steve Gilpin (before he founded Mi-Sex) and Hayden Wood. Joining them are Space Waltz (in their glam rock glory), Annie Whittle (on the banks of the Avon), show regulars the Maggie Burke Dancers in Cathedral Square, Mark Williams (sparkling in green lurex), Bunny Walters and Claire Raine, Rockinghorse (featuring 'Nature' composer Wayne Mason), Drut (complete with flaming guitar) and Beaver (in the finale).
This episode from the second series of pioneering comedy show A Week of It takes a light-hearted look at issues of the day: sporting contact with South Africa, the 1978 election, traffic cops against coupling in cars, dawn raids in Ponsonby, weather girls struggling with te reo, and bread and newspaper strikes. Censorship campaigner Patricia Bartlett struggles with a French stick, and beer baron Sir Justin Ebriated is interviewed. John Walker, "current world record holder for selling cans of Fresh Up", is sent up, and there's a racing-themed "geegees Wayne" sign off.
This booster's gem was produced by the NFU to mark Canterbury's centennial. The original Canterbury crusaders' dream of a model England colony is shown in settler life re-enactments. The importance of meat and wheat to the region's prosperity is extolled and a progressive narrative — "in one brief century they've turned the wilderness into fertile farms and built their red-roofed homes" — underpins contemporary scenes (cricket, church) and much bucolic (plains, alps) scenery. Trivia: Peter Jackson used an excerpt from the film to open Heavenly Creatures.
This chronicle of the Christchurch Commonwealth Games marked one of the National Film Unit's most ambitious productions. Though a range of events (including famous runs by John Walker and Dick Tayler), are covered, the film often bypasses the pomp and glory approach; daring to talk to the injured and mentioning that most competitors lose. The closing ceremonies of the "friendly games" feature the athletes gathering to — as the official song's chorus put it — "join together". The directing team included Paul Maunder, Sam Pillsbury, and Arthur Everard.
‘Moa's Ark' set sail 80 million years ago. David Bellamy becomes an ancient mariner and retraces the voyage of the islands of New Zealand (using contemporary science as his guide). In this first episode he finds out why New Zealand is called the Shaky Isles, gets face to face with the "living fossil" the tuatara, is inspired by meat pies, and discovers geography as he competes in the annual Coast to Coast race over the Southern Alps — with directional and gorse eradication aid coming from legendary race organiser Robin Judkins.
"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. Snell died on 12 December 2019.
New Brighton beach in Christchurch: Peter Donnelly is busy creating art, art with a lifespan that can be measured in hours. Using a rake and a piece of wood, Donnelly draws elaborate artworks in the sand - more than 700 of them to date. "I bring something to life, and then its life is over, and at the end of the four hours it wants to go, it's worn out ... it just wants to be gifted, and it goes to the sea." Beautifully shot by director Peter Young, this Artsville documentary captures Donnelly both in action, and musing on the beauty of impermanence.
For her first feature, writer/director Gillian Ashurst (Venus Blue) wanted a “big wide road movie; big skies; big long roads.” Cruising the Canterbury landscapes are small-town dreamers Alice (Heavenly Creature Melanie Lynskey) and Johnny (future Almighty Johnson Dean O’Gorman). The duo’s adventures go awry after encountering a charming American cowboy. Reviews were generally upbeat: there was praise for the talented cast, plus Ashurst’s ability to mix moods and genres. Snakeskin won five awards at the 2001 NZ Film and TV Awards, including Best Film and Cinematography.
This TVNZ doco chronicles New Zealand’s participation in 18 Empire and Commonwealth Games — beginning at Hamilton, Canada in 1930 when a Kiwi team of 18 participated in four sports. A cavalcade of gold medallists (including Yvette Williams, Dick Tayler, Anna Simcic and Neroli Fairhall) recall their glory days at the event which was set up to be “merrier and less stern” than The Olympics. Special emphasis is placed on the three New Zealand-hosted Games: at Auckland in 1950 and 1990, and Christchurch in 1974 (which hastened the local arrival of colour television).
TVNZ journalist (and future Communicado founder) Neil Roberts does an ethnomusicologist turn in this edition of "established media tries to explain what the young people are doing". His subject is NZ's fledgling punk scene which is already on its way to extinction. Much of the focus is on Auckland but Doomed lead singer (and future TV presenter/producer) Johnny Abort (aka Dick Driver) flies the flag for the south. The Stimulators, Suburban Reptiles and Scavengers play live and punk fans pogo and talk about violence directed at them (from "beeries").
The Ballantynes' Department Store fire in November 1947 claimed 41 lives and left a lasting scar on Christchurch — the city’s biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department as the dramas of everyday life are suddenly overwhelmed. It was directed by Aileen O’Sullivan, shot by Alun Bollinger and made with the NZ Drama School graduating class of 2002 (with music by Gareth Farr).
Gerard Smyth's acclaimed documentary about the Christchurch earthquakes is the story of people coping — for better or worse — with the huge physical and emotional toll that the quakes, and continuing aftershocks, inflicted on them, their homes and their city. It began as a home movie while the devastation of September was surveyed (with thanks given that no-one had been killed); but, as shooting of the recovery continued, the February quake compounded the destruction and claimed 182 lives (including their researcher and 16 colleagues at CTV).
Chimney Book takes rubble from the Christchurch earthquake, and turns it into the building blocks of a film exploring life in the quake zone. Christchurch musician Blair Parkes took bricks from his chimney — destroyed in the 22 February 2011 aftershocks — painted a letter or symbol on each, then scanned them into his computer. Sound and word form the spine of the result, which is part diary, part experimental film. Parkes explores his experiences of living in Christchurch since the quake through words like 'dust', 'memory', 'place', and a question: 'is it over?'
New Zealand television's longest running children's show turns 30 with a two hour live extravaganza — far removed from its modest, half hour beginnings back in 1981. Current hosts Charlie, Johnson and Gem are joined by a parade of past presenters who reminisce, and compete to find the show's best decade. Masterchef finalist Jax Hamilton provides snacks, and celebrities send greetings. In amongst the cupcakes, gunge, fart jokes and mayhem, the programme enters its fourth decade as an institution, watched by the children of its original audience.
This promotional travelogue, made for the Christchurch City Council, shows off the city and its environs. Filmed at a time when New Zealand’s post-war economy was booming as it continued its role as a farmyard for the “Old Country”, it depicts Christchurch as a prosperous city, confident in its green and pleasant self-image as a “better Britain” (as James Belich coined NZ’s relationship to England), and architecturally dominated by its cathedrals, churches and schools. Many of these buildings were severely damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
TVNZ's long running religious and choral music programme visits Christchurch's Anglican cathedral. Before its devastation by earthquakes, it was the centre of the city and one of the most celebrated of its great Gothic buildings. It could also claim to be "the most visited, the most accessible and best known church in New Zealand". Host Graeme Thomson explores the cathedral, its chapels and bell tower and outlines its history. He interviews Dean John Bluck and introduces hymns and songs of praise sung by the cathedral's choir and an ecumenical congregation.
In this episode of the influential NZ architecture series, dapper tour guide David Mitchell looks at the 'Christchurch Style'. He begins with the humble baches on Taylor's Mistake's cliffs, before focusing on the Euro-influenced brutalism of Miles Warren and the "flamboyant" practice of Peter Beaven (earthquake victims SBS House, and Lyttelton Tunnel's "fifth ship" are featured); and the cottage's modern descendent: Don Donnithorne's post-war home. Warren intriguingly compares his process designing Christchurch Town Hall with Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House.
The movie that won splatter king Peter Jackson mainstream respectability was born from writer Fran Walsh's long interest in the Parker-Hulme case: two 1950s teens who invented imaginary worlds, wrote under imaginary personas, and murdered Pauline Parker's mother. Jackson and Walsh's vision of friendship, creativity and tragedy was greeted with Oscar nominations, deals with indie company Miramax, and rhapsodic acclaim for the film, and newbie actors Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Time magazine and 30 other publications named it one of the year's 10 best films.
This 2011 episode of the Russell Brown-fronted media commentary show examines how Christchurch is dealing with the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes. First up: the CEISMIC Digital Archive is working to preserve the memories and experiences of Cantabrians, and The Press editor Andrew Holden explains why his newspaper is donating everything it has published to the project. Then CERA CEO Roger Sutton talks about the key role of media relations, and filmmaker Gerard Smyth describes shooting his acclaimed chronicle of the quakes: When a City Falls.
The Mainland Touch was a popular regional news magazine programme broadcast from Christchurch between 1980 until 1990. In excerpts here, Christchurch Botanic Gardens welcomes the arrival of spring with a daffodil festival while local gardening groups prepare a floral carpet. The Wizard of Christchurch battles Telecom over the colour of phone boxes and joins opponents of a proposed restaurant tower in Victoria Square. Punting on the Avon is extended, and a cockatoo hitches a ride in the garden city.
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.
RWP reporter/director Brent Hansen (later head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and generally taking the pulse of the local music scene. Flying Nun is on the rise (and just starting to attract international attention) although none of the label's major acts are playing near the RWP cameras. Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge, while Dunedin is a hive of activity with a new generation of Flying Nun acts starting to come through. Then there's Crystal Zoom...
Phillip Schofield introduces The Mockers at this benefit concert at the Christchurch Town Hall, which was later broadcast on Schofield's youth music show Shazam!. Their first album has just gone straight into the Top 10 and the band are well on their way to becoming pop stars, with Andrew Fagan, resplendent in red frock coat and bare chest, very much out front as one of Kiwi music's great showmen. Six songs are featured — including the hits 'Woke Up Today', 'My Girl Thinks She's Cleopatra', 'Alvison Park' and the title track of the band's 1984 album Swear It's True.
This NZBC religious programme goes where TV cameras had never gone before: behind the walls of the Carmelite monastery in Christchurch. There, it finds a community of 16 Catholic nuns, members of a 400-year-old order, who have shut themselves off from the outside world to lead lives devoted to prayer, contemplation and simple manual work. Despite their seclusion, the sisters are unphased by the intrusion and happy to discuss their lives and their beliefs; while the simplicity and ceremony of their world provides fertile ground for the monochrome camerawork.
Set during the 1974 Commonwealth Games, The Games Affair was a thriller fantasy series for children. Remembered fondly by many who were kids in the 70s, the story follows three teenagers who battle a miscreant professor who's experimenting on athletes with performance enhancing drugs. This first episode include some SFX jumping sheep; John Bach as a blonde, grunting villain, and a youthful Elizabeth McRae. It was NZ telly's first children's serial, the first independently produced long-form drama, and an early credit for producer John Barnett.