New Zealand Cinema 1993

By | December 1, 2021

The first film shots made in NZ date back to the end of the 19th century; but only in 1914 did G. Tarr make his first feature film, Hinemoa, based on a Maori legend. Two years later R. Blandford signed The Test, a dramatic story based on a novel by W. Satchell, as producer, director and performer. The production of the 1920s, however small, was dominated by the personality of R. Hayward, who made six films that remain among the most significant of the entire New Zealand filmography of the silent period (such as My lady of the cave, 1922, and Rewi’s last stand, 1925). At the late advent of sound (with Down the farm, 1935) followed a modest development in the documentary field, while the already scarce production of feature films with a subject stopped definitively after the war, remaining at a standstill for about three decades.¬†For New Zealand 2006, please check

In the late 1970s the state established the New Zealand Film Commission which, together with television, became the main promoter of the renaissance of national cinema. Also on the wave of cultural ferments from neighboring Australia, a new generation of directors with lively and multifaceted characteristics is being formed, some of whom will later take the more profitable but also more commercial streets of Hollywood.

This is the case, for example, of G. Murphy, who after having happily made his debut with Wild man (1977), realizes the greatest commercial success of New Zealand cinema, Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), enjoyable and singular on-the-road, followed by the savory Utu (1983), an amused but bitter reinterpretation of nineteenth-century colonialism, the first film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival; partially disappoints with the following Never say die (1988) and Red King White Knight (1989), and arrives at the Hollywood packaging of Freejack (1991), a story set in the near future Middle Ages, which does not benefit from the analogy with the very spectacular Blade runner by R. Scott (1982). The path of R. Donaldson is similar who, after two rather original works such as Sleeping dogs (1977) and Smash Palace (1982), turns in co-production with Hollywood Bounty (1983), a dignified but inert remake of the famous film by F. Lloyd (1935)), and some well-crafted thrillers (No way out, Senza via di scampo, 1987; Cocktail, 1988; Cadillac man and White sands, 1992; West with the night, 1993).

Yellow and horror dominate the production of the Eighties, with films that only occasionally manage to free themselves from the schemes of the genre. Less ” aligned ” than others appear S. Pillsbury (The scarecrow, The fourth victim, 1982; Starlight hotel, Under a roof of stars, 1987; the erotic Zandalee, 1991), J. Laing (Beyond reasonable doubt, Al beyond doubt, 1980; The lost tribe, 1984; Dangerous orphans, 1986; AWOL. Absent without leave, 1992), B. Morrison (Constance, 1983; Queen City rocker, 1986), R. Riddiford (Arriving tuesday, 1986; Zilch!, 1989), L. Narbey (Illustrious energy, 1988; The footstep man, 1991), G. Nicholas (User friendly, 1990), M. Sanderson (Flying fox in a freedom tree, 1990), J. Day (The returning, 1990), D. Blith (Moonrise, 1991), M. Pattison (Secrets, 1991), A. Clayton (Old scores, 1991).

Such a widespread and partly passive adoption of modules, environments, situations and characters typical of American cinema highlights the work and the personality of some directors who, adopting only the best features of the model – above all the technical contributions and ease narrative -, devote more attention to the very rich and largely unedited cultural, sociological and environmental heritage of their land: B. Barclay, who in Ngati (Under the sign of Orion, 1987) described the dramatic and fascinating reality of a Maori village which appears in the eyes of a young doctor, and who in Te rua (1990) has paralleled two stories set in Berlin and NZ; J. Reid, who in Leave all fair (1984) has outlined an evocative biographical profile of the famous New Zealand writer K. Mansfield; V. Ward (author, among other things, of the subject of Alien 3, 1991), who landed three times in Cannes with Vigil (1984), the story of a little girl who lives isolated in the great New Zealand spaces, with The navigator (1988), saga of two brothers and an entire community in search of redemption, and with Map of the human heart (1992), starring J. Moreau and A. Parillaud, set in a remote Arctic settlement where an elderly Eskimo recalls the years Thirty, when the place was not yet contaminated by oil bases; P. Jackson, tasty comic-horror specialist, who con Bad taste (1988), with the unusual puppet feature Meet the Feebles (1989) and with Braindead (1992) he made three of the most interesting specimens of the genre; I. Mune, well-known actor and screenwriter, who, having moved on to directing with three perhaps too violent action films, Came a hot friday (1984), Bridge to nowhere (1986) and The grasscutter (1989), faced and played in The end of the golden weather (1992) a delicate and penetrating analysis of adolescent psychology.

Finally, a strong and valuable female presence in the direction should be noted: G. Preston made his debut in 1984 with a well-made thriller, Mr. Wrong, but gave the full measure of his skills as an attentive observer of everyday life in Ruby and Rata (1990), a delicate story of two suburban solitudes; M. Mita, after some interesting documentaries, switches to a strong civil commitment with Patu! (1983), a film on South African apartheid, and with Mauri (1988), a passionate and poetic document of Maori culture, to which the director belongs; A. Maclean, after the prestigious award obtained by his first short film Kitchen sink at the Sundance Film Festival (1991), she landed in Cannes with her first film, Crush (1992), an interesting parable on the power of sex; M. Read follows the detective Trial run (1983) with the tasty Send me a gorilla (Please send me the gorilla, 1988). J. Campion (b.1957), perhaps the most notable personality in New Zealand cinema in recent years, drew the diagram of the difficult relationship between two sisters in Sweetie (1989), while in An angel at my table (An angel at my table, 1990; special jury prize at the 47th Venice Film Festival, 1990) addressed the difficult theme of the relationship between art and life, creativity and ” diversity ” with extraordinary intelligence and great narrative ability, writing without any concession to rhetoric or hagiography the three autobiographical novels of the New Zealand writer J. Frame. More complex appears The piano (Piano lessons, 1993), Palme d’Or ex aequo in Cannes: dramatic story of a single mother who lets herself be involved in an ambiguous and intricate sentimental situation, generated by an unusual exchange agreement: to submit to the erotic demands of a rude Englishman who lives on the edge of a Maori community, in exchange of the transport from a beach to an internal residence, beyond a dense bush, of a piano, the only property of the woman, who for some time decided not to say a word anymore and to express herself only with the keys of the instrument.

New Zealand Cinema 1993