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Cinema of New Zealand

New Zealand Cinema is film made in or about New Zealand.

While New Zealand cinemas screen international movies in general release, relatively few New Zealand-made films have been specifically commissioned for this market by international film distributors. Most New Zealand films have been made by small independent film-makers, often on a low budget and sometimes with sponsorship from public funds. Only recently have international film companies used the New Zealand film industry as a source of feature films. However, the independent tradition of filmmaking in New Zealand dates back to the end of the 19th century, when film was first shot in New Zealand.



  • The first public screening of a motion picture was on October 13, 1896 at the Opera House, Auckland and was part of a show presented by Charles Godfrey’s Vaudeville Company.
  • The first filmmaker in New Zealand was Alfred Whitehouse, who made 10 films between 1898 and mid-1900. His The Departure of the Second Contingent for the Boer War, filmed in 1900, is the oldest surviving New Zealand film.
  • The first feature film made in New Zealand was Hinemoa . It premiered on August 1, 1914 at the Lyric Theatre, Auckland.
  • During the 1920s and 1930s, Director Rudall Hayward made a number of feature films using New Zealand themes. Rewi's Last Stand was probably his best, though little of this 1925 film survives. The film was remade with sound during the 1930s.
  • The National Film Unit was a government-funded producer of short films, documentaries, and publicity material.
  • Independent filmmaker John O'Shea was active from 1940 to 1970 making New Zealand cinema. His company Pacific Films produced numerous short films as well as the three New Zealand feature films made in that period:
    • Broken Barrier , 1952;
    • Runaway , 1964;
    • Don’t Let It Get You , 1966;
  • This is New Zealand , a short film made for the World Expo in 1970 was extremely popular there and subsequently screened in New Zealand cinemas, to much public acclaim.
  • During the 1970s the New Zealand Film Commission was established to fund the production of New Zealand cinema films. A number of film projects were funded and this lead to a revitalisation of the New Zealand film industry.
  • The first New Zealand film to be released in the United States was Sleeping Dogs , in 1977. Based on the book by C. K. Stead, it is a dark political action thriller that portrays the reaction of one man to the formation of a totalitarian government, and subsequent guerrilla war, in New Zealand. The film proved very popular with New Zealand audiences at the time, and introduced Sam Neill in the major role. While its local images of large scale civil conflict and government repression were unfamiliar to most viewers, they became a reference point with the 1981 Springbok Tour protests and police response, just a few years later.
  • In 1981 there were three New Zealand feature films released. Goodbye Pork Pie (Geoff Murphy), Pictures (Michael Black ) and Smash Palace (Roger Donaldson). Goodbye Pork Pie became a huge hit and packed out the cinemas it screened at. It took in NZ$1.5 million in 1981, (a figure comparable with big Hollywood blockbusters of the time like Star Wars or Jaws), and Geoff Murphy accepted movie offers from Hollywood. The release of Goodbye Pork Pie is considered to be the coming-of-age of New Zealand cinema as it showed that New Zealanders can make successful films about New Zealand.

New Zealand Film Archive

The New Zealand Film Archive was founded and incorporated on March 9, 1981. Film enthusiast, critic and historian Jonathan Dennis (1953—2002) was a primary driving force behind the archive and became its first director. The archive was set up to preserve and restore significant New Zealand film and television images. It now holds a collection of much of early New Zealand cinema film and holds public screenings of its collection.

Much of the early cinema film made in New Zealand has been lost, as it was printed on unstable nitrate film base. In 1992, when film enthusiasts and the New Zealand Film Archive realised how much of New Zealand's film heritage was being lost, they mounted the Last Film Search and found 7,000 significant films, both in New Zealand and around the world.

Recent New Zealand movies

  • All the Way Up There (1978) (Director: Gaylene Preston )
  • Among the Cinders (1984) (Director: Rolf Hädrich )
  • An Angel at My Table (1990) (Director: Jane Campion) (A dramatisation of the autobiography of New Zealand author Janet Frame.)
  • Bad Taste (1987) (Director: Peter Jackson)
  • Bad Blood (1981) (Director: Mike Newell)
  • Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1990) (Director: John Laing) (A dramatisation of the Arthur Allan Thomas Case by David Yallop.)
  • Braindead (aka Dead Alive) (1992) (Director: Peter Jackson)
  • Bread and Roses (1993) (Director: Gaylene Preston)
  • Bridge to Nowhere (1986) (Director: Ian Mune)
  • Broken English (1996) (Director: Gregor Nicholas)
  • Came a Hot Friday (1985) (Director: Ian Mune)
  • Carry Me Back (1982) (Director: John Reid)
  • Dagg Day Afternoon (1977) (Directors: John Clarke and Geoff Murphy) (Features kiwi icon Fred Dagg)
  • The End of the Golden Weather (1991) (Director: Ian Mune)
  • (1986) (Director: Murray Ball) (Animated feature based on a popular New Zealand cartoon strip drawn by Murray Ball.)
  • Forgotten Silver (1995) (Directors: Costa Botes and Peter Jackson) (A mockumentary of "lost" New Zealand filmmaker "Colin McKenzie" that created a huge uproar in the film community until everyone realised the directors were "only joking".)
  • Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) (Director: Geoff Murphy) (A New Zealand road trip.)
  • Gupta vs Gordon (2003) (Director: Jitendra Pal) (A cross cultural Kiwi-Indian comedy feature film set in Hawkes Bay)
  • The Irrefutable Truth About Demons (2000) (Released as Truth about Demons in United States) (Director: Glenn Standring)
  • Jack Brown, Genius (1994) (Director: Tony Hiles)
  • Leave all Fair (1985) (Director: John Reid) (A dramatisation of the life of expatriate New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield.)
  • The Locals (2003) (Director: Greg Page)
  • The Maori Merchant of Venice or Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti (2002) (Director: Don Selwyn) (William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in Te Reo Maori and a modern Maori setting.)
  • Meet the Feebles (1989) (released as Just the Feebles in United States) (Director: Peter Jackson) (Proving that Jackson can do animation too!)
  • Ngati (1987) (Director: Barry Barclay)
  • (Director: Vincent Ward)
  • Never Say Die (1988) (Director: Geoff Murphy)
  • Once Were Warriors (1994) (Director: Lee Tamahori)
    • Sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999) (Director: Ian Mune)
  • Patu! (1983) (Documentary of the 1981 Springbok Tour compiled by Merata Mita .)
  • Pictures (1981) (Director: Michael Black)
  • The Price of Milk (2000) (Director: Harry Sinclair)
  • The Quiet Earth (1985) (Director: Geoff Murphy)
  • Scarfies (1999) (Director: Robert Sarkies)
  • The Silent One (1984) (Director: Yvonne Mackay)
  • Sleeping Dogs (1977) (Director: Roger Donaldson)
  • Skin Deep (1978) (Director: Geoff Steven)
  • Smash Palace (1981) (Director: Roger Donaldson)
  • Snakeskin (2001) (Director: Gillian Ashurst)
  • Solo (1977) (Director: Tony Williams)
  • Sons for the Return Home (1979) (Director: Paul Maunder) (Based on the novel of the same name by Albert Wendt )
  • Stickmen (2001) (Director: Hamish Rothwell)
  • Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (Director: Harry Sinclair)
  • Te Rua (1991) (Director: Barry Barclay)
  • Utu (1983) (Director: Geoff Murphy)
  • Vigil (Director: Vincent Ward)
  • War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us (1995) (Director: Gaylene Preston)
  • Whale Rider (2002) (Director: Niki Caro)
  • Wildman (1977) (Director: Geoff Murphy)
  • Wild Horses (1983) (Director: Derek Morton)

International release movies

Prominent directors

Notable actors

External links

Last updated: 12-22-2004 06:07:47