Cinema of New Zealand

From Academic Kids

(Redirected from New Zealand cinema)

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:
  • 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 led 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 could make successful films about New Zealand. Before Geoff Murphy was lured away by Hollywood, he did make two other key New Zealand films, Utu, (1983), about the land wars of the 1860s, and The Quiet Earth (1985). Both films featured Bruno Lawrence, a uniquely local movie star.

A decade later, Jane Campion's The Piano (1993) and Lee Tamahori's ferocious Once Were Warriors (1994) again returned New Zealand to the cinematic map, though neither director has worked locally again. Most recently, New Zealand has been best known as the location for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, directed by local hero Peter Jackson, who cut his teeth on ultra-low-budget gore fare such as Bad Taste (1987).

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

Internationally released movies

Prominent directors

Notable actors

External links


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