Tag Archives: film

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Hilda Brodie Smith

Hilda Brodie Smith, of Porirua, wrote, directed and starred in a number of rather incredible documentaries during the 1960s. Her work was so distinctive and professional that she regularly won prizes in cine club competitions.

Hilda’s films have recently been restored by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, and film conservator Richard Faulkner talks about the process in this feature by Radio New Zealand.

12 of the newly preserved films can be watched on our online catalogue, here.


Feature image: Hilda Brodie Smith, My Nature Diary (1965).


Around the World in an Austin 7 (1928-1931)

- By Jane Paul (Community Programme Coordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Richard B. Mathews (from Kaitaia) and Hector McQuarrie (from Auckland) came to worldwide attention by circumnavigating the globe in a baby Austin. The intrepid kiwis travelled 22,000 miles in their tiny two-seater car, dubbed “A rugged little baby” by Truth newspaper.

Their journey through Australia, New Zealand and on the ill-fated S.S. Tahiti was captured on film by Hector McQuarrie. This extraordinary film can be watched below, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia which holds the original nitrate film:


Around the World in an Austin Seven [Australia and New Zealand], 1928-31, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive


Richard (Dick) and Hector’s first adventure was the journey from Sydney to Cape York in Northern Queensland. This marathon trip covered 1,300 miles of which 700 were roadless. Austin (Sydney) supplied the “baby” and in return received paramount publicity for their car. Over three months the pair drove further than anyone had gone before. The journey was dangerous – what would happen if they ran out of water or petrol, or the car was unfixable? They navigated dense bush and steep terrain, pockets of quick sand, crocodile-infested rivers and even fled forest fires before reaching their destination. Hector estimated that they averaged 25 punctures a day. Dick was both driver and fixer of punctures, he was “very strong, 12 stone, almost 6ft and built like a Russian.” [1]

The men left Sydney in August 1928, the Austin loaded up with a tent, supplies (including benzene) a typewriter, (Hector had been commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to write a serial about their adventures [2]) and two books: the complete Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland. By the time they had reached Cooktown they had abandoned most of their baggage, and slept out in the open on gum leaves, wrapped in a mosquito net. With no benzene purchasable after Cooktown, they relied on the goodwill of isolated station owners to help out. Small amounts of benzene was received – mostly from women who used it to power their irons. They reached Cape York on 31 October 1928.


After a spell at Torres Strait and New Guinea (without the baby) the men prepared to make a trip through New Zealand from furthest north to furthest south, and then leave on the next stage of their world tour. The men re-united with their car, “Emily,” in Sydney (after it was shipped down to Sydney as an exhibition in a car show).

Hector, Dick and Emily sailed on the S.S. Maunganui to Wellington. They spent two months in New Zealand and the film shows the men in Rotorua and near the Chateau on Mt Ruapehu.


While in New Zealand, Hector gave lectures and showed his film of the men’s Australian adventures. Auckland newspapers advertised this lecture at the Civic Theatre:

Hector MacQuarrie – Author, Traveller, Adventurer

Will appear in person at each of the above sessions and give an illustrated travelogue


Bristling with Wit and Humour!

Admission – Matinee Dress Circle 1s 6d, stalls 1s, Evening DC 2s

(Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930)

In August 1930 Hector, Dick and “the baby” boarded the Tahiti in Wellington, expecting to reach San Francisco within three weeks.

On the fourth day of their journey (300 miles from Cook Islands) they were awoken by news from the ship’s crew that:

“the tail shaft has broken, the propellors droped off, the engine room is filling with water, and the old lugger’s sinkin.”

The 128 passengers onboard knew that the vessels Penybryn and Ventura were coming to their assistance but not when they would arrive. They endured an anxious 50 hour wait at sea. The passengers were well aware that if the calm waters turned, and the wind and sea got up, the boat would sink. In the interim, the loudspeakers blasted cheerful dance music and food continued to be served.

The Auckland Star reported “Hector MacQuarrie [MacQuarrie was his chosen literary surname], the Auckland journalist, was a passenger [...] and he was able to take some excellent shots of the last moments on board, and the sinking of the ship” [4]

The footage begins with Emily being hoisted on-board at Wellington and scenes of shipboard life. Then the last spectacular images, taken on 18 October 1930, of the liner’s final plunge stern first into the ocean’s depths (taking the baby with it). Hector’s footage was taken from the safety of the rescuing ship – Ventura.


Hector and Dick returned to Auckland. The footage was sold to Fox Movietone (for inclusion in their newsreels) and a negative struck for filmmaker Rudall Hayward, who organised showings of the film in Australia and New Zealand.

By March 1931 the couple were in America, where they purchased another Austin 7 called “Emily H.” Newspaper reports from the time record their only “real mishap was when a rumrunner in Florida charged into them out of the wide and flung the car and the two tourists into the ditch.” Luckily they met an English engineer, who restored the smashed car.

After driving through America, they continued on to Britain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Jericho, Bagdad, Babylon and India. Adventures encounted included “being fired at by a Turkish soldier and charged at by an infuriated camel.”

So, where is this footage of these other journeys?

We know Hector didn’t lose his camera on the Tahiti, so he is likely to have continued filming along the way. Is it housed in other film archives? Or do Austin clubs around the world have it? We’d love to hear from you if you have information on these films made in Europe, Middle East and other places (contact: janepaul@ngataonga.org.nz)

Copies of Around the World in an Austin 7 are held in Australia, by the National Film and Sound Archive, and in New Zealand, by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was recently in touch with the Austin Seven Clubs’ Association, UK about the film. Chris Garner, a member of the Austin Seven Clubs’ Archive Team, added:

“We here in the UK are delighted to hear that this particular film has been discovered, remastered and made available to all. Our congratulations to all involved.

This piece of Austin Seven history is very important to us all, especially as material of this nature is rare and brings to life what McQuarrie and his companion’s exploits were like at the time.

In conjunction with what our archive team is doing here in the UK with our collation and digitisation project, the film is yet another piece of the rich jigsaw of Seven material that exists. We know many enthusiasts here will look forward to viewing it.”


  1. We & The Baby. Angus Robertson: Australia, 1929.
  2. This was later released in a book titled We and The Baby, Press, vol. LXVII, issue 20317, 17 August 1931, p. 11.
  3.  Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930.
  4. Auckland Star, vol. LXI, issue 212, 8 September 1930, p. 9.

Hector MacQuarrie published a number of additional books:

  • How to Live at the Front
  • Tahiti Days
  • Roving New Zealanders
  • Round the World in a Baby Car

Hawke’s Bay on Film 1913 – 1985

- By Jane Paul (Community Programme Coordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Recently Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision and Historic Places Hawke’s Bay showed a compilation of films focused on Hawke’s Bay history in MTG’s beautiful theatre in Napier.

MTG Theatre.
MTG Theatre.

People started arriving an hour early, and soon the foyer was crammed with people ranging in age from 2 months to 95 years!

Fifteen-year-old Bonnie Allen – who provided musical accompaniment for the silent films – set herself up at the grand piano, and people streamed into the cinema.

Audience members gathered for “Hawke’s Bay on Film.”

The programme began with a look at the fishing industry in 1913 –  a fascinating glimpse of life on the trawlers and the use of carrier pigeons to convey information about the catch back to the mainland. Sunny Napier – The Brighton of New Zealand (1929) kept the audience enthralled with scenes of old, pre-earthquake Napier.

Interestingly, Alec Douglas Lambourne’s film of the great earthquake in Hastings drew the most applause. Continue reading


Rewind NZ

By Diane McAllen (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Earlier this year we screened Rewind This (2013), an American documentary that celebrated the VHS format. The documentary featured an array of angles on the demise of this physical format: from enthusiasts who revel in the hunt for the rare and fantastic VHS limited editions, to the filmmakers and distributors at the height of the launch of VHS tape onto the domestic market.

On the opening night we invited Andrew Armitage, Louise McCrone, and David Summerfield to contribute to a panel discussion following the screening. We primarily wanted to know what impact VHS and its subsequent demise had had on New Zealand. We discovered on the night that we could have scheduled hours for the discussion. Here is a snapshot of the topics we covered:

Andrew Armitage opened the doors of the Aro Video Shop in 1989, with a collection of VHS tapes to cater for urbanite tastes beyond the mainstream. In this clip from the panel discussion he recounts what motivated him to go into the video rental trade, and the transition to DVD:

David Summerfield is an avid VHS enthusiast and collector. In this clip he talks about what drew him to VHS, the nostalgia, and a little about the VHS collector scene in New Zealand. Andrew adds that New Zealand was seen as a rental rather than a collector’s market, and mentions the impact of classification legislation on the distribution of cult videos in New Zealand: Continue reading


“Khal” Exhibition Opening Peformances

- By Paula Booker (Programme Developer, Auckland)

Khal, an ongoing project begun by Helga Fassonaki in Tabriz, Iran, is currently being exhibited at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Auckland.

Fassonaki sent sixteen sculptural scores abroad, for sixteen female artists to interpret and perform publicly in response to a ban on female solo performances in Iran. Three Auckland artists then re-interpreted the scores in performances at the Khal exhibition opening on November 18.

The evening’s performances were:

  • 8 Pillars, originally received by Rachel Shearer and Ducklingmonster, performed live at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision by Piece War / Live Visuals by Cutss 
  • Hypocrisy, originally received by Angeline Chirnside, performed live at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision by Hermione Johnson and Zahra Killeen Chance 
  • Hum Hum Hum Hum Hum, originally received by Purple Pilgrims, performed live at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision by  Liz Maw
“Hypocrisy,” performed by Hermione Johnson and Zahra Killeen Chance.


“Hypocrisy,” performed by Hermione Johnson and Zahra Killeen Chance.


Guitar set up ready for Piece War, in front of “8 Pillars” video projection.


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The Majestic Theatre Bronze Plaque

This week Documentation Archivist Mishelle Muagututi’a had the opportunity to appreciate the detail on a bronze plaque that once decorated Wellington’s Majestic Theatre while cleaning it as part of her preservation work. This photograph shows Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA Filter Vacuum. The HEPA is an archival vacuum cleaner, designed to clean delicately. It comes with a selection of customised heads suited for navigating the forms and crevasses of a range of different types of objects and materials, without causing damage to the item.

Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA filter vacuum.
Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA filter vacuum.

This bronze plaque was part of the lavish decoration of the Majestic Theatre, Wellington, for nearly 60 years. Shortly after the theatre was demolished in 1987 the plaque was deposited to the care of the New Zealand Film Archive (as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was then known). In cleaning the plaque, Mishelle’s curiosity was piqued and she carried out some further research into the history behind this item. Some of the things she discovered follow.

The display label on the plaque notes that:

‘The plaque was designed in Florence and erected at the opening of the Majestic Theatre on 13 May 1929. It depicts the introduction by Apollo of the new art of Cinema to the older arts of the Dance, Drama and Music.”

The plaque is now housed in the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection.
The plaque is now housed at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

The Majestic Theatre bronze plaque is something of a “curiosity” in our collection, as we hold little information about this heavy neo-classical artefact. I came across an article (thank you Papers Past) in the Evening Post, dated 10 May 1929, relating to the plaque. A reporter’s commentary of that era, the writer casually sweeps across the new building:

“… The entrance hall leads into a spacious foyer, beautifully carpeted, finished and lighted, in which stand the booking-offices for the reserved seats. Immediately facing the patrons as they enter the foyer is a bronze plaque, 5 feet by 3 feet, of classical design, representing the new art, the cinema, being introduced to the sister’s arts – the drama, dancing, music etc.”

The Majestic Theatre, from its opening day on 13 May 1929, was a state of the art venue and certainly lived up to its name. The neo-classical interior of the building started with the double sets of doors to keep Wellington’s notorious breeze from floating through the foyer. The Evening Post writer described the building as “handsome,” and “arisen phoenix-like as it were from the ‘ashes.’” The foyer was of a substantial size, encompassing: the booking stalls, ladies and gentlemen’s cloakrooms, entrance to the tea rooms (which catered for 500 people), and the well-lit passages and stairway up to the picture theatre.

The plaque’s depiction of Apollo introducing the new art of cinema to the sisters who represent dance, drama and music was significant at a time when Wellington was a mecca for film distributors. Throughout the 1920s cinema was on the rise, with “talkies” introduced at the end of the decade, coinciding with the Fuller Hayward chain’s opening of the Majestic, their 69th theatre in 1929. Situated at 100 Willis Street, the Majestic Theatre was built at a cost of 175,000 pounds, and was the second largest cinema in New Zealand (behind Auckland’s Civic Theatre).  

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Adventures of Jonathan Dennis Book Launch

Last Wednesday evening we hosted a very special book launch at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision: Emma Jean Kelly’s The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis – Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand. Jonathan Dennis was the founding director of the New Zealand Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision).

The speeches given at the launch by Diane Pivac, Emma Jean Kelly, Ray Edmondson, Lindsay Shelton and Rebecca Elvy recall Jonathan Dennis, and his vision for film archiving in New Zealand:

Photo 30-09-15, 4 42 31 PM
Mementos of Jonathan Dennis at the book launch last Wednesday 23 September.


Learn more about the book The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis – Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand here.

“Scruff,” a Short Film In-The-Making

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Audio Conservator Alex Porter has hidden talents. Outside of her day job as an archivist, she has an impressive career as a filmmaker. A few of the films she has directed include: Super8man (2007), a comic short film inspired by Richard Bach’s book Johnathan Livingstone Seagull and exploring the world of an amateur filmmaker; A Sense of Place (2008), a fantastical observation of fine wine and art; and N or Nor W, Study of a Canterbury Wind (2011), which looks at a Canterbury Nor’ wester from the perspective of a young girl living in the 1950s (we exhibited this film here at the archive in 2013).

In this blog post she puts on her producer’s cap, and shares a new filmmaking project she’s working on with Ed Lust.

Scruff Director Ed Lust, with D.O.P. Sabin Holloway, on location at a flat in Sumner, Christchurch. (Photo by Alex Porter).


I was stoked when Ed Lust [1] asked if I would produce his short film, Scruff, because pretty much everything Ed does is cool and generally involves cosmic wonder. We met during postgraduate years at the University of Canterbury in 2009: he was completing his MFA, and I was starting my Hons. A fact was established in my mind when I saw Ed’s final submission that this man stood apart from the crowd; not only because he was gay (in both senses of the word), but because he was in the business of making and creating great art across disciplines, prolifically and seamlessly. We have shared a couple of road trips and exhibition spaces over the last few years and generally founded a loose sort of working exchange which brings me to the now, the project at hand: Scruff, the short film.

We are coming up to two years on from where we began with a New Zealand Film Commission Fresh Short grant, and have one more weekend of drama to go before the production can be fully realised from script to screen, project this baby into post, to master and apply to festivals. Anyone who has ever had a hand in making a short (but works full-time in their other field of interest) will know [2], really know this is just how the timeline rolls sometimes — and let it be known Ed is also a full-time archivist [3]. Scruff is a personal story; it’s a coming of age tale that pushes open the edges of envelopes, wide. Follow this link to hear Ed’s story, see his Boosted campaign and witness his bold approach as he stands naked [4], putting himself on the line.

Boosted!? I hear you cry, hasn’t he had enough support already? As his producer I say no, he needs a little more, actually one weekend of production costs more. Fellow film lovers, it is time to stand up and join the faithful posse of family and friends, the existing support of Christchurch’s “we help people like Ed because we believe in them” network collective and other available squeezed-dry resources. Follow the link, hear his plea and create an opportunity to be part of the love, if all you do is “like” or “share” his message, God Bless you anyway [5].


Alex Porter

Friend and Producer fighting to represent filmmaking in Christchurch


Ed looking happy with the way things are going. (Photo by Alex Porter).
Ed looking happy with the way things are going. (Photo by Alex Porter).

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