Protestors and police officers at Bastion Point.

Returning to Bastion Point

23 May 2016
The preservation story of the New Zealand film 'Bastion Point Day 507' (1980)

Above image: Bastion Point - Day 507 (Merata Mita, Leon Narbey and Gerd Pohlmann, 1980)

Thirty-eight years after one of the most important protest events in New Zealand’s history, newly restored footage of the Bastion Point occupation and eviction has returned to the people and place it was filmed.

On Wednesday 25 May 2016, a restored version of the documentary Bastion Point - Day 507 (1980) was gifted and screened for Ngāti Whātua at Ōrākei marae by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

It was the 38th anniversary of the day when protesters occupying Bastion Point - or Takaparawhau - were evicted by police and armed forces, ending an occupation that had lasted 506 days.

The political climate of the time meant that Bastion Point – Day 507 was not able to be widely shared, and was for many years available to the public only through worn film prints and low-resolution video.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision film conservators worked with the original cinematographer, Leon Narbey, to produce a beautifully restored digital version of Bastion Point - Day 507.

“In the spirit of giving back and building relationships, taking this beautiful restoration back to Ngāti Whātua at Ōrākei was the right thing to do,” says Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Pou Ārahi, Honiana Love.

Sharon Hawke (daughter of Bastion Point occupation leader Joe Hawke) said: “We were delighted and moved by the gesture to receive a copy of this powerful visual document.

“We are reminded that mainstream media refused to televise this back in the day for a decade. This is a major tribute to the late Merata Mita, who fought hard to get this film finished, and we honour her at this viewing.”

Extract from the film Bastion Point Day 507
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A Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision delegation, along with filmmakers Leon Narbey and Gerd Pohlman, travelled to Ōrākei to present and screen the documentary, and tell the story of its restoration.

About the Restoration of Bastion Point - Day 507

Merata Mita, Leon Narbey and Gerd Pohlman’s powerful documentary Bastion Point - Day 507 (1980) depicts the eviction of protestors from Bastion Point during the struggle for Māori land rights.

The political climate of the time meant that Bastion Point – Day 507 was for many years only available to the public through worn film prints and low-resolution video.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Kaiwhakataki/Programme Coordinator, Lawrence Wharerau, says although he has watched the footage many times, the restored version reveals faces he has never before identified. That includes Dilworth Karaka, one of the founding members of Herbs; musician and composer Taura Eruera; and Will Ilolahia, who was involved as a member of the civil rights activist group, the Polynesian Panther Party.

“I was never able to pick them out before, but the picture’s that much clearer now,” says Lawrence. “The work that Leon and our conservators have done has re-instilled the mana and integrity of the film.”

To restore the film, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision moving image conservators spent weeks examining and preparing the original 16mm colour master negative and magnetic sound track, ready to be scanned frame-by-frame by our in-house technical experts.

Then in consultation with the film’s cinematographer, Leon Narbey, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision conservators and technical experts spent over 50 hours completing post-scanning work at Park Road Post Production in Miramar, including colour-grading, stabilisation and digital cleaning.

As with all archival restorations worked on by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the goal was not to make the film look better than it did before, but to accurately reflect how the work appeared when it was originally produced.