Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, Wellington, 30 September, 2016: In partnership with Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage, a season of Films That Shaped New Zealand will mark the anniversary at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the New Zealand audiovisual archive, from 12 to 22 October.
On 13 October 1896, New Zealand’s first public screening of a motion picture played to an audience at the Opera House in Auckland, as part of Charles Godfrey’s Vaudeville.
The new-fangled cinematographe of Professors Hausmann and Gow projected short films of moving life: a train pulling into the station, a dancing girl, beach and street scenes.
“Everything moved as though in life; in fact, it was life reproduced,” raved the NZ Herald.*
The film show moved south to Thames and Paeroa before Wellington got its chance on 28 October at the Exchange Hall, then Christchurch on 7 November during Show Week and Dunedin on 20 November.
“An electric knob is touched, and where all was darkness there appears an illumination, and Sandow ‘the strong man’, not a picture, but Sandow in his habit as he lives, displaying every feature of his marvellous muscular power… every twist and twitch… every expression of his face… is reproduced with absolute fidelity to nature,” wrote Wellington’s Evening Post.**
“…of what infinite possibilities it is capable. Indeed the extent of these possibilities can hardly be suggested.”
“New Zealand filmmakers and audiences both seized upon the technology. By the mid-1940s the average person attended the cinema 23 times a year,” says James Taylor, acting programming manager at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the New Zealand audiovisual archive.
“It was the beginnings of a technology and art form that has shaped New Zealand’s culture and identity. Over the past 120 years, audiovisual records – film, radio, television, audio and video recordings – have become the currency of modern culture and the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries.
“Around 750,000 of these are now safely in our ever-growing collection, preserved and able to be shared with people now and in the future. That way, we make sure that these stories, art and records are never lost to New Zealanders.”
To celebrate 120 years of cinema this month, a season of iconic New Zealand feature films, plus films from the 1896 tour, will screen at Ngā Taonga in partnership with Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture & Heritage, supported by the NZ Film Commission.
“This year the Ministry is supporting several national commemorations related to the New Zealand film industry,” says David Butts, Manager of Heritage Operations at Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.
“We are delighted to partner with Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, supported by the NZ Film Commission, to mark the 120th anniversary of the first public film screening and to showcase the very best of New Zealand cinema.”
Films That Shaped New Zealand runs from 12 to 22 October, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision cinema, 84 Taranaki Street, Wellington.
It begins with the 1940 feature Rewi’s Last Stand; through to classic features of the 70s and 80s such as Sleeping Dogs, Smash Palace and Mr Wrong as well as box office hits of more recent times such as Whale Rider and Boy.
Each feature will be preceded by either Sandow the Strong Man or The Serpentine Dance from the original show that toured New Zealand in 1896.
Top image: Rudall Hayward’s Rewi’s Last Stand (1940)