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07/08/26 Peloponnese, Greece Burnt forest between the villages of Makistos and Artemida. The fires that broke out on Thursday have burned more than 2.500,000 acres and killed 64 people. (C) NIKOS PILOS for K magazineAl Barry has been the con­science of New Zea­l­and doc­u­ment­ary-mak­ing for over 40 years. In 1973, he sailed to Mur­uroa with his cam­era to record the protests over French nuc­le­ar test­ing and in 1979 he formed — along with Rod Pross­er and Rus­sell Camp­bell — the Van­guard Films col­lect­ive of pro­gress­ive film­makers who pro­duced a series of doc­u­ment­ar­ies about the increas­ing fric­tion between the author­it­ari­an Mul­doon gov­ern­ment and the labour and nuc­le­ar-free protest move­ments, includ­ing Wild­cat (fol­low­ing the 1977 tim­ber work­ers’ strike) and Islands of the Empire (about New Zealand’s depend­ent mil­it­ary rela­tion­ship with the United States).

In 1988, Al released the first in what would become his life’s work — a series of films mak­ing up a com­pre­hens­ive his­tory of New Right polit­ics in New Zea­l­and and the steady destruc­tion of the wel­fare state and the post-war lib­er­al con­sensus. Someone Else’s Coun­try cost only $40,000 to make and was a sur­pris­ing suc­cess, prompt­ing him to fol­low up with In a Land of Plenty (2002), A Civ­il­ised Soci­ety (2007) and then an adapt­a­tion of Nicky Hager’s invest­ig­a­tion into polit­ic­al cor­rup­tion, The Hol­low Men in 2008.

His latest film, Hot Air, is about the polit­ics of cli­mate change — what he describes as “the mundane nature of this cata­strophe and the glob­al response to it… you know, just ordin­ary folks like you and I who happened to be in pos­i­tions of power and for very ordin­ary human reas­ons didn’t do any­thing or do enough”. It takes much the same film­mak­ing approach as his pre­vi­ous pic­tures: assembly of a case through a painstak­ing trawl through years of tele­vi­sion archives in order to find evid­ence of the key play­ers essen­tially con­vict­ing them­selves with their own testimony.

At least this part of the job is get­ting easi­er, thanks to tech­no­logy. The Auck­land Uni­ver­sity Chap­man Archive of all tele­vi­sion news and cur­rent affairs broad­casts since 1984 has long been a treas­ure trove of New Zea­l­and his­tory and is now avail­able for review by the gen­er­al pub­lic at the Film Archive.

Alister test­i­fies: “The Film Archive and the New Zea­l­and Tele­vi­sion Archive have been won­der­ful resources right through the dif­fer­ent stages of the pro­cess, from look­ing at it on paper using the TVNZ data­base through to going down to the base­ment at the archive and spend­ing hours and hours and hours look­ing at their record­ings of every news pro­gramme over the last ten years or so, which now can be viewed there for free. You can go and look at his­tory unfold­ing as each day goes by in the six o’clock news.”

Mak­ing a film might be get­ting easi­er, but fund­ing it and then get­ting it in front of an audi­ence is get­ting more dif­fi­cult, and Al is grate­ful for the atten­tion the New Zea­l­and Inter­na­tion­al Film Fest­iv­al provides: “In a funny way it has become more import­ant because we’ve got a stage (or a screen) where the films can be shown and not lost in the deluge, and people like your­self, for example, and indeed this con­ver­sa­tion that we’re hav­ing now, mean that films like ours do get poin­ted out.”


Also in July


ERNEST & CELESTINE (Stéphane Aub­i­er, Vin­cent Patar, Ben­jamin Renner)

Opens 3 July: I’m sure I’ve men­tioned this film in these pages more than once, but per­petu­al release delays means I’m recom­mend­ing it again. This is the Eng­lish-lan­guage ver­sion of an ador­able French anim­a­tion. For all the famille.


CALVARY (John Michael McDonagh)

Opens 3 July: A cast to die for (includ­ing Brendan Gleeson, his son Dom­h­nall, Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Mor­an) in the fol­low-up to the hit com­edy The Guard.



Opens 10 July: If it’s been a bit quiet in Miramar dur­ing the last few months it’s because every­one has had their heads down fin­ish­ing the amaz­ing effects for this well-deserved sequel.


THE DARK HORSE (James Napi­er Robertson)

Opens 31 July: Cliff Curtis returns to New Zea­l­and cinema after a too-long absence, this time as pro­du­cer as well as star. Based on a true story, he plays Gen­es­is Potini, a former chess cham­pi­on try­ing to get his life back on the board. Boy’s James Rolle­ston also stars.


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