Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Te Rerenga Wairua

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  • Che Tibby,

    holy crap. this film was a big influence on me. when a friend overseas was killed in a crash i used the symbolism learned in this film (and a bit of other background) to explain to his dad what may have happened to his soul.

    you'll be pleased to know there is a weather wane of a heron above a chimney in east texas that continues to provide comfort to a grieving father, and it's largely your fault.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Che Tibby,

    you’ll be pleased to know there is a weather wane of a heron above a chimney in east texas that continues to provide comfort to a grieving father, and it’s largely your fault.

    There were a few unsolicited predictions of things happening to those who tampered with stuff beyond their comprehension. Some of them may have happened and I didn't recognise them. But no-one predicted anything like that.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    About the people who made the film:

    Susan Wilson, Producer: Background in teaching art and Super 8 animation in Australian and NZ high schools. Inspired to animate the Te Rerenga story when she came across it in a book while living in Australia. No particular vision as to how the story would be told. Highly adept at dealing with bureaucracies and arts funding bodies. Good to be on the right side of.

    John Robertson: Exceptional animator and designer, graduate of the then Auckland Technical Institute. Had already made a short animated film based on David Bowie's Uncle Arthur. Did the on the motorway sequence, among others. Currently a director at Passion Pictures, London.

    Alistair Kay: Gifted designer/illustrator, also from ATI, designed the finalized 'Wairua' character. Wish I still had his model sheet of the character in various 'Mr Wairua' bodybuilding poses. Faithfully stuck with the film until it was done, even when the cash ran out, then hightailed it overseas. Fondly remembered.

    Alan Moyes: Studied printmaking at Elam School of Fine Arts.
    Reckoned that animation would be like printmaking because you wouldn't know whether it had worked or not until it was done. Proved to be right.
    Very prolific, Alan's distinctive style dominates much of the film. Did everything from the bus tourists to the 'Catholic sequence' where the spirits practice self-harm. Like John and Alistair, loyal to finishing the film beyond any everyday sense of duty. Last heard of teaching on faculty in Austin, Texas.

    Also Adriana Tuscia, who did the gorgeously organic waves in the intro sequence, and Bridget Sutherland, who helped out in the latter stages of production, and went on to make those great music documentaries.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • George Darroch,

    This film sounds like worth coming home to see.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report

  • Tim Michie,

    I seem to recall a more recent festival screening in an animation section (will have to dig out the old guides). Either that or I recall more recent than it was...

    Great to know who made this memorable work.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’ll see if I can fill a few of those Wikipedia gaps over the summer.

    Speaking of filled gaps, the NZ On Screen entry for Mi-Sex’s “Computer Games” now has the info about the Control Data building. And I’ve updated the Wikipedia entry too.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    Thank you very much Russell, Paul from NZ On Screen, and everyone who's taken the trouble to express how Te Rerenga touched them in some way.

    Although that film dominated a distant but significant chunk of my life I've never really been able to relate to it as being 'my' work. While the wish to make a film based on the Te Rerenga story came from producer Susan Wilson, it wasn't accompanied by any specific vision. Nor has anyone ever really articulated why they so much wanted to make a film based on that story. Once we'd assembled a production team we had three younger artists, each with their own vision, so my task as director was to establish a framework which could accommodate that. Within that I was able to indulge myself to much the same degree as they did, so there are bits that are stylistically 'mine'. As for the story, apart from the contemporary elements that I was keen to include, it was already largely there.

    When I first became involved with the project Susan Wilson was attempting to gain the support of influential figures in the arts and film biz, as their written endorsement would be vital to secure funding. After receiving an extremely hostile response from artist and occasional filmmaker Selwyn Muru she was prepared to drop the idea. If we hadn't met with the late Don Selwyn that would probably have been as far as it went.

    Unlike Muru, Don Selwyn didn't threaten supernatural consequences. He listened patiently, perhaps indulgently to my claim that the Te Rerenga story was something that I and most NZers had grown up with, albeit in storybook form, and pretty much said go for it, I'll give whatever help I can. During the scriptwriting stage we met with various other Maori. Most were supportive, a couple were skeptical, but all were encouraging to some degree.

    During production there were occasional suggestions from non-Maori that we were trespassing onto or plundering a culture that wasn't ours. It was always presented as a rigidly held belief that didn't allow for discussion. Once the film was finished there was a small but intensely hostile reaction from some quarters, but never from Maori. I remember being offered the right of reply to a letter to Alternative Cinema, where the writer protested on behalf of those "shocked and distressed" Maori and polynesian people who she'd witnessed leaving a screening of Te Rerenga. She didn't reply to my offer to convene a meeting where we might discuss the hurt caused. Perhaps the authentic voice of the 19th Century missionary can still be heard today. It certainly seemed to be around in the 1980s.

    Selwyn Muru's initial hostility was the only time that we encountered an overtly negative response from a Maori quarter. It was at Don Selwyn's suggestion that the karakia or lamentation be included in the early part of the film's soundtrack, and it was he who put us in touch with the performer and those who could provide the necessary protocols for recording. A kind, generous and patient man.

    Don Selwyn and a number of others both older and wiser than me hinted that the Te Rerenga story wouldn't be an easy subject to tackle, and there were times where I rather wished that I hadn't signed on. Every time something went wrong, such as the master soundtrack suddenly appearing to mysteriously wipe itself, you wondered if you hadn't invoked the threatened curse.

    Every film has to have a director, and although my name is there I've never shaken the feeling that the film somehow directed itself. I don't mean that in any mystical sense, unless an attempt to understand the workings of fate is somehow inherently mystical, in which case guilty as charged. It's a little film about a very big story, and after all these years I feel privileged to have been involved.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Don Selwyn was a lovely, lovely man. I knew him briefly, but he was a very good friend to dear Mahinaarangi.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    . . . he was a very good friend to dear Mahinaarangi.

    It's funny how they're both gone, but Papa Will Survive sounds - in my memory - as hope-filled as ever.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • merc, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Awe. I'm going to have to see it now.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    There isn't a day goes by that I don't think of her. She and Don both left very very large amounts of emptiness.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report

  • Islander, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    +1 +1
    way way heaps
    I'm just playing the songs & crying.
    So silly, but-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report

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