History, memory and representation, Alfio Leotta

The Camera in the Crowd: Filming New Zealand in Peace and War: 1895-1920
Christopher Pugsley
Oratia Books, $80.00, ISBN 9780947506346

Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen
Annabel Cooper
University of Otago Press, $50.00, ISBN 9781988531083

As most contemporary movie-goers around the world would know, despite its small population, when it comes to film New Zealand punches well above its weight. What is perhaps less known to most is that Aotearoa has a rich film-making tradition which harks back to the last years of the 19th century, when Auckland-based photographer Alfred H Whitehouse started producing the first films ever made in the country. During the silent period, New Zealand was home to a relatively vibrant film industry; however, in the late 1920s, a number of factors, such as the transition to synchronised sound, the economic depression and the government’s lack of interest in film, marked the decline of local cinema production. New Zealanders would have to wait until the establishment of the New Zealand Film Commission in the late 1970s to witness the emergence of a sustainable local film industry. The resurgence of New Zealand national cinema culminated in the mid-1990s with the international success of films such as The Piano (1993), Once Were Warriors (1994) and Heavenly Creatures (1994), which put the country on the world cinema map. The production and release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early 2000s gave the New Zealand film industry even wider global media exposure, cementing the country’s reputation as a major film production hub.

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