Kath’s Reviews: Film and Television

Kia ora!  I’m Kath, one of the Community Librarians and I’m an avid film and television viewer.  I’m regularly diving deep into the excellent DVD collection we have at Wellington City Libraries, as well as content from Beamafilm and Kanopy — the two streaming platforms available to Wellington City Libraries customers.

In this series of posts, I’m hoping to share some of the gems I come across each month with Pōneke film and television enthusiasts! Some of those I’ve watched recently include:

DVD cover for Moonage DaydreamMoonage Daydream (DVD)
This gorgeous documentary is narrated by Bowie himself, taken from archival footage and recordings.  Covering his professional life from his early days as a teenage saxophone player through to his final magnificent work Black Star, released on his birthday in 2016, two days before he passed.  The viewer is given an insight into his life, philosophy and incredible artistic talent.  I’ve been a fan since my teenage years and had a good cry by the end, I only wish there would be more of his work come to light in the future.

Best bit: snippets of unseen interviews with Bowie himself.

DVD cover of The Lost CityThe Lost City (DVD)
A delightfully silly movie.  Think Romancing the Stone starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, but a modern version.  Sandra Bullock is at her comedy best, and Channing Tatum is a perfect partner for this duo adventure-comedy.  I found myself absolutely guffawing with laughter in some parts and there’s just enough heart to the story to keep you invested.  Daniel Radcliffe has lots of fun chewing the scenery as the villain, and Brad Pitt has a cameo as the cheesiest character ever.

Best bit: Look for the wheelbarrow and Brad Pitt’s hair.

Ans WestraAns Westra (Ans Westra – Private Journeys / Public Signposts) (Beamafilm)
I actually watched this a few weeks ago, before the sad news of Ans Westra’s passing.  This one is available on both DVD and through Beamafilm.  Being relatively new to Aotearoa, I was not aware of Ans Westra’s work until recently.  On viewing her amazing photographs through Wellington City Recollect, I was curious to find out more about this talented photographer.  I found this short documentary fascinating and it’s chock full of her work, as well as stories about the controversies some of her photographs have stirred over the years.

DVD Cover for Nude TuesdayNude Tuesday: A Comedy in Gibberish (DVD)
Another fun, silly film, but one done very cleverly.  This New Zealand film was created with gibberish dialogue which was then subtitled by British comedian Julia Davis.  I’ll watch anything with Jemaine Clement in it, but I can assure you the whole cast does a fantastic job in this film.  Couple Bruno and Laura find themselves in a retreat to attempt to save their marriage, and of course the “guru” leading the retreat is Jemaine Clement as Bjorg.  Lots of laughs and a story that has heart.  I loved how beautifully the nude scenes were handled in this film, there was something magical about them after all the silliness of the first two thirds of the film.

Best Bit: ICY POOL!

DVD cover of Good Luck to You Leo GrandeGood Luck to You Leo Grande (DVD)
An intimate film that feels like a stage play.  Emma Thompson plays Nancy, a widowed school teacher who is looking for intimacy, adventure and sex.  She hires sex worker Leo Grande, whom she meets in a hotel room.  Nancy is nervous, but Leo knows how to put people at ease.  This film explores womanhood, pleasure, regret, secrets, family and  so much more.  Both Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack give fantastic performances and it’s a refreshing perspective we don’t often see in film.

Best bit: How can anyone go past Emma Thompson?  She’s one of the best in the business!  Mind you, Daryl McCormack is talented and also very easy on the eyes.

DVD cover for Gloriavale: New Zealand's Secret CultGloriavale: New Zealand’s Secret Cult (DVD)
This is a sensitively made documentary into the Gloriavale community and how those in power have treated the vulnerable members of the sect.  Told from the perspective of those who have left the community and the people in the regular world who are supporting the leavers, this documentary film is bringing the injustices of the organisation into light.  It is compelling viewing and many of the participants are telling their stories for the first time.

DVD cover for Everything Everywhere All At OnceEverything Everywhere All at Once (DVD)
What can I say about this movie?  Let’s start with it being the best film I’ve seen in quite some years.  It’s currently sweeping all of the awards in Hollywood for it’s cast, directors and the film itself.  Beautifully acted, lots of twists and turns and what you think is an absurd storyline all comes together beautifully and breathlessly.  The entire cast is incredible, the martial arts scenes are mind blowing and there is a deep heart to the story.  Do not miss this film.

Best Bit: Ke Huy Quan’s fight scene with the bum bag.  Or perhaps Raccacoonie.  Or the googly eyes.  Or hotdog fingers.  Wait, maybe the fight with the tiny dog.  Oh don’t make me choose!

What have you been watching from our collection of late?  Recommend a documentary or film for us in the comments below.



The work of Ans Westra on Recollect

Purchased by Wellington City Libraries over 40 years ago, our complete collection of over 350 images by one of New Zealand’s most significant photographers of the 20th century is now available to view on Wellington City Recollect.

Cuba Mall, 1974. © Ans Westra, Ref: AW-1046-05
A twin-lens Rolleiflex camera of  the same make and model that was used by Ans Westra.

Ans Westra was born in 1936 in the small city of Leiden in southern Holland.  When she was a teenager she visited the legendary Family of Man photography exhibition when it was staged in Amsterdam as part of a world tour.  Inspired by what she saw, she started saving every guilder she could until she had enough money to purchase a camera. Unusually for the time, she chose to invest in a high-quality Rolleiflex medium-format camera rather than a ‘normal’ 35mm camera that most novices would have opted for and she continued to use this camera for most of her career.

Te Ao Hou, June 1960, with cover photograph by Ans Westra

In 1957 she joined the wave of Dutch emigres who were coming to New Zealand as part of an assisted passage scheme supported by the NZ Government. She briefly lived in Auckland where her father had moved to some years earlier but after several months she shifted to Wellington with the thought that it would only be a temporary stay before she returned to her native Holland. However, she quickly settled into her adopted city where she joined the Wellington Camera Club and found employment with the Rembrandt Photography Studios then located at 211 Cuba Street. By now her interest in photography had become a passion and she began to document New Zealand life in a manner rarely seen in that era. She found particular inspiration within Māori communities which until then had been largely ignored by contemporary photographers and she joined the pan-tribal Ngāti Pōneke cultural club. This interest led to her images first appearing in print in New Zealand when her work was used in several issues of Te Ao Hou, a quarterly magazine published by the Department of Māori Affairs. Further commissions followed from the Department of Education who used her photographs in a variety of publications including the NZ School Journal.

Members of the local Indian community outside the Plaza Cinema, Manners Street, 1979. © Ans Westra, Ref : AW-1808-06

Westra was soon travelling across the country photographing different aspects of New Zealand life. However, it was in Wellington where her camera best captured the fabric of urban society as it was in the 1960s and 70s. Youth, street fashion and Wellington’s ethnic communities were all photographed in detail with Westra’s skill as a photographer often making it appear as if she were invisible to her subjects. As her reputation grew, her work appeared in a number of significant books including  Maori (1967), Notes on the Country I Live In (1972) and the capital-focussed Wellington City Alive (1976) with text by the novelist Noel Hilliard.

Aro Street, c. 1975. © Ans Westra, Ref : AW-1557-6

In the mid-1970s the newly appointed Local History Librarian, Hilda McDonnell, was tasked with establishing a photo collection for the Central Public Library (then located in what is today the City Art Gallery). Though images from a number of different local photographers were included, special emphasis was placed on the work of Ans Westra. Over 350 photographs which it was felt best represented different aspects of our city were selected from contact sheets and purchased by McDonnell. These photos were then hand-printed by Westra in her own darkroom where she would also crop the original square image produced by her Rolleiflex to fit the standard 5 x 4 ratio photographic paper common at the time. Though the camera had a fixed focal length (i.e. non-zoom) lens, the huge size of the negatives it produced and its high quality optics meant that Westra was able to crop an image to create her desired composition without any significant degradation of image quality. 

The Purple Onion strip club, 1975. © Ans Westra, Ref : AW-1110-08

By the 1990s, the increasing value and fragility of the original prints meant that it was becoming difficult to maintain public access to the photographs and they were shifted into storage, a problem further exacerbated by the closure of the central library in 2019. With the permission of Ans Westra’s representatives and her agent, {Suite} Gallery, we have been able to digitise this remarkable collection of her work and to make it available on our Recollect platform. 


The Ans Westra Collection on Wellington City Recollect


Road workers in Grey Street, 1976. © Ans Westra, Ref : AW-953-07

Wellington City Libraries wishes to thank and acknowledge Ans Westra and her agent, {Suite} Gallery for allowing us to digitise our collection of her work. Please note that the  images marked © above are under copyright to the photographer; please click on the link that accompanies each image to see how they can be used.  

Not One More Acre: A Conversation with Ans Westra at the Central Library

Ans Westra Poster6smallb

This October marks the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Māori Land March – when Dame Whina Cooper lead marchers to Parliament to protest the loss of Māori lands. “Not One More Acre of Māori Land” became the catch-cry of the marchers, who left Te Hāpua in the far north on 14 September as a group numbering no more than 50, and eventually reached Wellington on 13 October as a powerful hikoi numbering at over 5000.

Iconic photographer Ans Westra captured this event and on Tuesday 6 October Wellington Central Library will be hosting a talk with this renowned and well-loved photographer, who will describe her experience of attending and photographing the historic march. From Thursday 1st October there will also be an exhibition of contact sheet prints of Ans Westra’s photographs of the arrival of the march in Wellington on 13 October 1975.

A Conversation with Ans Westra
Tuesday 6 October at 12.30pm
2nd floor, Central Library

Syndetics book coverWashday at the pa / photographs by Ans Westra ; with text by Mark Amery.
Washday at the pa, by New Zealand premier photographers Ans Westra, was first published as a photo-story booklet in 1964 by the Department of Education for use in Primary Schools, but all 38,000 copies were withdrawn following a campaign by the Maori Women’s Welfare League that it would have a ‘detrimental effect’ on Maori people – and that the living conditions portrayed within the book were atypical. A second edition of the booklet was published the same years with some images omitted. This edition is a selection of these two editions together with photographs of the washday family taken in 1988, and includes essays by arts critic, journalist and broadcaster Mark Amery detailing the controversy and background of Washday at the pa.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNga tau ki muri = Our future / Ans Westra.
“This timely and visionary new book includes 137 Westra photographs of the New Zealand landscape, with text contributions from Hone Tuwhare, Russel Norman, Brian Turner, David Eggleton and David Lange, who wrote a short piece for Ans as part of an unrealised book project in 1987. Well known for her iconic black and white documentation of Maori culture, Ans Westra is also known for her colour works, which show concern for New Zealand’s destiny, “an island exploited by various waves of settlement”. Shot with Ans’ trusty Rolleiflex camera, the sometimes damning images in Our Future have been made over the last 20 years. “The purpose of the book is to give a directive to the country, an awareness of things changed and lost within its short history. If we don’t plan for the long term and keep taking stop-gap measures, we leave very little behind. Instead of becoming like the rest of the world, this beautiful place should become a shining example of hope for survival in a newly balanced environment.” –Ans Westra.” (Syndetics summary)

Whina [videorecording] : mother of the nation.
“The autobiography of Maori land activist Dame Whina Cooper filmed two years before she died. Born in an earth-floor whare she became a teacher, gum digger, rugby coach, midwife, a tribal leader, president of Maori Women’s Welfare League and controversial leader of the Maori Land March. Who organized her first public protest at the age of 18.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverHīkoi : forty years of Māori protest / Aroha Harris.
“What have Maori been protesting about? What has been achieved? This book provides an overview of the contemporary Maori protest ‘movement’, a summary of the rationale behind the actions, and a wonderful collection of photographs of the action u the protests, the marches and the toil behind the scenes. And it provides a glimpse of the fruits of that protest u the Waitangi Tribunal and the opportunity to prepare, present and negotiate Treaty settlements; Maori language made an official language; Maori-medium education; Maori health providers; iwi radio and, in 2004, Maori television.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHandboek : Ans Westra photographs / [exhibition curator and coordinator, Luit Bieringa ; texts, Cushla Parekowhai [et. al]].

Ans Westra [videorecording] : private journeys/public signposts / director, Luit Bieringa ; producer, Jan Bieringa.
New Zealand photographer, Ans Westra, talks about her career.