The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis: Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis: Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis: Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis: Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

Synopsis

Jonathan Dennis (1953-2002), was the creative and talented founding director of the New Zealand Film Archive. As a Pakeha (non-Maori/indigenous New Zealander) with a strong sense of social justice, Dennis became a conduit for tension and debate over the preservation and presentation of indigenous and non-indigenous film archival materials from the time the Archive opened in 1981. His work resulted in a film archive and curatorship practice which differed significantly from that of the North American and European archives he originally sought to emulate. He supported a philosophical shift in archival practice by engaging indigenous peoples in developing creative and innovative exhibitions from the 1980s until his death, recognizing that much of the expertise required to work with archival materials rested with the communities outside archival walls. This book presents new interviews gathered by the author, as well as an examination of existing interviews, films and broadcasts about and with Jonathan Dennis, to consider the narrative of a life and work in relation to film archiving.

Excerpt

This work explores the philosophy and nature of film archiving in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) through an analysis of the role played by Jonathan Dennis, firstly at the New Zealand Film Archive, Ngā Kaitiaki o ngā Taonga Whitiāhua (NZFA), from 1981 until 1990 and thereafter as a freelance film curator until his death in 2002. the construction of a film archive in the early 1980s offers a valuable moment in which to analyse the wider purpose and the more specific process for the formation of a film archive. As a national institution presenting materials from the past, an archive quickly becomes a focus point for debates about the national past, present and future. How materials from the archive are cared for and presented offers opportunities both in their presence and absence from which to critique the notion that the archive may be a biography of the nation. This exploration of Dennis, film archiving and national identity is driven by a set of questions. Firstly, what is an archive and what should it do? Secondly, what relationship does an archive have to changing concepts of the nation as expressed by social and political movements? Finally, how might a film archive and its archivists respond to the materials within and the movements outside its walls?

In order to address these questions Jonathan Dennis, founding director of the nzfa has been used as a conduit for an examination of the tensions and debates prevalent at a particular period of time in a specific country. This examination engages with indigenous and non-indigenous values in relation to audiovisual materials from the past. It considers a specific colonised country as a place in which competing perspectives are at play, and analyses how the New Zealand Film Archive and its materials became part of that competition.

During the years 1981–2002 Dennis worked to present and preserve indigenous and non-indigenous film archival materials with an awareness of the social and political changes occurring in the country. This resulted in a film archive and . . .

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