The Cinema of Small Nations

By Mette Hjort; Duncan Petrie | Go to book overview

9. NEW ZEALAND

Duncan Petrie

In his spoof documentary, Forgotten Silver, Peter Jackson uncovers the story of a lost New Zealand film pioneer called Colin McKenzie whose astonishing achievements — unacknowledged by film history — included the manufacture of a motion picture camera in 1900 at the age of 13, followed by a revolutionary sound recording system in 1908, a colour film process in 1911, and the production of a lost three-hour epic feature based on the tale of Salome and John the Baptist and shot on a huge set constructed in the New Zealand bush. Forgotten Silver caused a minor sensation when it was broadcast on 11 November 1995, the year of the official centenary of cinema. Many New Zealanders were all too ready to believe in this discovery of a new 'national hero', whose achievements against the odds so embodied the resilience, ingenuity and modesty that defined the national character. And when the film was subsequently revealed as a spoof, the animosity towards Jackson from some quarters was vitriolic, implying a sense of betrayal (Roscoe and Hight 1996).1 The irony here, of course, lies in the stark discrepancy between the (fictitious) achievements of Colin McKenzie and the reality of New Zealand's marginal place in cinema history, a country that produced a mere seven theatrical features between 1940 and 1976. With Forgotten Silver Jackson and co-director Costa Botes create a sophisticated fantasy that simultaneously depends on the peripheral status of New Zealand while mobilising a potent myth of innate Kiwi virtue and talent. But a further ironic twist is provided by the fact that the filmmaker responsible for this counter-historical narrative, whose own unkempt demeanour and down-to-earth personality marked him out as a

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The Cinema of Small Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Europe 21
  • 1. Denmark 23
  • 2. Iceland 43
  • 3. Ireland 60
  • 4. Scotland 76
  • 5. Bulgaria 93
  • Part Two - Asia and Oceania 111
  • 6. Hong Kong 113
  • 7. Singapore 127
  • 8. Taiwan 144
  • 9. New Zealand 160
  • Part Three - The Americas and Africa 177
  • 10. Cuba 179
  • 11. Burkina Faso 198
  • 12. Tunisia 213
  • Notes on Contributors 229
  • Index 233
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