Joe Hendren

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Film Archive says Happy Birthday to Vanguard Films

For 30 years Vanguard Films have done a great job recording some of New Zealand's most important social and protest movements, often raising facts, voices and issues not to be heard in the mainstream media. The Film Archive in Wellington is showing a retrospective of their work this week, with showings of their films playing each day until Saturday.

A few films have screened already, but there is still plenty of good stuff to see this week.

The Lumiere Reader summarise Vanguard's history and achievements.
"[Vanguard are] behind some of the most politically radical cinema to come out of this country, from films such as A Century’s Struggle (a film about the seamen’s union) to Wild Cat (striking forestry workers in the Bay of Plenty) to Rebels in Retrospect (the Progressive Youth Movement’s reunion in Christchurch). The films gave voice to people who were usually denied theirs in mainstream media. While the films have traditionally been marginalised (and even lambasted in Parliament) some of Vanguard’s latest efforts have gathered much more widespread coverage – films such as Alister Barry’s The Hollow Men or Russell Campbell’s film on World War II dissenters Sedition. "

I reviewed Sedition here.

Of the Vanguard films I have seen I admit my favorite is probably Rebels in Retrospect - memoirs of the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) - largely because many of the late 1960s and 1970s activists in the film are now my friends. The PYM were a key part of the anti-Vietnam war movement, and highlighted (some previously unknown) US military links in New Zealand. Did you know a very young Murray Horton got his photo in the Press calling for a system of free bicycles for the citizens of Christchurch? That was over 30 years ago, and its still a good idea. Rebels in Retrospect screens on Wednesday.

Someone Else's Country looked at how a new right power elite imposed neo-liberal reforms on New Zealand, and is one of their few films to be screened on television, even if it did take TVNZ 11 years to get around to it. (Thursday)

I would love to see more of Vanguard's earlier films, particularly Islands of the Empire (1984) which examined the military links between the US and New Zealand during the ANZUS years. Unfortunately many of their earlier films are difficult to get a hold of, particularly as many are only on VHS if you happen to know someone who has a copy (my video recorder died years ago). There is now another political generation who would love to see these films (hint hint), so I hope Vanguard consider making them available on DVD (how about a compilation DIVX DVD?).

On National Radio yesterday Chris Laidlaw interviewed Russell Campbell and Alister Barry from Vanguard (this link will work for about a week). Short exerts of their films can be seen on youtube.

The retrospective at the Film Archive is screening until September 12. Now I wish I was in Wellington this week...

Another world is possible

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