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Award-winning film programme comes to Old St Paul’s

Award-winning film programme comes to Old St Paul’s

Wellingtonians have a one off opportunity to view an award-winning slice of vintage kiwiana in the stunning Old St Paul’s this month.

Reel Life in Rural New Zealand – a creative partnership between Heritage New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Archive – is a compilation of 18 short films celebrating New Zealand’s agricultural heritage. It will screen at the historic church on Wednesday 18 June.

The church setting will be in contrast to the rural locations used when the film programme originally screened at five historic woolsheds from the Hawke’s Bay, Tararua and Wairarapa regions in March 2013.

Viewed by over 1200 people including 300 school students, Reel Life proved a highly successful partnership between heritage and film, and won the Most Innovative Public Programme category in this year’s Museums Aotearoa NZ Museum Awards.

Now ‘townies’ have a chance to view the 70 minute programme, which features seldom seen amateur footage and government newsreels from the Film Archive that showcase New Zealand farming history, shearing gangs, kiwi inventions dating back to 1913, and some of the unique rituals of country life.

Heritage New Zealand Central Region Area Coordinator, David Watt, says the films provide an opportunity to bring people close to their history.

“They add a new layer of storytelling that helps to bring to life New Zealand’s remarkable agricultural heritage.”

The programme includes Broad Acres, a New Zealand Sheep Station (1940), a documentary centred around a city girl who visits a family of Hawke’s Bay sheep farmers, as well as newsreel and documentary footage showing returned servicemen being trained as farmers near Masterton in 1945.

The famous topiary garden at Neuman, near Eketahuna, also features. Created by farmer John Cooper, the garden was a popular destination for tourists in the 1930s, who came to see couches, animals, a piano player, and many more impressive topiary works. The 1961 Golden Shears contest is screened featuring New Zealand champion shearers, Godfrey and Ivan Bowen.

Other films show inventions for the farm and home including the first electric tractor in New Zealand, and Percy Fisher’s monoplane lifting off (momentarily) into the Wairarapa sky in 1913. Crafted with classic New Zealand ingenuity, in the No. 8 fencing wire tradition, these films are presented along with an inventive recorded soundtrack composed and performed by Wellington musician, Bill Hickman and friends.

Ellen Pullar of the New Zealand Film Archive says historic venues such as Old St Paul’s bring the films new life.

“Films allow the past to come to life – they are literally the past in motion – and experiencing this in buildings that have been standing for generations, is really special. Showing the films in historic buildings adds a resonance to the stories and histories shown on screen.”

Venue: Old St Paul's, Mulgrave St Wellington, Wednesday 18 June, from 5.30pm.
Cost: $18 for Heritage New Zealand members; $20 general admission. Complimentary drink and nibbles on arrival.
Attendance: Contact Heritage New Zealand by 9 June if you wish to attend. Phone (04) 494 8320 or email


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