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Screening of Pictures, a Film Reassessment of Colonial NZ

Film Archive to Screen Pictures, a Reassessment of Colonial New Zealand

Listing details: Pictures film screening
When: 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday, 14 - 17 August
Where: The New Zealand Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington
Ticket price: $8 general admission / $6 concession

Pictures (1981) is a fictionalized biography of pioneer kiwi photographers, the Burton Brothers, who travelled around the country photographing colonial life in the 1860s and 1870s. The film stunningly recreates the period, while unsettling some long accepted founding myths of our country. Pictures is not available on the home video circuit - don’t miss this rare and special opportunity to see a film gem.

Made by Pacific Films, Pictures tells the story of Walter and Alfred Burton (played by Peter Vere-Jones and Kevin J Wilson), brothers and rivals, both photographers of colonial New Zealand. Walter takes pictures of rebel Māori taken prisoner by colonial soldiers. Public exhibition of the photos is forbidden. Bitter and disenchanted, Walter can only find work in the tame world of the studio. Alfred, a recent immigrant, is insensitive to Walter’s plight. More opportunistic than Walter, his photographs obscure and romanticise the plight of the Māori and win public approval.

“The most intriguing feature, to date, to come out of the New Zealand ‘new wave’ is Pictures. Its director, Michael Black teamed up, in Pictures, with John O’Shea who also co-wrote the script (with Robert Lord). Together – theory and practise – they have produced a film of surprisingly seasoned vintage, a thoughtful film, one of a particular style. Pictures is also the first New Zealand film, I feel, to forge a coherent and powerful social statement. [... the film] uses the framework of photography to ask questions about early New Zealand. The city scenes with their tinkly front parlours and hideous mud on the streets give way to the exquisitely ‘lost world’ quality of the Wanganui River.” - Peter Wells, Listener, 18 June 1983

“The reassessment of history is never an easy task, especially a history as clouded with noble self-deception as that of the colonisation of New Zealand. All credit, then, to Pictures for tackling the subject, and for bringing to its reassessment a remarkable clarity and a considerable complexity of perspective.” - Nick Roddick, Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1982

Pictures will screen at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday, 14 - 17 August. At the Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St.


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