Book Review: The Camera in the Crowd, by Christopher Pugsley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_camera_in_the_CrowdI was amazed to find that the first films reached New Zealand in 1896 – I knew it had been around in the early 20th century, but hadn’t realised it went that far back.

The Camera in the Crowd focuses on the 25-year period that followed film’s introduction, using footage from Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, our national film archive. (An organisation I have a great deal of admiration for after they sent me the link to a documentary my late mother appeared in about 30 years ago.)

The book talks about the early days of film and of the cameramen and theatre owners who brought the world to life for New Zealanders. When I was a young child, friends of my parents had their own home theatre and we used to enjoy going there to see movies – something we took for granted in the 1960s but which looking back was something pretty amazing for a time when not every home had a television.

Reading about the early pioneers of film was fascinating – for a start, I had no idea the Salvation Army had been heavily involved in filming New Zealand’s history.

Christopher Pugsley is a leading historian with many titles under his belt and this book is meticulously researched. It’s the type of book you will dip in and out of as the mood takes you rather than one you’ll read from start to finish. It focuses on New Zealand’s history, both at home and during our many military campaigns overseas.

Some items have a little movie camera icon next to them and that indicates the footage can be found online by going to Nga Taonga’s website and entering the title number. I urge you to take the time to look at these videos as they bring our past to life in a way the book on its own is unable to do.

While this is not a complete history of the period in time The Camera in the Crowd covers, it does feature some very interesting and important events, including royal visits and New Zealanders at war. There’s everything from whaling to sports to culture.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this book will only appeal to history buffs because it deserves a much wider audience that that. Those with an interest in early movie making will find it illuminating (pardon the pun), while those with an interest in society and how it evolved will enjoy reading the historical reports and items from newspapers of the time.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Camera in the Crowd
by Christopher Pugsley
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN  9780947506346

Book review: New Zealand Film an illustrated history

This book is in stores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

For a little country we sure punch above our weight when it comes to film making, but parochial little scrappers yapping around the feet of the big boys we are not.

New Zealand’s film industry has long been sophisticated in what it creates even if what goes on behind the scenes isn’t as extravagant as studios in countries 10 times our size. So who better to compile a definitive history of New Zealand film than The New Zealand Film Archive?

Released in 2011 as part of their 30th year celebrations, this catalogues in detail everything from our first film screening (1896) to our first New Zealand-made film less than three years later right through to the experimental ’60s and ’70s, booming early ’80s, increasingly international ’90s; the early 2000’s that saw Peter Jackson ascend his throne and finally, the films we’re making these days, revelling in all things New Zealand but on a bigger international stage than ever before. It’s not surprising that this is a finalist in the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Beautifully bound with a stunning design featuring gorgeous colour photos and an accompanying DVD, this is a tome that will appeal to both the casual Kiwi filmgoer as much as a dyed in the wool film aficionado.

Written by a range of academics, industry experts and devoted fans of the art form, it’s easy to read – not too academic yet not too plainly written. One thing is for sure, when it comes to learning about the history of New Zealand cinema, no other title comes anywhere close to this from both a research and analysis point of view. Every home should own this. No argument.

Reviewed by Sarah McMullan.

New Zealand Film an illustrated history
Edited by: Diane Pivac with Frank Stark and Lawrence McDonald
Published by Te Papa Press in association with the New Zealand Film Archive
ISBN 9781877385667


GIVEAWAY
In conjunction with this review we had four copies of the book to give away. Congratulations to Ben, Stephanie, Jacki and Penny who were our winners. We picked them using random.org – a random number generator.