Chapter Five – From Holland to Holyoake: Film in the 1950s and 1960s

By Lawrence McDonald. Summary by Jakki Galloway

Our Film History Chapter Five From Holland to Holyoake Main
Broken Barrier (1952)

The Government restructure of the National Film Unit (NFU) in 1950 was dramatic: after a nine-year run the Weekly Review was disestablished and replaced by a new magazine series – Pictorial Parade. Stanhope Andrews resigned as Manager (as did many skilled personnel) and was replaced by Geoffrey Scott.

As the official Government filmmaking body – and because of its technical role as the processor of film stock for independent companies – the NFU did however, remain as the dominant filmmaking force here in the 1950s and 1960s. Their principal function was to fulfil the priorities of tourism and government propaganda, not to make ‘art’ documentaries as a stand-in for the lack of a feature-film industry. In this context the most exceptional films produced by the NFU during this time were those directed by John Feeney – Legend of the Wanganui River (1952), Kotuku (1954) and Hot Earth (1955).

There was, however, a gradual increase in the number of independent film companies. Chief among them was Pacific Films – established in 1948. John O’Shea joined in 1950 and became the driving force in independent feature-film production. Against the odds, Pacific Films produced three films over the two decades: Broken Barrier (1952), Runaway (1964) and Don't Let it Get You (1966). Robert Steele Productions and Morrow Productions were other independent film producers, however, they did not have the resources to make feature films. The period 1949 (when Rewi’s Last Stand/The Last Stand was released in Britain) through to the 1970s have been described as the lean years of feature filmmaking and Pacific Films’ three features were the only ones produced.

The introduction of television in 1961 resulted in a decline in cinema audiences, but the production of television commercials were also an opportunity for the independents. The publication of the Mazengarb Report in 1954, also had an effect on cinema as many films were heavily censored or banned and restricted certificates were often issued.


Activity 13: Runaway – Close read a 1964 review.

Activity 14: Broken Barrier cartoon – Create a cartoon.

Activity 15: Classification labels – Match the film to its classification label.


FORWARD to Chapter Six – Waking from a Fretful Sleep: Film in the 1970s

BACK to Chapter Four – Political and Alternative Filmmaking: 1940 to 1950

BACK to Our Film History

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