NZ Film, TV and Sound Archive (Ngā Taonga) was born about one year ago, resulting in the merging of 3 different archives, now pooling their efforts together. Let me tell you more about the core of the national audio-visual memory, and one of my favourite cinemas in Wellington. Special thanks to Mark Sweeney, Visitor Experience Manager and Lisa Snows, Communications Advisor, for giving up their time to clarify some of my questions.
Black-box of Kiwi film history
- 1st anniversary of a priceless collection
About one year ago, on the 1st August 2014, the three audio-visual archives of New Zealand merged into one: the Film, the TV and the Sound Archives became Ngā Taonga, Sound and Vision – don’t pronounce the “g”! -. The name of this bicultural organisation built on the Tiriti O Waitangi (the founding treaty of New Zealand), means in mãori “the Treasures”. Indeed, the Archive hosts one of the country’s most treasured possessions: it’s audio-visual memory. The logo itself tells us how valuable the collection is: it can be seen whether as an eye or as the double spiral representing the “waka huia”: a wooden box for storing a person’s most prized possessions. With more than thousand of different items relative to Film, TV and Sound history, the Archive holds a collection that has been created over decades.
Based in Wellington, the collection is nationwide. You can get access to to it in Auckland and in Christchurch but also via “medianet”, an online server accessible in many places around NZ. For more information about the locations, click here: http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/viewing/medianet/
- Treasuring the past
Preserving the past is one of the main goals of Ngā Taonga. So, even if “there has been a shift in the film industry, now mostly based in Auckland [apart from Miramar]” noticed Mark Sweeney and Lisa Snow, Wellington is still the historical city of cinema in New Zealand. The film copies are stored around the capital (mainly in Plimmerton) in two different storages. [The Sound material is kept safe in Christchurch]. Double protection is necessary in case of any major incident! Concerning the material, it is deposited voluntarily and remains the property of the depositor.
As far as the films are concerned, the priority of the archive is to scan the old copies to prevent them from destruction. The second one is to make history in acquiring new films to expand the collection. But in an era where digital media formats change all the time, which one do we want to choose? All Film Archives in the world are facing the problem. Ngā Taonga finally opted for LPO tapes, not less than the magnetic tapes, which are used by the Library of Congress in the US. “It’s hard to believe we got back to cassettes!” adds Mark Sweeney.
- Focus on education
Having an educational purpose since the start, Nga Taonga is also activily in relationship to schools and community centres. Plus, the collection is shown across the country, thanks to a programme called “the Travelling Film Show”. Lately, a programme dedicated to the city of Porirua was shown in different uncommon places: a marae, a museum, a church, and to two schools. An innovative way to make people acquainted with their history!
In Wellington: A welcoming movie theatre
Passing by the Wellington Film Archive, everyone asks oneself, what is this place? It seems to be another cool café in town. Indeed, a big bright hall welcomes you when you enter the Archive, with a bar, tables and chair, where you can treat yourself with a delicious and cheap flat white or a little cake. Ngā Taonga Film Archive appears instantly as a welcoming, warm place, close to people.
It’s also a comfy movie theatre! “We can’t replicate the cinema experience”, says Mark Sweeney, and indeed, I enjoyed Utu at Ngā Taonga, while I couldn’t get into it in front of a TV screen. Ngā Taonga showcases Kiwi films in priority. with a strong historical perspective. But sometimes the Film Archive presents other elements from its collection: the series “Back to the 80s” had lots of success. Of course, who is against re-watching Back to the Future on a big screen for only $8?!
Moreover, screenings in Ngā Taonga have often something special. That’s the only place I know, where I ever experienced a meditation lesson in a movie theatre! It was before the screening of The Connection: Mind Your Body by Shannon Harvey, the packed auditorium was silent. Yes, “there is a hard crew of cinephiles who come along” remarks Mark Sweeney, but they tried their best to correspond to every filmgoer’s expectation.
Also, just pick a movie in the fabulous Film Library in the basement and watch it on the available computers! Or with friends in a small room if you book, it. Awesome, isn’t it?
Ngā Taonga is a venue for the Wellington NZIFF [The New Zealand International Festival]. It’s the perfect occasion to get acquainted with it!
Furthermore, if you want to know more about the Archive, it’s Open House next weekend for the 150th anniversary of Wellington! http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/now-showing/open-house/ [an event part of Absolutely Positively Wellington] I’ll tell you more about the coming exhibition on Pacific Films in another post!