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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1947

Film Societies in New Zealand

Film Societies in New Zealand

[The importance of the film as a factor in education has been frequently stressed by educationists. Its great possibilities have been recognised, but too little has been done to change them to actualities. The work of amateur organisations such as the Film Institutes in seeking to make the film a valuable art-form and a creative force in education, is already having an important effect on the public attitude to films in this country. The page 14 suggestion that the universities should undertake a systematic study of the film as an art, even as part of the arts course} makes this report of special interest.—Ed.]

The history of film societies in New Zealand is not a lengthy one. The first move was made in Wellington in October, 1945, when the Wellington Film Institute was formed (to quote from its constitution)' ... an association of people who are interested in the motion picture as art, entertainment and education, and whose object is to encourage higher public standards in the motion picture and protect the interests of the "consumer" (i.e. the average picture-goer). To this end it is proposed to:—(1) Provide for members and friends regular screenings of worthwhile films (particularly 16 mm.) not normally available: (2) Supply reliable information about current cinema entertainment with particular reference to its suitability for children; (3) Promote public screenings of special films when opportunity arises, and (4) Co-operate with other societies with similar objects, with a view to forming a N.Z. Film Institute which may link up with the British Film Institute.'

When drafted, this programme looked more like a ten-year plan, but so rapid has been the growth of the movement that all this and more has already been done.

Other centres soon followed Wellington in forming similar associations and in January, 1947, delegates from the five societies then in operation (i.e. Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill) met in Wellington to form a N.Z. Film Institute to co-ordinate their activities. Dr Ellis from Dunedin was elected as the first president. Since January the number of societies has increased to about twenty with a membership of approximately five thousand. A town's small size seems to be no obstacle, for even Hawea Flat in Central Otago has its own society.

The offer of films from various legations was deeply appreciated, for this rapid growth strained the available 16 mm. film resources of the country almost to their limits. This is not to be wondered at as most societies have screenings at least once a month. During 1946 copies of some of the great classics of the silent era were purchased and more are on order. New Zealand audiences have now had a chance to see such films as Battleship Potemkin (Russia, 1926), The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Metropolis (Germany) and Italian Straw Hat from France. Now this source is to be extended, for the British Film Institute has offered to make available, on permanent loan, copies of most films in the lending section of the British National Film Library. Certain films, particularly some from America, will not be available, but most of the early classics and some modern films can be obtained. The most serious gap now is the difficulty of securing copies of the more modern foreign films.

In an effort to provide the public with reliable information on current film trends, bulletins are issued by the larger societies and it is possible than an official publication of the New Zealand Film Institute may be produced.

The success of the two Film Festivals put on by the Dunedin Film Society has done much to show the film trade that the movement is not hostile to its interests and that a higher public standard in film appreciation can also be good box-office. So popular, in fact, were these festivals, that both Wellington and Auckland have now been offered facilities to hold similar functions in the very near future.

Nor have the interests of children been neglected. A survey of the Children's Cinema Clubs of New Zealand has been undertaken by the N.Z. Film Institute. The plan, which has the backing of the educational authorities, is that a careful survey, by specially qualified researchers, of the type of programme shown at these clubs and the audience reaction, will be made over a period of about six months. The findings of this survey will then be published by the Institute.

At the conference at which the N.Z. Film Institute was formed a project was outlined of setting up some form of Travelling Fellowship in film art. The plan was to bring to N.Z. some world authority on films to give a series of lectures at each of the University centres. The idea has been very favourably received and a good deal of progress has already been made in this direction. The atti- page 15 tude of the University has from the beginning, been a co-operative one towards all aspects of the Institute's work.

Two other items, not directly connected with the Film Societies, but still of interest to them, are the lunch-hour film shows put on each Wednesday by the staff of the Wellington Public Libraries, and the recent formation of a Wellington Amateur Film Unit, an association which aims to pursue the study of films by making them. It is yet too early to say whether the latter will be a success, but unless the present enthusiasm cools, I think it can look forward to a happy future.

T. H. Qualter.