New Zealand: Land of the hobbits?

A Journey through New Zealand Film book cover

Bret: Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson put New Zealand on the map, but he put it on the map as Middle-earth, not as New Zealand.

Jemaine: A lot of what Jackson purports to be true about New Zealand is actually a lie.

Bret: Despite what you may believe from watching The Lord of the Rings, New Zealand does not have a large hobbit population.

Jemaine: At least not as many as he makes out. (Flight of the Conchords)

When travelling around or living overseas, how many people say “Oh, New Zealand! Yes, I know it – I’ve seen the Lord of the Rings movies!” after you tell them where you are from?

I think it is fair to say that while the film adaptations of J.R.R Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel(s) do showcase some of the incredible scenery we have outside our doors, that’s where the references to New Zealand stop. But what films or television series do offer a snap shot of our country as it really is? Is there a single movie that captures completely the very essence of what it means to be Kiwi? Or is every film just one taste from a very diverse pavlova?

New Zealand is producing more and more fantastic films and television series each year which celebrate Kiwi culture and people. Internationally, we are now becoming just as well known for our struggling musical duos in skinny jeans as for our hobbits and whale-riding girls. But surely there is more about us that we can show the world, too. Bro’Town is now being screened in 6 other countries, including Portugal. I personally think everyone needs to meet Cheryl West and her lovely family.

Other essential viewing may be: Black Sheep, Eagle vs. Shark, Secondhand Wedding, No.2, Snakeskin, In My Father’s Den, World’s Fastest Indian, Scarfies, Goodbye Pork Pie, Sione’s Wedding, as well as many more.

If you wanted to introduce someone to your New Zealand through a film or television series, what would you recommend they watch?

6 thoughts on “New Zealand: Land of the hobbits?

  1. Victoria 2 March 2010 / 4:34 pm

    Still remember a bit of news reported on TV NZ last year that New Zealand customs service officers are really annoyed when tourists, visiting New Zealand, explain the reason for their visit as “to throw the ring into the depths of Mordor” for the thousandth time:D
    One of the interesting movies depicting New Zealand for the rest of the world might be the one from the producer of Black Sheep –
    Jonathan King and staring our very own
    Sam Neill, Under the Mountain, based on Maurice Gee’s classic tale; this movie was released in December 2009.

  2. Simone 3 March 2010 / 8:34 am

    Hmmm, how about Vigil, The Navigator and A Dogs Tail? We once met a guy from the US who was a huge Footrot Flats fan, apparently it ran in his local paper. Anyway he was floored to find out that there was a movie. I think we managed to find one on NTSC for him too.

  3. Wendy 3 March 2010 / 4:55 pm

    The Vigil would be my recommendation – all that rain, blood and broodiness of NZ rural life.

  4. rachaelccl 3 March 2010 / 7:53 pm

    It’s funny though, when I was in Europe last August, people (well, North Americans) were saying, “New Zealand? Oh, I LOVE Flight of the Conchords!” It was a huge relief for me, as I am definitely not a Tolkien fan and really wouldn’t appreciate the hobbit references.

  5. Robyn 4 March 2010 / 5:04 pm

    Checking into a hotel in San Francisco the bell boy’s question “got any hobbits in there?” when getting our luggage out of the taxi was mildly funny the first time, but having it repaeated in the lift and at the door to the room soon began to pall. Why did I still tip him? Probably because I’m a mild mannered New Zealander.
    I think the Topp Twins movie reflects New Zealand admirably. Sensible and mad at the same time.

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