Faculty of Arts


Cinema of Aotearoa New Zealand

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for MEDIA 313.


This course traces a thematic history of filmmaking in Aotearoa New Zealand from the mid-1980s until the present day. While examining a range of films as individual texts and discussing how they are funded and produced, we also locate them in their historical, social and political contexts by concentrating on the issues that arise for a small nation defined by its indigenous and settler past, immigrant present and global future.

Topics include the country’s colonial history, the effects of settlement, the struggle to create a bicultural nation, the film industry’s relationship with Hollywood, changes in the concept of nation in an age of increasing internationalism and some of the film industry’s favourite themes: sex, adolescence and death (usually by drowning).

To help us organise these topics, the course is divided into four thematic blocks: Fourth Cinema, Gothic Adolescence, Settler Irony and the Political Economy of Settlement. We shall look at the ways in which New Zealand films have explored these themes and helped us to (re)tell our history and imagine our nation.

Learning Objectives

At the successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate specific knowledge of the aesthetic construction of the cinema of Aotearoa New Zealand and how this cinema engages with local, national and global concerns
  2. Analyse New Zealand film as a field connected to institutional, industrial, historical and cultural formations and practices
  3. Situate New Zealand cinema within a broad understanding of national and international cinema, as well as debates around national and cultural identity
  4. Research issues pertaining to New Zealand cinema effectively
  5. Communicate your interpretations of films and arguments about New Zealand cinema in a persuasive manner


Coursework only

Availability 2020

Summer School


Lecturer(s) Professor Laurence Simmons

Recommended Reading

Diane Pivac and Frank Stark, eds. New Zealand Film: An Illustrated History. Wellington: Te Papa Press in association with The Film Archive, 2011.


MEDIA 313: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in Media and/or Screen Production


FTVMS 208, 213, 300

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