Earlier this year we blogged about the UKTV/BBC mini series Top of the Lake, filmed in and around Queenstown and Lake Moke, directed by Jane Campion and Garth Davis the series co-stars Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan and Lucy Lawless.
In the land where fantasy has officially become reality it’s good to see a show which presents Zealand in a more realistic, down to earth way. In this series reality has become fantasy.
The story line of Top of the Lake goes to some very dark places physically and metaphorically as it follows the unexplained disappearance of Tui and the back stories of its main characters.
Tui is a raped and pregnant twelve year old from a small NZ township and the daughter of a local drug lord with psychopathic tendencies. Yes, there are drug lords in New Zealand and teen pregnancy is not just an issue but a big one. NZ has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world and its abortion rates aren’t far behind.
Tui is played by Jacqueline Joe who gave a strong performance in the opening episode.
But the stronger appearance was that of the darkly brooding and often harsh NZ landscape and the people who inhabit it. The sub text is this is a hard place that breeds hard people who mistake hardness for toughness, there is little room for joy in life. Even in Paradise there are snakes in the grass, and the grass is yellow.
The storyline wastes no time in exploring some uncomfortable truths about New Zealand in a very succinct fashion.
In the first scene we are blasted with the taboo subject of youth suicide ( a major problem in New Zealand and the highest for girls in the OECD) teen pregnancy, abortion, child abuse, domestic violence, children having access to firearms, male police officers’ insensitivity to rape victims (Louise Nicholas) casual murder (of an estate agent) by drowning (NZ drownings rates are high with over 100 annually) and drugs. All of which are uncomfortable truths New Zealand doesn’t want the outside world to examine too closely.
“It sounds patronising, but sometimes I feel sorry for New Zealand. We’re a curious anomaly. One day the country is rated as one of the best places in the world to live, most peaceful, best quality of life, best cities to visit, best coastline, best leisure sports. For such a small population, we do incredibly well at certain things and appear, from the outside, to be at one with the environment. Yet, at the same time, there’s high teen suicide and pregnancy rates, high alcohol consumption, high rates of bullying, domestic violence and child abuse.
If New Zealand is such a fabulous place to live, why are we leaving?…” read more on MSN Money NZ
This sort of dirty laundry is best washed in private and New Zealanders are unaccustomed to seeing anything but positive messages about their country, usually set against a backdrop of CGI enhanced scenery reaffirming for them how good it is to live there. Accordingly, we predict there will be a backlash against the series within New Zealand, for being too realistic, too dour and too damn entertaining.
We have a feeling that Top of the Lake is going to be compulsory viewing alongside Once Were Warriors for anyone wanting to get a taste for the real New Zealand lifestyle.
Have you seen the series, what did you think about it? Let us know.
News Daily: The Miami Herald
“The pregnancy and the girl’s eerie attempt to commit suicide by walking into a lake are clearly only the tip of an evil iceberg in Lakeside, a gorgeous little mountain town that looks like a resort but is populated mostly with rednecks and loons. The spectrum of social deviancy runs from the nutball inhabitants of a feminist commune full of women fleeing everything from abusive husbands to killer chimpanzees on one end, to murderous pedophiles on the other…
Creepy and cockeyed, unholy and unnerving, Top Of The Lake is riveting stuff.”
“It’s a meticulous, lived-in police procedural, a portrait of a specific community, and a look at the pervasive sexism that complicates nearly every transaction between men and women, professional or personal…
Campion’s narrative landscapes are as female in their imagery and concerns as Martin Scorsese’s are male, utterly and unapologetically so; a lot of the situations depicted within them — especially Robin’s interactions with the all-male police force, which constantly strives to diminish her and put her in her “place” even though most of them never think of themselves as misogynists — will resonate powerfully in the aftermath of Steubenville and the related discussions of rape culture and ingrained sexism…”
“Gets beneath the skin by examining the state of isolation at the bottom of the world.”
You may also be interested in
- Paradise lost in Queenstown (stuff.co.nz)
- Your Bright New Shiny Obsession: ‘Top of the Lake’ Starring Elisabeth Moss (mamapop.com)
- Maureen Ryan: ‘Mad Men’ Actress Stars In Terrific Jane Campion Mystery Tale (huffingtonpost.com)
A new TV mini series is offering a tantalisingly different view of New Zealand to the one promoted by films like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In the land where fantasy has officially become reality it’s good to see a show which presents in the country in a more realistic, down to earth way.
The story line of Top of the Lake goes to some very dark places as it follows the unexplained disappearance of Tui, a raped and pregnant twelve year old from a small NZ township who is the daughter of a local drug lord. Tui is played by Jacqueline Joe. She is carrying the child of the local head-of-police and was drugged (rohipnol) and raped in a child sex ring he managed.
A brief synopsis:
“Investigative detective Robin Griffin (Elizabeth Moss) must lose herself in order to find the missing girl. During the investigation, she collides with Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), Tui’s father, a local drug lord, and G.J (Holly Hunter), a guru at a local women’s camp. As the case unfolds, in a paradise where honest work is hard to find, Robin will find that her limits are tested, sending her on a journey of self-discovery.”
The Hollywood Reporter says of the show
“New Zealand is primarily known for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films but it was important for the people behind Top of the Lake to show a different side to the region.
It’s the most comprehensive documentation of modern New Zealand that’s ever been done at such a large scale,” Moss said. “We show a very different, much more modern, much grittier, much more raw side of it. By the end of production, we couldn’t pass a place we didn’t shoot in.”
Filming took roughly five to six months, primarily in Queenstown and a town about 40 minutes outside of it. Moss, who left for New Zealand days after finishing season five of Mad Men, reminisced about the off-the-cuff rehearsals in a shed with no heating (“it was cold”) and production having one satellite phone so they call into town…”
According to IMDb, the ABC pulled out of its $600,00 commitment when an American was cast in the role of Robin Griffin.
It is not known if New Zealand on Air or any other funding stream was made available from New Zealand. Perhaps big budget films portraying New Zealand in a positive light get first call on government funding?
“The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was set to co-produce and help fund the production but pulled out of its deal when Jane Campion cast American Elisabeth Moss in the lead role. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation had only agreed to help fund the project if an Australian or New Zealander was cast in the lead role. After they left the project, UKTV stepped in to co-produce and replace the lost funding. ”
Top of the Lake is due to screen on Sundance Channel in the US on 18 March and also on BBC Worldwide and UKTV.
Considering a skiing trip to New Zealand this winter? You may wish to check out how well the access roads are gritted in Queenstown before deciding where to book.
This video was shot on the access road to the Remarkables ski slopes, first published on Liveleak.com, hat tip to “Cowpat” on Expatexposed.com for the link.
“I couldn’t imagine how scary this must have been for those passengers! It occurred on a ski area access road with a 1000 foot drop to the right! in Queenstown, New Zealand”
The bus service from Queenstown to the Remarkables began three years ago and there is 6km of railing on the access road. There has not ben a serious accident there since 1990 but as the area grows and becomes more popular that is likely to change.
Head trapped in Ski Lift
In June 2010 Janine Learmouth was getting on the Meadows Express chairlift at the Remarkables ski area when an automatic bar came down and trapped her head between her knees, causing severe neck injuries. As the lift progressed up the slope the pressure became greater and she suffered two hairline fractures of her vertebrae, nerve damage to her neck and a head injury (source ODT)
A Department of Labour investigation found that the lift, operated by NZSki, had been installed incorrectly and hit the company with a Health and Safety Act improvement notice, chosing not to prosecute.
You may also be interested in our blog from August earlier this year:
“Last season we blogged about a number of snow and glacier fatalities in New Zealand, the majority of them involving falls from height, some of them on to hard or rocky ground. Read some of the reviews on Snow Forecast.com
This season is turning about to be the same as last year’s with two separate fatalities in 24 hours, followed by a serious injury. Last year there were at least three deaths on Mount Hutt alone…
On Friday a Dutch skier, 38 Abraham Klaarenbeek, died on Mount Ruapheu, central North Island, when he collided with a pole and ladder beneath a life operator’s shed on the Whakapapa skifield. It’s not known if there was any netting or other protection around the building. An official Occupational Health and Safety investigation is now underway.
Then a 29 year old Australian man from Sydney, Tim Stone, died whilst snowboarding at Mount Cheesman, near Christchurch in the South Island. Reports say he slid down an icy slope and into a stony riverbed.
There was a third accident. which fortunately didn’t result in a fatality. Yesterday a 29 year old woman slipped and fell more than 20 metres at Ruapheu‘s Happy Valley. She was thought to have rib and spinal injuries and was airlifted to hospital.
One of the most tragic deaths last season was that of a high achieving student at Columbia College, American Rachel Swett, who died from complications following skiing accident on Mount Hutt in June. Rachel slid 130 metres over rocks. Her parents have pushed for helmets to be made compulsory on New Zealand ski fields, something that was supported by the coroner.
Her death was followed by that of 60 year Arthur Richardson. He perished when his car left the Mount Hutt access road as he was travelling home after a days’ skiing. His body and the wreckage of his car were found by a search party sent out to look for him after he failed to return home.
Father of Emily Jordan, the British tourist drowned in a river boarding ‘accident’ in New Zealand, has told reporters that an inquest into his daughter’s death is to be held at long last. But it is to be heard in Britain.
According to the Southland Times (emphasis ours)
…Ms Jordan’s father, Chris Jordan, speaking from England yesterday, said he expected the United Kingdom inquest would be completed within the next three months.
“The New Zealand coronial system refused to hold an inquest, even though I requested one before the trial,” Mr Jordan said.
It was standard for an inquest to be held for any non-naturally occurring death in the UK, he said.
“The coronial system should be a true and independent system equipped to deal with something like this. That was what I wanted to see, and clearly that didn’t happen. I was disappointed the New Zealand coronial system would not hold an inquest, and am relieved one will be held here,” he said.
Although the inquest would not trigger any further legal action, it would shed light on the circumstances of his daughter’s death, Mr Jordan said… read the full report here
Through Mr Jordan’s actions, and following a large number of other tragic deaths, the government of New Zealand was persuaded to undertake a review of its largely unregulated adventure tourism industry. At one stage Mr Jordan referred to the regulation of NZ’s adventure tourism industry as “Third World.“
Following the review new regulations were introduced. They shied away from introducing a licensing system, opting instead for a register of operators who will be required to undertake regular safety audits. A long lead-in to the enforcement of the regs means that all companies will have three years to have comply with them when they take effect in October 2011. For more about guidelines for the industry read this newspaper report.
A New Zealand inquest was expected to be held but that hope was ‘lost’ after Black Sheep Adventures Ltd, trading as Mad Dog River Boarding, pleaded guilty for Ms Jordan’s death and was fined. The circumstances of her death and the regulation of the industry were lost again in the wider ranging review of New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry.
During the trial operators were alleged to have been operating in a regulatory vacuum:
“In his second day in the witness box, Mad Dog River Boarding then-operations manager Nicholas Kendrick told Queenstown District Court the company was operating without specific governing regulations, as they hadn’t yet been created.” source
Before the defence presented its case a charge of not ensuring employees’ safety and three related charges against the company’s managing director, Brad McLeod, were suddenly withdrawn. The company then changed its plea to guilty on the remaining two charges.
The Queenstown coroner, David Crerar, once admitted admitted to Scene that there were:
“a number of ancillary matters relating to the death of Emily Jordan that could be the subject of closer scrutiny”
But said he was waiting to see if they were addressed in the adventure tourism report. Since then there has been silence. Read “No NZ inquest for Emily Jordan.” At that time we blogged
“Here we are, almost three years on since Emily Jordan died and there has still not been a full inquiry, nor has there been an inquest in NZ.
The circumstances of Emily’s death, risk being being rolled-up together into the general investigation into adventure sports and getting conveniently ‘lost’ within it, never to be heard of again.
For that to happen would be manifestly unjust, Emily and her family deserve better.”
We hope that the British coroner is able to make a full and unhindered investigation and we will be following the hearing and welcoming comments. At this time our thoughts are with Emily Jordan’s family and friends.
For background please see posts tagged Emily Jordan
Mad Dog River Boarding / The River Boarding Co.
Mad Dog River Boarding is now called The River Boarding Co. and has the same owner Brad McLeod.
In September 2009 we blogged about how the company was still trading, had appointed a media consultant and had applied to expand its operations.
for more on this please read our posts tagged Mad Dog River Boarding
Queenstown news paper Mountain Scene reported on Wednesday that an un-named Irish lift operator in his 20s fell from the Skyline chairlift, suffering fractures in his back and a bruised lung.
The fall ocurred
after scheduled evacuation training went wrong at Skyline Gondola’s Bob’s Peak operation about 9am.
The injured man was airlifted to hospital. Read the full report here