Letters to the editor: positive responses

     What a hoot! If anyone will go down in Kiwi, nay in world cinematic history, it will be this innovative film maker. We sat down to watch an interesting and promising doco on a pioneer of NZ cinematography (Forgotten Silver, TV1, October 28), and could only marvel at the work and ingenuity that went into this huge, hilarious practical joke. The secrecy alone would have been a major feat. I can't recall exactly when we cottoned on to the scam. I think it was somewhere round the 2000 dozen eggs, but well before the city in the hills. The digital imaging of the newspaper was a big clue as well. The rolling camera in the Spanish Civil War was a good touch. It almost brought tears to the eye ...tears of laughter. I have always been a big fan of Peter Jackson and his movies. He is a man with an extraordinarily macabre sense of humour. Let's have more of it. The lesson to be learnt from this doco is the camera CAN tell a lie. Don't believe everything you see, hear, or read. Full marks to TV1 for going along with the gag. When it comes to quality viewing they invariably come up with winners.
S.A.K. Farmer
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     Well done Peter Jackson for the creation of such an 'important' documentary on previously unknown film pioneer Colin McKenzie. Yes, I too would love to believe that Richard Pearce had his first flight filmed, to shove in the noses of the Wright brothers enthusiasts. Now, will the real genius of 20th century filmmaking in NZ please stand up - or do we have to hark back to a certain Orson Welles radio play for a reality cheek?
F. Brown
Northcote, Auckland
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     It was obvious early on, from the dozens of inconsistencies, that the whole thing was a put up job. What really gave the game away (if filming his own death wasn't enough) was the footage of Richard Pearse and his flying machine. There were many witnesses to Richard's flights in 1902 and 1903 and not one, in their sworn affidavits, ever mentioned a filmmaker.
Not Fooled
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     The Forgotten Silver hoax has caused something of a stir. Without being too cynical, one might observe that it should serve as a timely reminder to viewers not to take too uncritically the content of other so-called documentaries.
     In the selection of material for such programmes, it is all too easy and perhaps inevitable, for editorial discretion to be exercised in such a way as to reflect a particular, or preconceived, point of view rather than an objective portrayal of facts.
     We were also given a further warning that the camera can indeed lie even without the assistance of the brilliant technology that appears to make a flock of gannets fly in logo formation!
K C Durrant
Upper Hutt
(Evening Post, 13 November 1995)

     On Monday, October 30, the aggrieved stormed the palaces in their thousands. Actually, angry licence-fee payers phoned NZ On Air and upset readers phoned this magazine, all because they felt conned. The occasion, of course, was the hoax of the decade - Peter Jackson and Costa Botes's Forgotten Silver. In an industry that finds it impossible to keep a secret for more than five seconds, this was also the best-kept secret of the decade. Even, we understand, NZ On Air boss Chris Prowse was briefly fooled, and Creative New Zealand got excited over this world-class director from our past. A problem remains - will Forgotten Silver be nominated as documentary, drama or comedy at next year's Film and TV Awards? And will the heat have cooled down enough by then for Jackson and Botes to show their faces?
(New Zealand Listener 18 November 1995)

     Softened up by the Listener article, "Heavenly features" (October 28), I delighted in Montana Sunday Theatre: Forgotten Silver (TV1, October 29). Little question marks, a few major strains of credibility, but fascinated to the end.
     I do not wish to reveal my score on a gullibility rating of 0 to 100 percent. Suffice to say, I was not entirely surprised to discover it was a hoax, but was also profoundly disturbed by the discovery that I had been duped. If on this, then on what else? God, the Pope, the integrity of Fair Go, Richard Long, Judy Bailey, the last shreds of Paul Holmes; all disappearing down a gurgling plug-hole of lost credibility.
     I suppose I could, one day, be grateful to TV1 for this experiential leap away from trust and faith and all those old fashioned qualities - as soul-shaking as a near-death experience. For the moment, I cling to the life raft of knowing that Kim Hill is still there on National Radio, a beacon to those of us who nearly drowned in this postmodern rout of truth. Please, Kim, do not interview Colin McKenzie, dead or alive.
Ian McKissack
(Listener, 25 November 1995)

     Congratulations to the perpetrators - it was the best New Zealand entertainment in 10 years!
     But I'm afraid New Zealand society is now irretrievably divided into two sectors - those who encountered Colin McKenzie before, and after, his cover was blown.
J Chadwick
(Listener, 25 November 1995)

     The producers have done us all a service by showing how easy it is to hoodwink a viewing public that has been conditioned to believe that anything labeled "documentary" is necessarily the truth.
     Viewers should bear this experience in mind, and keep a pinch of salt handy, when watching supposedly more serious documentaries or "infodocs" on current issues, especially controversial ones.
K C Durrant
Upper Hutt
(Listener, 25 November 1995)

     What a documentary about a brilliant New Zealander on Montana Sunday Theatre on television. His genius amazed me, and I sat enthralled as this man's talents were unfolded. I could not understand the ignorance of those who refused to invest money in his epic movie; I wept at the sadness of his deep love for his leading lady who loved his brother; and the tears flowed copiously when his brother died in the war. His happiness mirrored my own when he finally wed his life-long love; and his death, while a cameraman at the front, almost shattered me.
     I was indeed shattered to hear the next day that the documentary was all a hoax - but what a hoax! If Colin McKenzie and his brilliance never existed, then Peter Jackson created magic for me. I believed it implicitly, and loved every minute of this film.
     Bravo Peter and cohorts! What a journey into fantasy which absolutely fascinated.
(New Zealand Woman's Day 27 November 1995)