Letters to the editor: negative responses

     If, as claimed in your front page story of October 30, the Richard Pearse segment and much of the rest of Sunday night's TV1 documentary on the Colin McKenzie film collection was a spoof, heads should roll in Television New Zealand.
     All the elaborate lead-up to the documentary before and during the weekend declared it was a portrayal of McKenzie's brilliance as a film-maker, that all New Zealanders should be proud of him, and that he should be appropriately remembered.
     There was no suggestion whatsoever that any of the film was not true. The viewing public has been cruelly deceived.
     It is all very well for Richard Pearse enthusiast Gordon Ogilvie and TVNZ spokesman Roger Beaumont, who were in on the hoax, to say it was "a lot of fun ... a crazy idea ... quite hilarious". It was billed as a documentary of fact, not fiction.
     I had no cause to doubt the authenticity of the documentary, although as a former newsman I had a little niggle in my mind that if the story about Pearse was true why was the fact not revealed as the hottest news story of the day at the time the film was discovered?
     But, as a colleague, who called me from Christchurch to express delight at what he had seen, said: "Yes, but TVNZ does some queer things." I have to agree.
     The credibility of TVNZ and its documentary makers has now gone out the window, and that is a pity, for they have produced and screened some fine films. But more than that, TVNZ has created a hoax, and, in effect, has used public funds (New Zealand on Air) fraudulently. For that reason it should be called to account.
D. E. Drake
(Timaru Herald, 1 November 1995)

     In regard to the Pearse item on television, I would like to add my voice to that of Doug Drake (November 1) in expressing disappointment that so much talent, technical resources and public funds should have been used with the sole purpose of a hoax.
     If cinematography is regarded by many as a mirror of our society, I feel a great sadness for the future.
     Will Peter Jackson and Costa Botes perhaps provide us with a sequel that shows chairs being pulled from beneath unsuspecting visiting dignitaries or phone calls to elderly pensioners advising of non-existing lottery winnings - always with the camera in attendance.
     With the potential power for good of the television medium, the New Zealand public deserve better.
A. McCambridge
(Timaru Herald, 1 November 1995)

     I hope Peter Jackson and Costa Botes are happy with the result of their hoax television "documentary" about Colin McKenzie, film-maker, screened on Sunday October 29. I don't mind having my leg pulled once in a while, and we all need to laugh at ourselves occasionally, but what was the point of it all? It didn't take too long to realise that this programme was way over the top, as soon as the grand egg theft, magic Tahitian berry and "lost city" bits came along, but I'd be interested to know if, there is in fact evidence for Richard Pearse having made the first flight. In view of the hoax, this makes an ass out of Richard Pearse rather than a hero. As for Sam Neill ... well. If this film was, in fact, made with the support of the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand on Air, as was claimed in the credits, then I think it was an outrageous waste of my money.
Jackie Hoffman
Nelson, October 31
(Nelson Evening Mail, 3 November 1995)

     Yes, I was taken in by the television programme Forgotten Silver, although I did think the coloured film was well before its time.
     I feel that the tom-foolery that went to air on Sunday was nothing short of a "con" trick and therefore that makes Costa Botes and Peter Jackson cheap confidence tricksters, for which there should be a heavy penalty.
     If this sort of thing is allowed to develop where will it end? From now on anything that the media produce, whether it be by word or film will be regarded with disbelief. This is a sad state of affairs when we can't believe what we read, see or hear.
     I am not disgruntled because I was fooled, but I feel that it bodes ill for future New Zealand television if that is all they can produce for our viewing.
Olwyn Rathgen
(Timaru Herald, 6 November, 1995)

     As one of the "gullible" who viewed Forgotten Silver, I feel I was not deceived or cheated at having been victim of such an elaborate ruse. But I am saddened that Colin McKenzie is not part of my heritage as a New Zealander, and that the display of determination and spirit was not more than a figment of imagination in the guise of a documentary.
     The role of the documentary, in my mind, is to reveal and educate, and the programme does not qualify. It does reveal that intellectual arrogance is to be found among those whose vocation it is to entertain or inform.
     I trust that the groups which funded Forgotten Silver, New Zealand on Air and the New Zealand Film Commission, are delighted at having perpetuated a great New Zealand myth that artisans are forever biting the hand that feeds, and that their intellectual vanity is matched only by their egos.
Michael Rudd
(NZ Herald, 9 November, 1995)

     Following Peter Jackson's litany of lies, it now only requires NZ On Air to inform him that their offer of funding from the broadcasting fee was just a hoax, and could they please have their money back? (Correction, OUR money.) The look on his face would go some way to compensating our family for now not knowing what to believe, and henceforth caring even less, about early New Zealand film-making (NZ Film Archives, are you listening?)
Celluloid Sucker
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     As TV Guide was gullible enough to print that Forgotten Silver (TV1, October 29) was a documentary, do you include yourself among deluded gullible viewers? Misuse of the word 'documentary' is the key issue. In order to get a buzz, a group of TV hoaxers used their privileged position to masquerade fact and fiction. Little wonder Sam Neill looked uncomfortable participating in this 'documentary'. It's akin to the idiot DJ phoning the Queen. It is deceitful and dishonest to claim documentary status in order to perpetrate a joke. It only goes to show how gullible TVNZ are to condone the hoax documentary syndrome as a good joke. Who are the gullible ones?
Maurice Arthur
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     TV Guide sometimes gets letters complaining about programmes like Just Kidding! where people have jokes played on them and are made to look silly. But everyone seems to have forgotten the nasty trick that TV1 played on the nation on October 29 - Forgotten Silver. Afterwards the radio was crammed with people wanting to express their delight at the extraordinary story that in a brief 70 minutes gave us a hero, gave us an extraordinary past and also showed 'proof' that we were the first nation to fly. I know that everybody was fooled, so I am not embarrassed to admit I was too and I don't think it's funny. It has made me unable to trust anything that TV1 puts on again.
I'm Not Laughing
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)

     What a con and waste of time it was to watch Forgotten Silver, a spoof claimed as a documentary. I hope it will never be repeated again on TV. The vast number of people who were conned by the advance publicity are very displeased. I really expected a better standard of honesty from the people who are in control of television programmes.
(Otago Daily Times, 14 November 1995)

     Your correspondent Michael Rudd wasn't alone in feeling sad that Colin McKenzie wasn't real, but the determination and spirit he refers to which made Forgotten Silver so convincing are real.
     The Ingenious Kiwi Battler lore was knowingly drawn upon, albeit along with that other Kiwi quality of poking fun at one's self.
     That "truth is stranger than fiction" won over "it's too good to be true" is due perhaps to more skilful application of sympathy for a talented underdog then impressive film making skills.
     Homage and insight by well-known authorities, stamping "the find" with credibility, once again points out how the media is manipulated by those who master its means. Forgotten Silver is a reality check; to constantly reassess our level of willingness to suspend disbelief. Can the mantle of documentary really allow automatic acceptance?
Edwin Spring
(NZ Herald, 16 November 1995)

     As a result of this programme I am now going to pay my broadcasting fee in monopoly money.
Laura McLauchlan
(New Zealand Listener, 25 November 1995)

     Peter Jackson and his Silver Screen conspirators should be shot.
Sue Anderson
Herne Bay, Auckland
(New Zealand Listener, 25 November 1995)

     I admit to being completely taken in, and found the phenomenon of McKenzie truly inspirational - worthy to stand alongside Rutherford and others in New Zealand's legend.
     I can't express my disappointment at having lost a genius and gained another "clever" film-maker. A wise film-maker of yesteryear (when standards were more stodgy) warned against tricking or insulting your audience. Whatever its motive, this film could not he said to be in sympathy with its audience. I doubt if I'll ever look at the work of Peter Jackson (or the Listener) in quite the same light again.
G A De Forest
Te Atatu Peninsula
(New Zealand Listener, 25 November 1995)

     The connection with Richard Pearse was tasteless and left many in South Canterbury disappointed and angry. It also may have the effect of discounting any claim that he might have of being the first to fly, for many may now dismiss his life as part of the hoax that the film has perpetrated.
     Because of the damage to true documentary and the misuse of that honoured term, I for one, after a lifetime of interest in film, have resigned my membership of the Film Society.
W J Gaudin
(New Zealand Listener, 25 November 1995)