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Forgotten Silver

Taking the form of a documentary cinematic detective story, Forgotten Silver begins with the discovery by Peter Jackson of a hoard of old films in a neighbour's shed.

Forgotten Silver, New Zealand, 1995

Written and directed by Costa Botes & Peter Jackson
Production co: Wingnut Films, NZ Film Commission, NZ on Air
Producer: Sue Rogers
Executive producers: Peter Jackson, Jamie Selkirk
Executive producer for TVNZ: Caterina De Nave
Script consultant: Fran Walsh
Narrator: Jeffrey Thomas
Cinematography: Alun Bollinger, Gerry Vasbenter
Editors: Eric De Beus, Mike Horton
Original music: Dave Donaldson, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick

With: Peter Jackson, Johnny Morris (also as Jonathan Morris), Harvey Weinstein, Leonard Maltin, Sam Neill, John O’Shea, Lindsay Shelton, Beatrice Ashton (Hannah McKenzie), Thomas Robins (Colin McKenzie) and a cast of thousands (Salome)

35mm, colour, B&W “archival footage”, 53 minutes, PG

Premiered: Montana Sunday Theatre, TV ONE, 29 October, 1995

“Meet Colin McKenzie. This hitherto unknown New Zealand filmmaker is the revelation of the season, a pioneer of the cinema whose epic vision and inventiveness compel total revision of the history books. Colin McKenzie is a genius of cinema worthy to stand alongside the Lumiere brothers, D. W. Griffith and Chaplin. Worthy, that is, had Colin McKenzie ever existed. Colin McKenzie and his remarkable films are, in fact, the subjects of a delightful spoof from New Zealand called 'Forgotten Silver... Made by Peter Jackson and Costa Botes, Forgotten Silver is a splendid tall tale. Like a combination of Woody Allen's Zelig and Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap, this rich comedy manages simultaneously to position its hero in the path of great events while sending up its subject, film history, with informed skill, great affection and mischievous glee. Taking the form of a documentary cinematic detective story, Forgotten Silver begins with the discovery by Mr. Jackson of a hoard of old films in a neighbour's shed. Through these lost films and narration that features Mr. Jackson, the film writer and commentator Leonard Maltin, the actor Sam Neill and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Films, Forgotten Silver tells the story of the fabulous McKenzie. Born in New Zealand in 1888 and galvanized at 12 by a traveling picture show, he immediately found his true calling. Using bicycle chains, he built his first camera; using steam power, he ran his projector; using egg whites, he made his own film. Thanks to a date on a newspaper jutting from the pocket of an onlooker, it is clear that McKenzie's camera recorded the first successful flight of a heavier-than-air machine – piloted by the New Zealander Richard Pearse nine months before the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. But McKenzie's amazing career was to be dogged by difficulty and tragedy. His father confiscated his film. McKenzie ran off. With his brother, he made the world's first feature and the world's first talkie, in 1908. Unfortunately, it was entirely in Chinese, and since there were no subtitles, audiences walked out… — Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times, 3/10/1997

Screenings: Forgotten Silver was selected to screen in the Filmland Neuseeland programme curated to support New Zealand's status as country of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012; and has screened in a double-bill with Kaikohe Demolition on 31 May 2005 in a season selected by film maker and x-Archive staff member Rupert Reynolds-McLean.