Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
A zealous, ingenious cinematographer from an early age, Clive Neeson delivers a glorious greatest hits compilation from a lifetime so far of filming adventure sports in the great outdoors. Neeson's parents were wildlife photographers on safari in East Africa. When they moved to New Zealand in the 60s the Neeson boys discovered an even better wilderness: one they could actually play in. Mum's still behind the camera in this film's earliest sequences: boys bouncing down paddocks on bone-jolting, jerry-built trolleys.
Neeson's own earliest footage – vintage Raglan surf cuts, shot from a board-mounted camera he knocked up himself – dates from later in the 60s. From there it's Noosa, then the fabled surfie Bohemias of the 70s: Petacalco, Spain, Portugal and Bali. Boy's Own Paradise never looked so lush. He's continued to film adventure sports ever since, keeping pace literally and metaphorically with the constant adaptation of surfing technologies and its diversification into different environments, most spectacularly the mountains. The inventiveness of Kiwi adventure sportsmen – bungee entrepreneur A.J. Hackett amongst others – is a favourite theme. Those 70s Bohemias aren't looking so hot 40 years later and Neeson's paean to paradise contains painful evidence of the damage done by industrialisation and mass tourism. ‘Our childhood playgrounds shape our dreams’, runs the text which opens the film. A then-vs-now montage underlines the ominous title Neeson has chosen. The shadows hanging over these thrilling images loom larger than ever in the New Zealand of 2010. — BG