New Zealand by Train

  • Sundance

The New Zealand trains travel through pristine landscapes with steaming volcanoes in the north and snow-capped mountains in the south. It is a panoramic journey with no guarantee of punctuality because the whims of nature set the pace.




2x45 min, 90 min


Tuan Lam 

Aotearoa – land of the long white cloud, that’s what the Māori originally called New Zealand. It is some of the most difficult terrain in the world, criss-crossed by mountains and dense primeval forests. For a long time, New Zealand was free of rails. It was only in the 1960s that the construction of the tracks was completed. Since then, three trains have been running through the country. The Northern Explorer takes you into the volcanic heart of the country. It departs from Auckland. The city of millions is simmering with around 50 volcanoes rising into the sky.

In the center of the North Island lies the Tongariro National Park, where the train winds its way around Mount Ruapehu, the country’s highest volcano. Its emerald-green crater lake attracts many mountaineers. It is a risky adventure, not least because the volcano is still active. The final stop is the capital Wellington, where a ferry connects the North Island with the South Island.


On the South Island, the Coastal Pacific travels between the mountains and the sea along the east coast. Small earthquakes repeatedly bend the tracks that lead to Christchurch. From here, the journey to the Southern Alps begins. The snow-covered peaks pass by the windows of the TranzAlpine. The train crosses mountains and glacial rivers until it reaches the west coast. Further south the rainforests become denser and form Fiordland, New Zealand’s largest primeval landscape. To this day, it is impassable for the narrow tracks and is considered one of the least explored areas in the world.


The country is isolated in the streams of the Pacific Ocean—allowing the development of unique flora and fauna. The viewer will explore the cold rainforest, impressively giant trees, huge eels and grasshoppers, predatory snails and running birds such as the Kakapo or the Kiwi. Since time immemorial, the face of the country has changed steadily—up until this very day.

A journey through the middle of New Zealand —in search of the essence, the source of life. The beauty of the country makes us aware of the treasures we destroy. In New Zealand, too, climate change is causing huge damages, glaciers melt, forests were replaced by pastureland, cleared for the agricultural industry, the most important economic pillar alongside tourism. New Zealand is facing major challenges and is responding with a radical environmental policy.

Directed by

Tuan Lam


Written by

Kerstin Meyer-Beetz

James Heyward


Director of Photography

Simon Baumfield



Oliver Szyza

Justin Redding



Eike Hosenfeld

Ingo Ludwig Frenzel

Moritz Denis


Remastering Post Facility

Department of Post


Audio Mixer

Jo Walker



Gareth Dick


Online Editor

Cody Shuttleworth


Line Producer

Kathrin Isberner


Postproduction Supervisor

Xavier Agudo



Making Movies

Greenstone Pictures

Julian Thomson

Hocken Collections, University of Otago


Commissioning Editors

Marita Hübinger, ZDF/arte

Ralf Quibeldey, NDR



James Heyward

Christian Beetz


Executive Producer

Kerstin Meyer-Beetz

The Cleaners
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  • „Just in diesem Moment überraschen uns die aus dem Theaterbereich stammenden jungen Regisseure Hans Block und Moritz Riesewieck mit einem erstaunlichen Dokumentarfilm, der seit Monaten Publikum und Kritik auf den wichtigsten Festivals der Welt elektrisiert. Völlig zu Recht: Es ist, als würden einem die Scheuklappen weggerissen, als sähe man das, was sich seit Jahren direkt vor unseren Augen abspielt, zum ersten Mal unverschleiert... eine fesselnde ,Doku noir' mit höchstem Anspruch...Dieser Film müsste an allen Schulen gezeigt werden.“
    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

In co-production with

  • Making Movies
  • NDR
  • ZDF

In association with

  • ARTE

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