• BA Creative Writing major

    Pursue your creative vision

    Learn more

  • BA Public and Professional Writing minor

    Develop writing skills for the real world

    Learn more

  • BA Theatre Studies minor

    Follow your passion and get innovative skills

    Learn more

  • School of English and Media Studies

    Compose your future

School of English and Media Studies

Dr Simon Sigley staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (09) 414 0800  ext. 43340

Dr Simon Sigley

Senior Lecturer

School of English and Media Studies

My research, teaching, and media practice involve film and history, media aesthetics, film culture, the symbolic role of film in the cultural imaginary, and the use of new digital media in seeing and screening the flux of reality. My primary research and writing at the moment concerns the documentary work of the National Film Unit (NFU), from its establishment in 1941 to the advent of television in New Zealand in the 1960s. I have published several pieces on the NFU with the aim of writing a book-length cultural history of this influential documentary production unit. My book, Transnational Film Culture in New Zealand (2013), approaches cinema as a form of social practice and examines the reception of international film theories and discourses and shows how these ideas helped to shape distinct cultural practices, including new forms of reviewing; new methods of teaching; and new institutions such as film societies, art-house cinemas, and film festivals. I have extensive experience as a screen media arts practitioner, having worked in a variety of programme formats in France and New Zealand, and seek to develop innovative combinations of aesthetics and ethnographic explorations of reality in media practice. I am interested in supervising research projects that involve critical media practice, arthouse cinema, New Zealand and Australian films/film culture, screen representations of the South Pacific, and documentary production. Being a fluent French speaker, I can also (and would welcome) supervising French-langauge research projects involving the above.

More about me...View less...


Contact details

  • Ph: +64 09 414 0800 x43340
    Location: AT2.45, Atrium
    Campus: Auckland


  • PhD - University of Auckland (2004)
  • Ma├«trise - Universit├ę de Nancy II (1994)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My PhD (2004) examined film culture in New Zealand; how international ideas about 'film as art' and the cinema were received here and evolved over a 50 year period (1920s-1970s), leading to the rise of various novel cultural practices, such as film societies, 'serious' film reviewing, film festivals, 'arthouse' cinemas, and the formation of specialized audiences. The research made a small but distinctive contribution to the history of New Zealand intellectual and artistic culture; the study of the dynamics of culture (how a culture develops); and the (international) history of ‘film culture’ and ‘art cinema’.

Since then my research has developed conceptually to include the symbolic role that New Zealand national cinema plays in the cultural imaginary of other countries. My research also extends into the production and distribution of New Zealand films – those produced by the government's documentary National Film Unit (1941-90), as well as others made independently, or with the financial support of the Film Commission.

A transnational dimension also informs my research as I seek to establish what links exist between various Commonwealth representations in documentary films made by the settler societies and former British Dominions of Canada and New Zealand, as well as the Commonwealth of Australia. Such work has also contributed to research into the role that film plays in the cultural imaginary; whether this be national (the work of the NFU in constructing local identities and images of the nation) or international (the way the French imagine New Zealand, specifically, and the 'antipodes', more generally, through film). 


21st Century Citizenship

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Art Theory and Criticism (190100): Cinema Studies (190201): Film, Television and Digital Media (190200): Lens-based Practice (190503): Studies In Creative Arts And Writing (190000): Visual Arts and Crafts (190500): Visual Cultures (190104)


Film culture, film criticism, documentary film, the National Film Unit, reception studies and aesthetics.

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 2

Completed Projects

Project Title: The National Film Unit: A Case Study in National and Transnational Cultural Production

Before television took hold on the public imagination, the National Film Unit (NFU) had a central role in New Zealand life, post-WW2 nation building and cultural colonization. This was represented each week at cinemas in the form of Weekly Reviews (1941-50), Pictorial Parades (1952-71) and in-depth documentaries, such as Journey for Three (1948), The First Two Years at School (1950) and Pumicelands (1954). The NFU was responsible for much of the footage that now documents (and represents) several decades of New Zealand history. Much debate and controversy surrounded the Unit as it played such an important part in articulating the nature and values of national life. My study has two principal strands. Firstly, it examines the extent to which the film unit productions contributed to national identity and gave Pakeha viewers a turangawaewae in a complex process of cultural colonization (a becoming 'native') which sought, possibly unconsciously, to settle Europeans into lands belonging to non-Europeans. However, national identity and cultural colonization are not the only major organizing principles of this study. The second strand aims to examine the Unit's Commonwealth connections (recycling discourses and producing images, perhaps unwittingly, from within that broader identity). As a result, this study will make a positive contribution to an emergent research field: transnational film cultures.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2012 - 2012

Funding Body: Massey University

Project Team:

Research Outputs


Sigley, SA. (2014). Imperial relations with Polynesian romantics: The John Grierson effect in New Zealand. In Z. Druick, & . Williams, Deane (Eds.) The Grierson Effect: Tracing Documentary's International Movement. (pp. 121 - 138). London: British Film Institute
[Chapter]Authored by: Sigley, S.


Sigley, SA. (2014, December). Adaptations and relocations: The national film unit, mythic visions and historical condition. Presented at Visible Evidence 21. New Delhi, India.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2013, June). Parsing the Pacific(s): The national film unit’s colonising gaze. Presented at The 19th annual conference of the New Zealand Studies Association together with the Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies. Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Consultancy and Languages


  • French
    Last used: Daily
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Media and Links


  • 02 Sep 2016 - Radio
    The National Film Unit
    The National Film Unit closed down in 1990, leaving us hundreds of documentaries, films and TV dramas, tourism promos and newsreels covering wars and sporting events through to very personal stories.
  • 02 Nov 2014 - Newspaper
    Kiwi Film-makers Laugh Fear Off
    Siena Yates, a journalist with Sunday Star Times, interviewed me for an article on the popularity of New Zealand genre cinema.

Head of School

Associate Professor Jenny Lawn

Email: J.M.Lawn@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 09 213 6337

Administration staff

Joanne Ervine
Senior Administrator - Auckland
Email: J.Ervine@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 09 213 6909

Janet Lowe
Business Services Manager - Manawatu
Email: J.M.Lowe@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 06 951 7752

Julie McKenzie
Academic Programme Administrator
Email: J.A.McKenzie@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 06 951 7421

Anne Meredith
Academic Programme Administrator - "Writing Papers"
Email: A.M.Meredith@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 06 951 7548

College of Humanities and Social Sciences support staff

Claire Grant
Shared Campus Secretary - Wellington
Email: C.Grant@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 04 979 3597

Claire Jowsey
Shared Campus Secretary - Auckland
Email: C.Jowsey@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 09 212 7057

Marissa Penfold
Shared Campus Secretary - Auckland
Email: M.Penfold@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 09 213 6086

Honorary research fellows

These academics are honorary research fellows of our school:

Dr Doreen D'Cruz
Dr Judith Dell Panny
Professor Russell Poole
Dr John Ross

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey