Today in 1995 – Peter Jackson’s ‘Forgotten Silver’ film hoax screened

Today in 1995 Peter Jackson and Costa Botes film Forgotten Silver screened on TV One in the Montana Sunday Theatre slot. The documentary was later revealed as the biggest Kiwi film hoax of the century.

The film Forgotten Silver tells the story of the “forgotten” New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie, and the rediscovery of his lost films, which presenter Peter Jackson claims to have found in an old shed. McKenzie is presented as the first and greatest innovator of modern cinema, single-handedly inventing the tracking shot (by accident), the close-up (unintentionally), and both sound and colour film years before their historically documented creation.

It features deadpan commentary from actor/director Sam Neill and director and film archivist John O’Shea, as well as critical praise from international industry notables including film historian Leonard Maltin, and Harvey Weinstein.

In reality, McKenzie is a fictional character, and the films featured in Forgotten Silver were all created by Jackson and Botes, carefully mimicking the style of early cinema.

When Forgotten silver was exposed as a hoax the following day, viewers were both amused and distressed by Jackson and Botes’ skilful deception, which was reminiscent of Orson Welles’ famous War of the worlds broadcast at Halloween 1938.

Viewers were quick to believe the film as it was billed and introduced as a serious documentary. The airing proved extremely controversial.

Did you fall for the hoax?