Armagan Ballantyne made her feature film debut with 2009 drama The Strength of Water, which was invited to festivals in Rotterdam, Berlin, Sydney and Auckland. Ballantyne studied film in Australia and Europe, and developed Strength of Water partly through the prestigious Sundance lab. Her CV includes episodes of acclaimed children's show Being Eve, plus award-winning shorts (Whistle She Rolls) and music videos.
Childhood, sudden death, Maori culture and rugged New Zealand scenery make a potent mix, compellingly handled by Armagan Ballantyne. Screen International’s Jonathan Romney, reviewing The Strength of Water
Released in Kiwi cinemas in August 2009 — after winning praise at festivals in Berlin and Rotterdam — The Strength of Water marks the big-screen debut of Māori playwright Briar Grace-Smith, and Pākehā director Armagan Ballantyne. The film centres on a 10-year-old twin brother and sister in an isolated part of the Hokianga, and the events that follow when they encounter a young stranger. The Strength of Water merges a spare, naturalistic portrait of a Māori family struggling to stay above water, with moody images of earth and sea, loss and new beginnings.
This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera and in voiceover. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and sold to over 40 territories, screening in the US on Nickelodeon.
The tagline to director Armagan Ballantyne’s 1996 short film runs, "a lyrical and musical tale of love at the crossroads”. Shot through a blue filter and dialogue free, the impressionistic film follows a trumpet-loving young woman at a Czech railway station, as she’s courted (pashing, dancing to vinyl records) by a young man. After meeting his parents, an invitation to the ball presses her to choose how she rolls. Whistle was selected for the Venice Film Festival in 1996. Ballantyne went on to direct 2009 feature The Strength of Water.
Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic) has emigrated downunder from wartime Croatia. When she falls in love with Māori cook Eddie (Julian Arahanga) and marries a Chinese man who is trying to stay in NZ, her domineering father Ivan is furious. The second movie from Gregor Nicholas remains one of the few from NZ in which Pākehā culture hardly features. The result was one of the highest-grossing NZ films of the 1990s. International reviews praised its power and strong cast — especially Croatian discovery Aleksandra Vujcic ("instantly alluring" said Janet Maslin). Vujcic won one of five NZ Film awards.