Catherine Fitzgerald, ONZM, founded Blueskin Films in 2002, and began producing a run of high profile short films. She was part of the producing team on the Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night, and acclaimed Vincent Ward feature Rain of the Children. In 2011 Fitzgerald produced Tusi Tamasese's Samoan-language tale The Orator, which won two awards at the Venice Film Festival. One Thousand Ropes, their second feature together, was invited to debut at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. Fitzgerald has also worked as a script assessor, funding executive and policy advisor.
(I am) committed to working with highly talented creatives to produce quality films with broad international appeal. Catherine Fitzgerald
Actor Marshall Napier (Came a Hot Friday) has played a good number of unsympathetic cops over his long career. In Bellbird he displays a gentler side, as a Northland dairy farmer who is unable to express himself after his wife's death. His son (Cohen Holloway) and friends try to help in various ways. Director and schoolteacher Hamish Bennett based his script on memories of growing up in rural Northland. The film expands upon his award-winning short film Ross and Beth (2014). The cast also includes Rachel House. Bellbird was invited to screen at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival.
Writer/director Tusi Tamasese won multiple awards for his first feature, Samoan drama The Orator - O Le Tulafale. This New Zealand-set follow-up involves a Samoan father whose daughter Ilisa (Shortland Street's Frankie Adams) returns home, pregnant and badly beaten. Uelese Petaia (star of Albert Wendt adaptation Sons for the Return Home) is the boxer turned baker, in a tale of family, redemption and revenge. One Thousand Ropes debuted in the Panorama section of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. The clip captures the recording of the movie's soundtrack in a Wellington chapel.
In 2001 New Zealander Paul Wolffram was in Papua New Guinea studying music for his PhD, when he began making films about the Lak people he was staying with. Fifteen years later he headed back for another film, utilising his connection with the Lak to undergo a gruelling initiation into the world of Buai magic. The experience involved dehydration, fasting and isolation over the course of five days, with the intent of enhancing creative powers. What Lies that Way is set to get its world premiere at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Paul Wolffram's film melds sounds from noted musicians Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo, recorded in spectacular locations around New Zealand, to demonstrate that the sounds of the natural world are a form of music too. Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro - traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. Debuting at the 2014 Wellington Film Festival, Voices of the Land pays tribute to Nunn's role in their revival, while Wolffram's powerhouse creative team use image and sound to show ways "landscape and the voices of the land can be heard".
In 1994, Teina Pora was found guilty of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett. He spent 22 years behind bars despite physical evidence implicating someone else, and concerns over the reliability of Pora's confession. In this Māori Television documentary, director Michael Bennett examines the case against Pora, and private investigator Tim McKinnel's belief in his innocence. This excerpt includes footage from Pora’s original police interview and a visit where he fails to identify Burdett’s house. In 2015 the Privy Council quashed Pora's conviction
Tusi Tamasese’s first feature tells the story of a taro farmer (real life farmer Fa’afiaula Sagote) who finds the courage to stand tall for his family and culture, and stand up to sceptical villagers. Variety called it “compelling drama”. Though previous films (eg. Flying Fox on a Freedom Tree) have told stories inspired by Samoan writers, The Orator is the first feature written and directed by a Samoan, and the first filmed in Samoan. In its debut at the prestigious Venice Film Festival it won a special jury mention in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section.
Taro planter Lui’s grief for his dead wife is blighting his life and crops. A widow, Malia, is bound by anger to the grave of her abusive husband, as the rising sea slowly drowns it. When Lui and Malia meet by chance, he’s provided with a path from his hurt. Filmed in Samoan on the island of Upolu, and directed by Samoan-born Tusi Tamasese, the short is a fable-like meditation on communion, cooking and sacred places. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand and Hawaii film festivals, and was the precursor to Tamasese’s Venice-selected debut feature, The Orator.
This much praised documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical reenactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua “made the city of God on Earth”.
This Simmonds Brothers short zips through five generations of their family history, from Croatia to the Kapiti Coast, plus a shipwreck near Auckland. Described as a 'documation', the voices of yarning family members are married to their cartoon likenesses, to comic and ultimately moving effect. The film opens with Mariano and Elizabeth Vella's great great granddaughter and moves to a dramatic re-enactment of the Dalmatian settlers' so-called "very nice honeymoon" on the steamer SS Wairarapa, when it was wrecked off Great Barrier Island in 1894 (131 people died).
During WWII the Post Office photographed letters, enabling mass mailing to soldiers via rolls of film. Post Office worker Ngaire (Yvette Reid) deals with mail for soldiers serving overseas. On this small, handsomely-framed canvas, writer-director Paolo Rotondo explores how war and distance affect relationships. Dead Letters makes a persuasive case that the memories preserved in words and film contain their own magic, even when that magic is tinged with sadness and death. It won best short screenplay at the 2006 New Zealand Screen Awards.
Masterminded by director and fx whizz Derek Pearson, Event 16 is a brain-teaser spanning three eras. After neglecting his girlfriend (Jocelyn Christian) while struggling to perfect time travel, inventor Matt (Peter Rutherford) inadvertently puts her in danger when a colonial-era killer arrives in modern-day Wellington. Ambitiously plotted, with a plethora of double identities, Event 16 demonstrates how computers have opened new imaginative vistas for the low budget filmmaker — notably in the film's stylish vision of Victorian Wellington.
When his father dies, Paul (Matthew Macfayden), a world-weary war journalist, returns to his Central Otago hometown. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a teenage girl (Emily Barclay). Their relationship is frowned upon and when she disappears, the community holds him responsible. The events that follow force Paul to confront a tragic incident he fled as a youth, and face dark secrets. Critically-acclaimed, In My Father's Den marked the debut of a formidable fledgling talent: it was the only feature from writer-director Brad McGann, who died of cancer in 2007.
One summer’s day, teenaged Jayde (Atarangi Manley) and Wiremu (Darcey-Ray Flavell-Hudson) tag along with their older siblings on a trip to a local swimming hole. Young passions ignite by the Rotorua hot pool. Later tragedy occurs and one of them faces lost innocence and the ritual of tangi, while bearing a secret. Michael Bennett’s short — cutting between the day and its aftermath — was shot in his Te Arawa home turf. It was selected for the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. 'Mu' was an early role for Flavell-Hudson (Mt Zion, Ghost Chips ad fame).
This short film follows 14-year-old George (Norissa Taia) who has to find her own way to celebrate her birthday when everyone else forgets it. But solace comes from an unexpected place. The film marked director Reina Webster-Iti’s thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts degree at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (the Fulbright scholar was the first Kiwi to study film directing there). Little Things won a Special Mention at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, while young actor Norissa Taia was nominated for an NZ Screen Award. The casting is by Whale Rider's Diana Rowan.
Actor Wi Kuki Kaa (1938 - 2006) plays Tiare, a Vietnam War veteran who is dislocated by his experiences of war, and homelessness. He wanders the city streets, collecting ephemera in plastic bags. Nancy Brunning plays his daughter, who, with her own daughter, visits their reluctant koro (old man) to convince him to visit his ancestral home. The result is a moving story about a man jolted to find his turangawaewae (place to stand), and the whanau that helps him get there. Directed by Peter Burger, the film was selected for Critics' Week at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.
Youngsters Romeo, Ed, and Polly wait in two cars after dark while their parents are inside drinking. It’s a situation many Kiwis would recognise: cars without parents outside the bar or rugby club. Soon cross-car rivalry warms to budding friendship. Winning performances, and the tender mix of comedy and romance saw the tale of a Te Kaha pub carpark become an international hit. Two Cars won a boot-full of awards, launched Waititi’s career, and was the second New Zealand short to be nominated for an Academy Award. Waititi infamously feigned sleep during the 2005 ceremony.