Veteran line producer Catherine Madigan has worked on locations ranging from the Southern Alps to Cambodia and Bougainville. Aside from varied movies for globetrotting producer Lloyd Phillips, she has produced documentaries on Georgina Beyer, Allen Curnow, Sweetwaters, and dozens of commercials. Her Sri Lankan-set post-tsunami documentary Turning the Tide opened the 2006 DOCNZ Festival.
Directors often have a clear view of what they want to film. But when we walk into a community to tell their story, a lot of dialogue is needed with the local people so everyone’s needs are met. That’s something I like, having to be culturally sensitive. I need those challenges rather than a studio setting. Catherine Madigan, on the challenges of filming Mr Pip in Bougainville, March 2014 Howick and Pakuranga Times interview
After tackling documentaries about sporting legends and surveillance, Kiwi director Justin Pemberton (Chasing Great) began his most ambitious project yet. Inspired by the brick-sized bestseller by French economist Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century examines the disproportionate amount of cash and power wielded by a small global minority. The French-Kiwi co-production blends talking heads (including Piketty and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz) and pop culture imagery of the rich and famous. Jean-Benoît Dunckel (from French duo Air) supplies the music.
Toa Fraser's second English-set film (following 2008's quirky drama Dean Spanley) dramatises a real life siege at the Iranian Embassy in London, when gunmen held 26 people hostage in April 1980. Fraser and Dead Lands writer Glenn Standring take many angles on the tense six day siege: from politicians favouring a more aggressive approach than their lead negotiator, to the SAS team ready to storm the building, to BBC reporter Kate Adie (Bright Star's Abbie Cornish) covering events live on television. The film's international sales included a deal with Netflix.
Gaylene Preston's documentary follows a year in the life of trail-blazing politician Helen Clark. During filming the ex New Zealand PM was head of the United Nations Development Programme, and bidding to become the UN’s first female Secretary-General. Preston was keen to capture the empowering character of the woman ranked by Forbes magazine among the 25 most powerful in the world. "Helen is a formidable woman and leader, and I’m honoured she’s given my team access to tell this story." The documentary is set to screen at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
Action movie The Dead Lands joins the short list of screen tales set in Aotearoa, before the pākehā. James Rolleston (star of Boy) plays Hongi, the son of a Māori chief. After the massacre of his tribe, Hongi sets out into the forbidden Dead Lands, hoping to enlist the help of a legendary warrior (Lawrence Makoare). The Anglo-Kiwi co-production marked new screen territory for director Toa Fraser (No. 2) and writer Glenn Standring (fantasy Perfect Creature). After debuting at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, The Dead Lands topped the Kiwi box office and won three Moa awards.
As a bitter civil war tears apart the lives of his students, an isolated English school teacher in Bougainville (House star Hugh Laurie) finds a unique way to create hope; 14-year-old Matilda (Xzannjah Matsi) is enthralled by his Charles Dickens-infused disaster survival lessons. The life during wartime tale was directed by Kiwi Andrew Adamson (Shrek), and adapted from the 2006 Booker Prize short-listed novel by Lloyd Jones. Adamson spent time in Papua New Guinea, as the teen son of missionary parents. Laurie and Matsi won best actor gongs at the 2013 Moa Awards.
This feature film follows Māori medicine woman Paraiti (played by singer Whirimako Black) on a rare visit to Auckland from her Urewera home. She meets a Māori servant (Rachel House) and is drawn into helping a wealthy Pākehā woman (Outrageous Fortune’s Antonia Prebble) with a scandalous, life-threatening secret. The tale of culture clash and deception in settler Aotearoa was directed by Mexican Dana Rotberg (Otlia Rauda), who adapted the story from Witi Ihimaera novella Medicine Woman. Producer John Barnett was also involved in the adaptation of Ihimaera’s Whale Rider.
Beyond the Edge tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley (Untouchable Girls) mixes archival material with recreations of the English-led 1953 Everest expedition. 3D cameras were used to put viewers in the crampons of the climbers, and evoke the endurance and dangers faced as they ventured to the top of the world. Beyond the Edge debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, where it was one of two runner-ups for the People’s Choice Documentary Award.
This documentary sees Dean Spanley director Toa Fraser and producer Matthew Metcalfe swap dialogue for dance. Based on The Royal NZ Ballet's acclaimed 2012 production of Giselle, the movie features American Ballet Theatre star Gillian Murphy as the dance-mad villager, wooed by a prince in disguise. Inspired by concert film The Last Waltz, a Leon Narbey-led camera team filmed the performance, with scenes of the lead dancers in Shanghai and New York counterpointing the onstage action. Following its Kiwi festival debut, Giselle screened at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Long ago a beloved NZ tourism advertisement revolved around a globe-trotting Kiwi who made the mistake of leaving town without seeing his country. This tourism-themed short is a variation on the theme. Veterans Kate Harcourt and Helen Moulder play speed-crazed neighbours, whose competitive spirit stretches to comparisons of the extent of their grandsons' travels. Directed by Australian Aya Tanimura, Sweet As nabbed the People's Choice award in Your Big Break, an international contest run by Tourism New Zealand to promote Aotearoa's scenery.
This short film presents Dave, a tramper at a South Island high country tarn, with a chance to make his mark on the map. But will the stars (and satellites) align to realise his ingenious idea? Made by director and editor Rajneel Singh, Blank Spaces was one of five finalists in 'Your Big Break': a 2010 filmmaking contest run by Tourism New Zealand that gave the finalists a chance to have their script realised with the help of producer Barrie Osborne (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings). The brief was to "capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand — the youngest country on earth".
The creation of Aotearoa gets spectacular treatment in this quirky short film, which won a 2010 Tourism New Zealand contest aimed at capturing the spirit of "the youngest country on earth". Argentinian writer/director/actor Andrés Borghi dominates the screen as a man having breakfast, before having an unexpected encounter with the tangata whenua. Your Big Break judge Peter Jackson found the film "fresh and original". The competition gave finalists a chance to have their script realised with help from producer Barrie M Osborne (The Lord of the Rings).
In this short James Rolleston (Boy) stars as a Kiwi lad who banters with an elderly bearded fulla (Bruce Allpress) who claims to be God; the 'BMX Kid' challenges him to a Lake Wakatipu bomb competition to prove it. Kiwi stuntman/director Tim McLachlan's film was a finalist in Your Big Break, a filmmaking contest run by Tourism New Zealand which attracted over 1000 scripts from around the globe. Five finalists were given the chance to turn their scripts into a short film. The brief was to "capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand — the youngest country on earth".
Early Days Yet, directed by Shirley Horrocks, is a full-length documentary about New Zealand poet Allen Curnow, made in the last months of his life. The poet talks about his life and work, and visits the places of some of his most important poems. It includes interviews with other New Zealand poets about Curnow's significance as an advocate for New Zealand poetry. As Curnow famously mused in front of a moa skeleton displayed in Canterbury Museum: "Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here."
Georgina Beyer was the first transgendered person in the world to be elected to national office. Co-directed by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, this internationally lauded documentary, tells the story of Beyer's extraordinary, inspiring journey from sex worker to member of Parliament for rural Wairarapa, and handshakes with the Queen. Born George Bertrand, Beyer grew up on a Taranaki farm, before spreading her wings on Auckland's cabaret circuit. Subsequent events led her to the town of Carterton, where she became involved in local body, and then national politics.
This documentary follows the experiences of two groups at the 1999 Sweetwaters music festival: six teens (including actor Kate Elliott and future advertising producer Nigel Sutton), and a group of 30-somethings (many of them veterans of the 1980s era Sweetwaters). By the end of the festival some hangovers are being nursed, mostly spirits remain undimmed. English singer Elvis Costello drops the on-stage bomb that artists haven't been paid, Chris Knox notes the "money fiasco" his own way, and the festivalgoers rate how the weekend went.
This dramatised documentary looks back to 1955, when a female bottlenose dolphin began appearing regularly in Hokianga Harbour, close to the town of Opononi. Opo became a national celebrity, but died in controversial circumstances on 9 March 1956, the suspected victim of bombing by local fisherman. Directed by Steve La Hood (Numero Bruno, Swimming Lessons), the film recreates events of the summer and explores the belief of local Māori that Opo was a messenger sent by Kupe to unite the people. It includes interviews and extensive archival footage of Opo.
Kingpin was the second of a trilogy of films from Mike Walker about troubled New Zealand youth (the others were Kingi's Story and TV movie Mark II) Filmed at, and inspired by residents of Kohitere Boys Training Centre in Levin, the bros-in-borstal tale follows a group of teens who are wards of the state. Kingpin focuses on the bond between Riki (Mitchell Manuel) and Willie (Fafua 'Junior' Amiga), who along with the other kids are terrorised by Karl (Nicholas Rogers), the Kingpin of the title. It was directed by Walker, who co-wrote the script with Manuel.
This pirates of the South Seas tale stars Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive) as rogue Bully Hayes, who helps a missionary save his kidnapped-by-savages wife. Produced by Kiwis Rob Whitehouse and Lloyd Phillips (12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds), the film was made in the 80s ‘tax-break’ feature surge and filmed in Fiji and New Zealand (with an NZ crew and supporting cast). John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and David Odell (Dark Crystal) scripted the old-fashioned swashbuckler from a Phillips story. It was released by Paramount in the US as Nate and Hayes.