Grant Lahood shot his first film in 1989, and since then his shorts have been seen, and won acclaim, around the globe. In 1996 he made his feature debut with comedy Chicken, followed by road movie Kombi Nation and in 2013, feature-length documentary Intersexion.
Lahood developed an interest in stills photography in his late teens. He entered the film industry in 1983 as a production assistant for Marmalade Video in Wellington. Gravitating immediately toward camera work, he spent the rest of the 80s as a lighting cameraman, shooting commercials and corporate videos.
In 1989 he wrote and directed his debut short Snail’s Pace, a four minute time-lapse film about a snail’s high speed mission to cross the road for a feast of lettuce. The film was an instant hit, with festival screenings and TV sales around the world. Encouraged by the film’s success, Lahood moved into directing, balancing a career in TV commercials with short film making.
In 1992, Lahood followed his second short, black comic graveyard tale The End, by writing and directing The Singing Trophy. Near wordless, the film follows a hunter/taxidermist (Peter Tait) whose bizarre collection of mounted animal trophies sing Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube’ to him. Selected for the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, The Singing Trophy was awarded a special mention for technical excellence. It also won Best Short Film at the NZ Film and Television awards.
Lahood’s next short showed that he could handle a large human cast, on top of assorted furry animals. Lemming Aid was a character comedy set on a Norwegian cliff-top: the powerhouse cast included Fiona Samuel, Katie Wolfe, future author Emily Perkins and Stephen Papps. In 1994, alongside fellow Kiwi film Sure to Rise, Lemming Aid was one of only eight shorts worldwide to make it into official competition at Cannes. It took out the runner-up prize.
In 1995, Lahood moved into feature films, writing and directing the black comedy Chicken, about an aging pop star’s attempts to revive his career by faking his own death. Onetime British pop singer Bryan Marshall starred, alongside Cliff Curtis, Ellie Smith and 250 chickens. Though far from a box office success, Chicken won its share of praise. Metro reviewer Rick Bryant found it “very funny ... very enjoyable”; More’s Jane Skinner praised Lahood’s “unique sense of fun”, calling Chicken “an eccentric, grimy little film that will make you think twice about your next chicken burger”.
In 2000, Lahood collaborated with Kiwi dance legend Douglas Wright on the film Arc, which captured a trilogy of Wright’s solo performances.
Then it was back to feature films with Kombi Nation. Semi-improvised by Lahood and a cast of emerging Kiwi actors (including Loren Taylor, later to devise Eagle vs Shark), Kombi Nation follows a van load of Kiwis on their big OE around Europe. The film’s release was delayed by financial tussles, after the failure of production company Kahukura Films. Dominion Post entertainment editor Tom Cardy was far from alone in praising the result, calling the film “an upbeat and hilarious celebration of a Kiwi tradition”.
On the short film front, Lahood reunited with Singing Trophy’s Peter Tait in 2003 for the light-hearted wannabe stars tale Bogans. Wood-chopping short Chop Off (2006) played in festivals from Brazil to Tehran, while no dialogue tale Sprung (2013) was a finalist in the Kiwi round of Tropfest.
Grant Lahood continues to balance filmmaking with commercial work. In recent years he has also moved into television documentary making, often with a musical theme — including documentaries on New Zealand war music, and jazzman Nathan Haines.
His feature-length documentary Intersexion travelled the globe both during filming, and after completion, thanks to invitations to a long run of festivals. The film features interviews with some of the many people born with a various conditions which meant it was unclear whether they were a boy or a girl.
grantlahood.co.nz website. Accessed 10 February 2014
Intersexion website. Accessed 10 February 2014
Tom Cardy, 'Kombi Nation' (Review) - Dominion Post, 28 August 2003, Page D6
Ian Pryor, 'To Cannes with shorts' - Listener, 11 June 1994, Page 44