Kirsty Cameron started in short film and art installation, before costume designing the first of around 20 feature films — including the acclaimed Whale Rider, Slow West, and No. 2. Her list of awards also includes The Orator and TV movie Jean, about aviator Jean Batten. Cameron's third short as writer/ director, teen fable The Lethal Innocents, was invited to festivals in Sweden, Germany and the USA.
I fell in love with arthouse film-making, with storytelling and the cinematic vision, and with how bringing a character to life requires working on both subconscious and conscious levels. Kirsty Cameron
The movie version of Margaret Mahy's first novel for young adults is still set in Christchurch, but the time period is now post-quake. Teenager Laura Chant (newcomer Erana James) encounters a very strange man (Brit actor Timothy Spall, from Mr Turner) and a boy with a secret. The coming of age fantasy has been a longtime passion project for husband and wife team Stuart McKenzie and Miranda Harcourt, who have worked to keep their version as "dark and scary" as the Carnegie Award-winning original. The cast also includes Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and Lucy Lawless.
Director Alison Maclean (Kitchen Sink, Jesus' Son) returned to New Zealand for this adaptation of Eleanor Catton's acclaimed debut novel. The psychological drama stars James Rolleston (The Dead Lands) as one of a group of acting students who use a real-life sex scandal involving a tennis coach, as creative fuel for their end of year show. The cast mixes experienced names (Kerry Fox and Miranda Harcourt as drama teachers) with emerging talents (Ella Edward). Connan Mockasin supplies the soundtrack. The Rehearsal debuted at the 2016 NZ International Film Festival.
In the 1930s Kiwi-born pilot Jean Batten set off on a series of legendary solo flights. Jean is the tale of a charismatic, determined woman, the mother who stayed close, and the man curious to unravel the person behind the legend. At the 2017 NZ Television Awards, the ambitious telemovie made a clean sweep, including awards for Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, director Robert Sarkies, lead actor Kate Elliott, and the design team. In the excerpt — which hints at the story's globetrotting sweep — Jean fights heat and storms while attempting to fly from England to Australia.
This telefeature follows the gruelling journey of Archibald Baxter, a pacifist who defied conscription and chose, on moral grounds, not to fight in World War I. The Otago farmer (father of poet James K), was one of 14 Kiwi 'conchies' who were jailed, disenfranchised and shipped to the war in Europe. There Baxter, played by actor Fraser Brown, was tied to a post in freezing conditions, then forced to the Front. The film continues a run of TV movies from company Lippy Features adapted from true events (Tangiwai, Until Proven Innocent). It screened on TV ONE on 22 April 2014.
This docudrama recreates the story of Radio Hauraki: a bunch of rebel DJs whose cause was bringing rock’n’roll to the radios of 60s NZ youth. Their fight for the right to broadcast involved a pirate vessel in the Hauraki Gulf. Director Charlie Haskell films the recreations from the point of view of late DJ Rick Grant, and cuts them together with interviews with the protagonists, animation and Hard Day’s Night-style japes. Based on Adrian Blackburn's book Radio Pirates, the telefilm debuted on TV One on 27 July 2014. It was nominated for a Moa Award for Best TV Feature.
Filmed in New Zealand’s deep south, this feature follows the vicissitudes of Adrian: a sensitive 11-year old haunted by the disappearance of three local children, who befriends mysterious new-in-town Nicole. The adaptation of Sonya Hartnett’s coming of age novel Of A Boy, is the feature debut of Denmark-based Dunedin-born director Daniel Joseph Borgman, following on from his lauded shorts Berik, and Lars and Peter. The creative team behind the 'informal' Danish-NZ co-production included frequent collaborators of directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.
In the five years since Sione's Wedding, the Duckrocker quartet have experienced marriage, children, Australians and the good lord. Then their minister reunites them on a quest to find Bolo (Dave Fane) — once their driver and conscience, now MIA. The sequel to the break-through PI-Kiwi hit reunites the original cast, and adds in a dodgy minister (Kirk Torrance) and a new director (Outrageous Fortune's Simon Bennett). On the burden of following Wedding, Stuff.co.nz reviewer Steve Kilgallon adjudged: "seen on its own merits, it [Sione's 2] proves worth the wait".
You can’t choose your family. This 2011 short film explores the father-daughter dynamic between free-spirited Bird (Peter Hawes) and uptight Blessing (Dra McKay). When Bird nearly burns down the house, Blessing packs him off to the Golden Falls retirement home. Hippy Bird chaffs against the home’s confinements, and forces Blessing to reconsider what freedom and kindness might mean with regard to kin. Bird was co-directed by acclaimed advertising director Steve Ayson (The French Doors) and Jane Shearer (Nature’s Way); the pair co-wrote with Gregory King (Song of Good).
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.
Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The award-winning telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as a spirited 19-year-old, hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".
A tale of infuriating fathers and very fast go-karts, The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell marks Robyn Malcolm’s first leading role on film. Malcolm plays Gail, long-suffering wife to the charming, ambitious Gazza Snell. Obsessed with go-karting, Gazza has banked heavily on the hope his sons’ racing talents will result in motorsport glory. But Gail is unconvinced. Australian talent William McInnes (Unfinished Sky, SeaChange) plays Gazza; the script is by Insiders Guide to Happiness award-winners David Brechin-Smith and Brendan Donovan (who also directs).
Simone Horrocks' first feature revolves around the disintegration of a man's life, after his daughter goes missing. Horrocks relocates Stephen Blanchard's novel The Paraffin Child from a washed-up UK coastal community to West Auckland/Piha. Outrageous Fortune talent Antony Starr plays the forest ranger who separates from his wife, then learns she is pregnant to the policeman investigating his child's disappearance. Horrocks says After the Waterfall investigates healing, resilience, and "how we live with unfinished business".
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 Clermont Ferrand and Hawaii film festivals, and was the precursor to Tamasese’s Venice-selected debut feature, The Orator.
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.
In this short film, a Cook Island school cleaner (Whale Rider's Rawiri Paratene) responds to an unusual graffiti message on a girls’ toilet wall, with life-changing consequences for him and the mysterious author. Paratene's performance won him a Qantas Film and TV Award; the film also won Best Short and Screenplay (Paul Stanley Ward). Tupaia travelled to more than 15 festivals and director Chris Dudman was nominated for a Leopard of Tomorrow (Best Short) at Locarno. Dudman, Ward and producer Vicky Pope teamed up on another short film success, Choice Night (2010).
Qantas-nominated 'dramedy' Rude Awakenings revolved around the conflict between two neighbouring families, living in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Rush family matriarch Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has her eyes on climbing the property ladder, by acquiring the house next door (occupied by solo Dad Arthur and his teenage daughters). Created by Garth Maxwell (movie Jack Be Nimble), the 2007 series was produced by Michele Fantl for TV One. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel welcomed it as a rare contemporary satire on New Zealand television, but it only ran for a single season.
This Kiwi neighbours at war ‘dramedy’ pitted the Rush family — newly arrived in Ponsonby —against the Shorts, who are long-time renters next door. Arthur Short (Patrick Wilson) is a Kiwi battler solo Dad, with two teenage daughters; Dimity Rush (Danielle Cormack) the right wing HR manager whose partner is an anaesthetist, with two teen sons. In this first episode, Dimity aspires to climb the property ladder by scheming to get the Shorts’ house as an investment doer-upper. The satire of gentrification screened on TV One on Friday nights. The cast includes Rose McIvor (iZombie).
Nanna Maria, the matriarch of a Fijian family living in Auckland feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. Nanna demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren — Soul, Charlene, Hibiscus, Erasmus, and Tyson — reluctantly turn up. But tiffs send the day into chaos and Nanna calls the whole thing off. The lovo-warmed love letter to his Mt Roskill hometown was the debut feature for director Toa Fraser. It screened at many festivals and won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance 2006.
Perfect Creature is set in an immaculately realised alternative colonial New Zealand where steam powers cobble-stoned cities, and zeppelins cruise the skies. A race of benevolent vampires preside over the spiritual life of humanity. When one of them turns rogue, a manhunt begins. Starring international actors (Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows) Perfect Creature was the second feature for director Glenn Standring. It was the first NZ film picked up for distribution by a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox), who ultimately dithered with its release.
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
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.
Set in the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider became one of the most successful and acclaimed New Zealand films released internationally. It also won audience choice awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
Rain begins by evoking an idyllic kiwi summer. It's a 1970s beach holiday; Mum, Dad and the kids. Picture perfect. But, as the title hints, all is not sunny at the bach. Beneath still waters Mum is drowning in drink, Dad is defeated, and 13-year-old Janey is awakening to a new kind of power. An adaptation of the novel by Kirsty Gunn novel, Rain was director Christine Jeffs' widely acclaimed debut feature. The soundtrack was composed by Neil Finn and Edmund Cake. Kevin Thomas in the LA Times acclaimed Rain as “an important feature debut”.
Director Sima Urale's follow-up to her Venice-winning short O Tamaiti swaps a Samoan child's eye view for that of an elderly Pākehā couple. In this moving confrontation with the taboos of aging, the husband struggles to care for his ailing wife and refuses their children's demands that they move into care. Exquisite attention to details and tender performances mark this tale of love accommodating the reality of death. Still Life was the first Kiwi film to take the top short award at the Montreal Film Festival; it also got a Special Mention at the Locarno fest in Switzerland.
Lucinda (Danielle Cormack) lives a fairytale life with dairy farmer Rob (Karl Urban), and his 117 cows. But after a freak car accident she decides to test Rob's love for her by trying to make him angry. He passes her tests until a quilt goes missing from their bed; the price of getting it back is high. Harry Sinclair's follow-up to Topless Women Talk about their Lives is quirky and romantic, but not especially fantastical — yet it won a trio of awards at specialist fantasy film festivals overseas. The fulsome soundtrack is performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
A dark and mystery-filled drama about a 70s hippy (Danielle Cormack) who falls in love with a Vietnam vet (Kevin Smith). But has fate brought them together, only in order to drive them apart? And what exactly happened to their child? This twist-filled tale of seances, damaged people, and conflicting versions of truth marked the directorial debut of short filmmaker Christine Parker. At the 1999 New Zealand film awards, Channelling Baby was nominated in six categories, including best actress and best original screenplay. Read more about the film here.
This debut feature from director Niki Caro follows a Tokyo woman and her fiance who elope to New Zealand. A stunted beginning to their sexual relationship is overcome in a cave on an isolated West Coast beach. Shortly afterwards he drowns. She returns to a suffocating Tokyo before being drawn back to the cave. The restrained study of eroticism and grief was based on a short story by Peter Wells (itself inspired by a true story). Desire was selected for Critics' Week at Cannes (1998), and won best film at 1999's NZ Film Awards and a special jury prize for Caro.
When Love Comes features Rena Owen as a once were famous singing star who returns to NZ, in need of reinvention. Staying with a close gay friend (Simon Prast), she is reenergised after meeting a wastral songwriter (Dean O'Gorman) and two loved up young musos (Sophia Hawthorne and Nancy Brunning, the former in her big screen debut). Invited to a slew of North American festivals — including Sundance and Toronto — Garth Maxwell's sun and song-lashed tale won stateside praise for its "energetic direction" (The Hollywood Reporter) and impassioned performances.
In a wooden cabin on the edge of the forest, a strange young girl referred to only as 'Kid' holds court over her trapper Dad and his isolated bush family; she sits beneath the dinner table, makes animal sounds and refuses to be washed. This pitch-black fable is told through the eyes — and distinctive voice — of her sympathetic brother 'Little Man', who one night makes a fateful decision that liberates her into the wild. Filmed in gas-lit sepia by Leon Narbey, the atmospheric and award-winning film announced the directorial talents of the late Brad McGann.
In this award-winning Montana Sunday Theatre drama, Cliff Curtis plays Jim, a grungy rocker who can’t (and doesn’t want to) commit to a straight life with his misguidedly hopeful girlfriend Sina (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy). A night of emotional turmoil in the city ensues as Sina does her best to avoid the reality of her situation (as well as home invasion and Jim’s dodgy manager). Fiona Samuel's darkly funny script and top-notch casting underpin this look at the not-so-delicate nature of relationships amongst a group of Generation X Aucklanders.
A plain tale about the swollen secretions of suburban love. In middle class Auckland vulnerable passions break the surface as Laura (Meryl Main from Highwater) aggressively pursues love and acceptance, finding something very like it right next door. For director Niki Caro this one-hour drama was a watershed in her career. It was her ultimate drama production before embarking on a feature film career; it screened as part of the Montana Theatre series on TV One in 1995. Plain Tastes features Marton Csokas and Kate Harcourt. Producer Owen Hughes writes about Plain Tastes here.
"It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.
Apemen, Barbie dolls, and hairy shoes ... as this doco demonstrates, hair turns up everywhere (or not, as one man's poignant and matter-of-fact testimony to the horrors of losing it demonstrates). Hair's co-director, Auckland artist Judy Darragh, uses her fascination with all-things hirsute as a springboard for wit, thought-provoking theories, and some unusual artwork. She also phones Welsh author Elaine Morgan, who believes our ancestors lost much of their hair thanks to a semi-aquatic past. Producer Fiona Copland joins Darragh as co-director.