New York raised Kiwi Liz DiFiore spent much of the 90s working as a location manager, before moving into production management - both on local productions, and US TV shooting downunder. Working under her company GodZone Pictures, DiFiore has also produced or executive produced many Kiwi shorts, plus Stephen Sinclair’s directorial debut Russian Snark. In 2015 she and James Heyward produced Abandoned, based on four men trapped on trimaran the Rose Noelle. It went on to win a Moa award for Best Television Feature.
We make movies and other tasty treats. Liz DiFiore, on her Godzone Pictures website
Writer Stephen Sinclair’s feature directing debut was inspired by a Russian couple who sailed to Aotearoa in a lifeboat. From there, he created this witty and unusual love story about Mischa (Stephen Papps) — an uncompromising filmmaker fallen on hard times — and his wife, looking for a country more appreciative of his art. But Mischa also has to reconcile his art with his humanity — with help from his neighbour (Stephanie Tauevihi, in an award-winning performance). The 15 minute making of documentary offers a cautionary tale for creatives looking to work with poultry.
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
Set in a small New Zealand town, Closer is the story of a deaf teenage boy trying to come to terms with the death of his older sister. An emotionally locked-down father who has limited knowledge of sign language compounds his struggle. Written and directed by David Rittey (We The Living), and co-written by poet Therese Lloyd, Closer is a moving portrayal of the power and complexity of silence. Closer won Best Short Film and Best Performance at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, and was selected to compete for the top short film prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
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).
In this short a wandering flock of geese find harbour in a rainy day puddle. They give delight to Juliet, staring out the window of her state house until her axe-wielding neighbour approaches the birds with less sanguine intentions. She’s unimpressed when boyfriend Martin doesn’t act in order to avoid confrontation. When a family arrives looking for their pets, the neighbour shrugs off the enquiries, and it’s up to Martin to prove himself. Adapted from a story by Jo Sole, the Annalise Patterson-directed short was invited to Venice and Hof film festivals.
The third feature from writer/director Harry Sinclair (The Price of Milk, Topless Women ...) is a fleet footed anti-romance about sex and infidelity. Love is a game for Ben (Dean O’Gorman), who cheats on girlfriend Emily with ease — until he falls head over heels with unpredictable vixen Chlo (Kate Elliott). When Emily confesses that she too has cheated, Ben self-righteously dumps her and runs to Chlo. But Chlo has a rule: she won’t date available men. To win her love, Ben must be unavailable. This excerpt features much bed hopping and 20-something mat-ters.
Damon Fepulea'i's directing debut follows Megan (Olivia Tennet from Maddigan's Quest), a young girl who finds herself out of her depth amongst the mangroves. While out exploring, she meets two siblings and wants to make friends, but one of them is hostile and argues over who owns a bamboo stake. Megan runs off to play alone and while trying to catch a fish using the stake as a spear, has an accident. She's full of stubborn pride as the tide rises dangerously around her. Watermark debuted at the 2002 Rotterdam Film Festival, and features classic Kiwi song ‘Blue Smoke’.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own award-winning TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. This episode from the third and final series of their eponymous show has the twins in their many guises enjoying an afternoon at the Waipu Highland Games. "Look at the leather work in that sporran!"
Director Peter Salmon's sci-fi short is set in a dystopian future where citizens spend most of their lives in virtual reality to escape the bleak Blade Runner-like offline world. Grace (Sara Wiseman, in a NZ Film Award-winning performance) is a lonely programmer looking for cyberspace love via Angelife: a fantasy-fulfillment site with "five billion connections worldwide". Disenchanted with her Adam (Rupert Cocks), her desire for real world connection, plus a chance meeting, push her into a dangerous underworld. Ray Woolf cameos as a winged Angelife agent.
This film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
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.
A breathless live action cartoon for adults and twisted children, Playing Possum follows two colourful bush critters as they chase each other along and around the length of SH1, while battling over a choice piece of road kill. Possum won the Grand Prix at the L'etrange Film Festival. Creator Peter Salmon went on to direct episodes for TV series Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls, and Offspring. In 2007 Salmon's dramatic short Fog was invited into International Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival.
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.
One of Them! was one of two dramas (alongside Niki Caro movie Memory and Desire) inspired by short stories collected in Peter Wells' 1991 book Dangerous Desires. It was made for TV One as a Montana Sunday drama. Set in Auckland, 1965, One of Them! follows Lemmy and Jamie, two teenage boys coming to terms with their sexuality. In the dark days before gay liberation, bullying and intimidation was rife, and while the boys flaunt their sissyness, their internalised homophobia wreaks havoc on their emotional lives — until they can admit to being "one of them".
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
"Maybe if we looked after our living as well as we do the dead, he'd still be here." After returning to his marae from the city, Mana (Cliff Curtis) finds himself caught up in arrangements for a tangi. But when another local commits suicide, Mana finds himself caught between traditional values and his own sense of right. Meanwhile in the forest, it seems that other powers may have the final word. The short film also features George Henare. It was written and directed by former DJ and commercials director Poata Eruera.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle back-blocks comedy co-written by A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby (who also starred). Each episode centred on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The show's narration comes from a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
Alex is a champion teenage swimmer determined to win selection to the 1960 Rome Olympics, in this adaptation of the award-winning young adults novel. Written by ex Empire Games swimming medallist Tessa Duder, Alex was the first in a quartet of books exploring the vicissitudes of the high achiever freestyler as she deals with rivalry, ambition, first love and the pressures of growing up. Lauren Jackson, who played the title role, later appeared in vampire movie Perfect Creature. The film was a co-production between New Zealand and Australia.
A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier — with the same players. Before the footy, a former Welsh star is forced to face up to a past romance. Mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial "what if" yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions. It won best screenplay and supporting actor (John Bach) at 1992's NZ Film Awards. The cast saw former All Blacks and Welsh rugby reps playing alongside acting greats from both countries.