Director/playwright Stuart McKenzie won a best NZ short film award with 1991's The Mouth and the Truth, made with Neil Pardington. They followed it with Snap, which won selection to Clermont-Ferrand in France. McKenzie made his feature debut in 2003 with drama For Good. The film was born from real-life interviews with prisoners and victim's families. McKenzie went on to direct fly-on-the-wall acting school series Tough Act.
I really feel like this was a group effort ... a community effort. It came out of a community of people who had shared some of their experiences with us. Stuart McKenzie on For Good, in a Dominion Post interview with Bess Manson
New Zealand's so-called 'cinema of unease' is stretched in new directions in this psychological drama, inspired by real-life interviews with criminals and victim's families. Writer/director Stuart McKenzie's feature debut follows Lisa (Michelle Langstone), a young woman haunted by the rape and murder of a former teenage acquaintance. Lisa's fascination leads her to the victim's parents - and to prison, to interview the charismatic killer (Tim Balme). The result is an intelligent examination of the after effects of violent crime. Shayne Carter provides the soundtrack.
This short film follows Vincent (Leighton Phair), a young Chinese-Kiwi rescued from a group of racist punks in a spacies parlour by a mysterious Asian (Gary Young), then drawn into a seedy Triad underworld. Vincent is struggling with his identity in a mixed race family. Directors Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington wrote the story with playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle, drawing it from interviews with members of the Chinese community in Wellington and Christchurch. Early 90s Flying Nun bands feature on the score; DJ Mu (future Fat Freddys Drop frontman) cameos as a punk.
Actor Miranda Harcourt directs an ode to her broadcaster father Peter in this short documentary. The film emerges from vocal chords (via an endoscope) and uses the tools of her father’s trade as a starting point for a free-ranging meditation on repression, shell shock and family ghosts. Peter’s wartime job involved vetting messages home from the troops to check that the soldier hadn’t been killed. Post-war, Peter was dumb-struck for a year, at a time when people didn’t “talk about their deeper feelings”. Voice Over won Best Short at the 1997 NZ Film and TV Awards.
Bitch is a tale of "infidelity among friends" which explores trust and romance, and stars three people and a canine. Isabel (Joanne Simpson) recalls a trio of relationships — one with a man in the middle of discovering he is gay, one with a man who doesn't like the smell of Isabel's pet dog, and the last with her friend Ruth. Creator Fiona Samuel (TV's Marching Girls) intended the short, one of her earliest as a director, to combine two perspectives: one of the world as the main character perceives it, and another as things might appear to the casual observer.
A young couple (Danielle Cormack and Erik Thomson) wander into a photographic studio, where the owner seems to have the power to bring another age to life. Chosen for many international festivals including Clermont-Ferrand, Snap marked another collaboration for filmmakers Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington. Inventive and sly, the film plays like a twisted episode of The Twilight Zone, one in which the lead-up to the shock finale provides at least half the fun. Peter Hambleton steals the show, as the oddball photographer with Cormack in his sights.
Noel and Faith are happily retired, and while away their time digging into the earth beneath their house and sifting for treasure from the knick-knacks and 'thingamajigs' of history; then a tremor shakes up “Dad’s excavations”. Adopting a low-dialogue storytelling approach, this reflective tale of finding life and meaning in the small things was a rare early screenwriting credit for author Elizabeth Knox (collaborating with director Neil Pardington). It screened as part of Kiwi shorts showcase at Cannes in 1994.
Based partly on two tragedies that occurred in Europe, this darkly comic tale centres on a butcher who works near Parliament. The butcher leaves his young son to handle the customers so that he can go upstairs and engage in some hanky panky with his wife. But with rent payments due, underlying tensions soon erupt into bloody nightmare. Director Stuart McKenzie and his real-life partner, actor Miranda Harcourt, would later collaborate again on the feature film For Good.