Armagan Ballantyne made her feature film debut in 2009 with The Strength of Water, the tale of two children in an isolated coastal town. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to festivals in Berlin, Rotterdam and Auckland. After winning an award for an Emma Paki music video back in 1996, Ballantyne studied film in Sydney and Prague. Her CV includes commercials, episodes of acclaimed children's show Being Eve, and award-winning short films (Whistle She Rolls). In 2008 she was one of 22 filmmakers from around the globe selected to make a short for United Nations anthology film Stories on Human Rights.
Childhood, sudden death, Māori culture and rugged New Zealand scenery make a potent mix, compellingly handled by Armagan Ballantyne ... Ballantyne’s feature has a quiet polish and emotional honesty... Screen Daily reviewer Jonathan Romney on The Strength of Water, 28 January 2009
Released in Kiwi cinemas in mid 2009, The Strength of Water marked the big screen debut of Māori playwright Briar Grace-Smith and Pākehā director Armagan Ballantyne. The drama centres on a 10-year-old twin brother and sister living in an isolated part of the Hokianga, and the events that follow when they encounter a young stranger. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to film festivals in Berlin and Sydney, after debuting in Rotterdam. The extras include interviews with Grace-Smith and the four main cast members, plus making of footage.
This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and was nominated for an International Emmy. It sold to over 40 territories, including the United States.
This 1996 short film is billed as "a lyrical and musical tale of love at the crossroads”. Shot through a blue filter, the dialogue-free tale follows a trumpet-playing young woman at a railway station, as she romances and dances to vinyl records with a young man. After a lively meeting with his family, an invitation to a dance forces her to choose how she rolls. Armagan Ballantyne's first short was made in the Czech Republic during studies at Prague's Famu film school. It competed at the Venice Film Festival. Ballantyne went on to direct 2009 feature film The Strength of Water.
Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic) has emigrated downunder from wartime Croatia. When she falls in love with Māori cook Eddie (Julian Arahanga) and marries a Chinese man who is trying to stay in NZ, her domineering father Ivan is furious. The second movie from Gregor Nicholas remains one of the few from NZ in which Pākehā culture hardly features. The result was one of the highest-grossing NZ films of the 1990s. International reviews praised its power and strong cast — especially Croatian discovery Aleksandra Vujcic ("instantly alluring" said Janet Maslin). Vujcic won one of five NZ Film awards.