Elam graduate Paul Swadel showed his eye for the artistic and the eyecatching both in his own award-winning work as a director — short films, arts programmes (Colin McCahon: I Am), commercials — and as producer: through collaborations with animator James Cunningham and on digi-feature incubator Headstrong. Swadel died in March 2016.
"... technically dazzling and showcases a promising talent." NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder on Paul Swadel's 2000 short film Accidents
Gerard Smyth's acclaimed documentary about the Christchurch earthquakes is the story of people coping — for better or worse — with the huge physical and emotional toll that the quakes, and continuing aftershocks, inflicted on them, their homes and their city. It began as a home movie while the devastation of September was surveyed (with thanks given that no-one had been killed); but, as shooting of the recovery continued, the February quake compounded the destruction and claimed 182 lives (including their researcher and 16 colleagues at CTV).
In Poppy two Kiwi soldiers discover a baby in a muddy WWI trench. For Paddy it will lead to redemption amidst the hell of war. From a David Coyle script — based on his great-grandfather’s war story — Poppy was another successful computer-animation collaboration between producer Paul Swadel and director James Cunningham (Infection, Delf). CGI evokes a bleak Western Front landscape on which the (motion-captured) human drama unfolds. Cunningham spent over 4500 hours making Poppy; the result was acclaim at Siggraph, and invites to Telluride and SXSW festivals.
Gary Cradle (Gareth Reeves) wants to go straight, but has to face up to a drug habit, family dysfunction, and the burden of guilt over a past sin. Gregory King's redemptive recovery yarn debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival. King's second feature won Qantas Film and TV Awards for the best film made for under $1 million, and Ginny Loane's camerawork. Actors Reeves and Ian Mune (playing his far from supportive father) were also nominated. In February 2009 the film gained media attention after being made available to watch free online, for 24 hours.
Matt Heath and Chris Strapp dragged their characters from bogan TV series Back of the Y to the big screen for this movie, which follows Randy Cambell's rocket car driven mission to be "New Zealand’s greatest living stuntman". Gross and petrol-fuelled mayhem ensues, as Cambell romances a one-legged female Evil Knievel and fights a family curse. Scott Weinberg (Cinematical) praised this "cross between The Road Warrior, Mad Magazine and Jackass" as "loud, raucous and adorably stupid" when it premiered at US festival South by Southwest in 2007.
Set in Antarctica (and partly shot there), the science fiction tale sees a researcher (Crawford Thomson) dealing with unsettling events — traumatic personal news, isolation, disquieting “anomalous electrical readings”, and warping time. As newsreader John Campbell says in an intercepted transmission: “the speed of light is changing. Well, what does that mean?”. The title is from Hone Tuwhare’s anti-nuclear themed poem of the same name, but the film was inspired by Pat Rushin short story Speed of Light. It was an official selection at Edinburgh Film Festival.
This documentary looks at the life and work of New Zealand's most celebrated painter, Colin McCahon. The first excerpt looks at McCahon's beginnings in Timaru and Dunedin, and his explorations of modernist techniques in paintings that reconceived 'the promised land' in an endemic landscape. The second excerpt covers McCahon's time in Muriwai in the 60s and 70s, and the influence of the environment and Māori spirituality on his work. Sam Neill reads from McCahon's letters and writings. Directed by Paul Swadel, it won best documentary at the 2005 Qantas Awards.
Procrastination and denial taken to absurd lengths hammer home a point about global warming in this technically ambitious black comedy. A family living in a gully are too wrapped up in their own worlds to heed impending doom. Daughter Mary (seven-year-old Paige Shand-Haami) is the only one who sees the future. Water was shot over 14 days — with cast and crew spending 10 of them waist deep in water — on a set in a Wellington swimming pool. It was directed by Chris Graham, and partly funded from a SPADA Young Filmmaker Award won by producer Karl Zohrab.
A group of skylarking young boys are out canvassing the neighbourhood at the same time as an elderly woman is losing the will to live. An unlocked front door presents an opportunity for the youths to rampage, unaware that anyone is home. The different energies of youth and old age are set on a collision course for tragedy in this confronting short film from writer-director Gregory King. Junk won gongs at the 2001 NZ Film Awards for best short and for John Chrisstoffels' cinematography. King has gone on to make features Christmas (2004) and A Song of Good (2008).
This black comedy sees Kiwi blokes Barry (Tim Gordon) and Kev (Jason Hoyte) set off into the sunrise for a day’s fishing. The ‘men alone’ glories of Godzone in a runabout are disrupted when they discover their attitudes towards domestic violence and sexuality are at odds. Director Adam Stevens adapted the story from a scene in Atrocities, a play written by Hoyte and Jonathon Brugh (aka Sugar and Spice). In 2001 Beautiful went to the New York, Melbourne and Montreal film festivals, before screening at Sundance; it won Best Short Film at the 2003 NZ Film Awards.
Steve Ayson’s supernatural short puts a twist on ‘domestic violence’ as a DIY home renovator fits a set of second-hand french doors to his doer-upper. He discovers that light isn’t all they let in. French Doors won selection to Melbourne and Clermont Ferrand festivals and sold to UK’s Channel 4 and France’s Canal Plus. At Locarno in 2002, Ayson won a ‘Leopard of Tomorrow’ prize, in a year the festival spotlit down-under films. Ayson has gone on to build a global career as a commercials director (including local classics Ghost Chips, and Lotto’s Lucky Dog).
In James Cunningham’s award-winning short a mutant three-fingered hand attempts a brash virtual heist, seeking to wipe a student loan debt in a government databank. The “digital action thriller” was a third collaboration between Cunningham and producer Paul Swadel. Infection’s fast-paced action, humour, and (then) state-of-the-art 3D CGI rendering (punctured eyeballs, hypodermic needles) was in confident contrast to the realist Kiwi short film tradition. Infection won selection in competition at Cannes, Sundance, and numerous other international festivals.
In this Paul Swadel-directed short, a work-gang on a remote Ruapehu construction site relieves boredom with cruelty. The edgy male camaraderie escalates towards a tense, inevitably dire — and OSH-unfriendly — conclusion. The scrum of Kiwi blokes going Lord of the Flies on the newbie (Marek Sumich) is played by a powerhouse cast: Marton Csokas, Rawiri Paratene, and Frank Whitten. Adapted by John Cranna from his short story, Accidents was filmed under the Makatote viaduct. It was selected for Venice Film Festival and won a special jury mention at Clermont-Ferrand.
Two tadpole-like creatures with enormous eyes chase each other around, to a driving techno soundtrack. Then these digitally-animated characters find themselves plunged into a different reality - one where a single wrong move could mean they exist in only two dimensions. After completing this mind-warping mini-rollercoaster ride, creator James Cunningham and producing partner Paul Swadel worked together on bank robbery tale Infection, which won invitation to the Cannes Film Festival.
These two clips provide a handy introduction to a Kiwi musical classic. The first clip sees John Rowles showing how he can hold the long notes, as he performs 'Cheryl Moana Marie' on a self-titled live special from 1976, made for state television. In the second clip — an excerpt from 2008 Buto Productions documentary The Secret Life of John Rowles — the singer recalls coming up with the chart-topping 1969 ballad, an array of Kiwi musicians provide their own take on it, and Rowles' sister talks about the ups and the downs of finding fame as a child, through someone else's song.