Canadian-born cinematographer Thomas Burstyn made his feature debut supplying the film noirish imagery for 80s Kiwi chillers The Lost Tribe, and Mr Wrong. Since then Burstyn has stacked up Canadian award nominations, and an Emmy nom for The 4400. Working with Kiwi partner Barbara Sumner-Burstyn, he has expanded into directing docos alongside other photographic assignments, winning two Qantas awards for the Berlin-selected This Way of Life.
To be a cinematographer is to be both an interpreter and a creator. Thomas Burstyn
Love, annoyance, jealousy...families can be hotbeds of many kinds of emotion. Documentary Some Kind of Love chronicles the contrasts between two very different siblings: artist, theatre designer and rampant hoarder Yolanda Sonnabend, and her brother Joseph, a pioneering AIDS scientist who moves to London to look after Yolanda, as she battles dementia. Filmmaking team Thomas and Sumner Burstyn continue the exploration of family begun in acclaimed 2009 documentary This Way of Life. The result has won invites to film festivals from Vancouver to Auckland.
In September 1893 New Zealand became the first country to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This fly on the wall docudrama reimagines this major achievement, following Kate Sheppard (played by Sara Wiseman) throughout the final push of her campaign. The 70-minute TV movie follows the template set by director Peter Burger and writer Gavin Strawhan in their 2011 docudrama on the Treaty of Waitangi, with key characters directly addressing their 21st century audience. At the 2012 NZ TV awards, Wiseman won for Best Performance by an Actress.
The Insatiable Moon is the tale of a man with nothing but wisdom, joy and possibly a direct line to God. Arthur (Rawiri Paratene) wanders the streets of Ponsonby, where he finds perfection (Sara Wiseman) just as his community of boarding house friends faces threat. Producer Mike Riddell first wrote The Insatiable Moon as a 1997 novel, inspired by people he met while he was a clergyman in Ponsonby. The film’s extended development almost saw it made in England with Timothy Spall - before finally coming home, “on half a shoestring and a heap of passion”.
Filmed over four years, This Way of Life documents the story of Hawkes Bay hunter and horse wrangler Peter Ottley-Karena, wife Colleen (Ngāti Maniapoto), and their six children. Intercut with Peter's articulate bush philosophy, it captures the family's romantic, dignified relationship to each other and to the natural world. Ever-present amongst the challenges their commitment to a 'simple life' faces is Peter's broken relationship with his step-father. Life received a special mention at the Berlin Film Festival; Variety called it "resonant and stunningly shot".
This film looks at biodynamic agriculture, a Rudolph Steiner-inspired system of organic farming. The film focuses on Peter Proctor, a worm-obsessed Kiwi gardener, and his work promoting biodynamics worldwide — particularly in India, where he argues that modern industrial agriculture (eg artificial chemicals, GM seeds) has made soil and plants toxic and farming unsustainable. Proctor's simple recipe to save the planet? One man and a bucket of cow dung. Narrated by American actor Peter Coyote (E.T.), One Man screened worldwide at environmental film festivals.
In director Gaylene Preston's genre-bending tale, Meg (Heather Bolton) buys a stylish old Jaguar so she can be more independent. While driving on a country road, she hears screams in the back – but there's no one there. In the excerpt above, she picks up a mysterious woman in the rain. Later she discovers that the woman was the car's previous owner, and she is missing. Now her killer might just be stalking Meg too. For their first, acclaimed feature, Preston and producer Robin Laing rented out local cinemas, conclusively proving that Mr Wrong had an audience.
Anthropologist Max Scarry goes missing in Fiordland, while searching for a fabled Māori tribe. The local policeman believes Max broke local tapu. Max's partner Ruth sets off with his twin brother, murder suspect Edward, to try to unravel the mystery. John Laing's second feature attempts an ambitious Hitchcockian plot, and the cast — especially John Bach's terse doppelganger performance — testifies to the talent on hand in the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance. Atmospheric camerawork makes the most of damp Wellington, and remote bush settings.