He Toki Huna sets out to provide an independent overview of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan (the longest overseas war in which NZ has played a role). The documentary follows writer Jon Stephenson conducting eyewitness interviews in Afghanistan, and poses tough questions about the involvement of Kiwi troops in a conflict that co-director Kay Ellmers calls an “ill-defined war against an unclear” enemy. Ellmers and Annie Goldson made the Moa Award-winning film for Māori Television. An extended cut played at the 2013 NZ International Film Festival.
Directed by award-winning current affairs journalist Amanda Millar, this documentary celebrates the life of equality advocate Celia Lashlie. The first female prison officer in a male prison in New Zealand, Lashlie fought to get people the tools for making responsible decisions, from female prisoners to fatherless boys to impoverished children. Lashlie had a particular focus on empowering mothers. The documentary was filmed over the last months of her life, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Celia premiered at the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival.
When Frenchman Daniel Le Brun moved to New Zealand in the 1970s, he decided the wine was "nothing short of garbage". Fast forward nearly 40 years later, and Kiwi vino has gained respect and prestige around the globe; especially Marlborough's sauvignon blanc. A Seat at the Table asks whether Aotearoa wine truly deserves its top table status. The film provides a visual feast of wineries in France and New Zealand. Interviewees include English wine critic Jancis Robinson and wine wholesaler Stephen Browett. The film premieres at the 2019 NZ International Film Festival.
This black and white short film explores a relationship triangle — between a Māori woman, her boorish Pākehā husband, and the woman’s protective father, arguing over rights to a farm. It was made as an Auckland University masters project by Li Geng Xin; he wanted to tell a story using visual language, and choses the expressive mode of the silent film to do so. Māori instruments (taonga puoro) and piano are used on the soundtrack. Mrs Mokemoke was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival, in the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts programme.
Where There is Life follows the journey of Margaret Lee, her husband Stephen and their daughter Imogen, after Margaret is diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in late 2010. Directed by Gwen Isaac, the documentary intimately follows a family struggling with the impact of the degenerative condition, as they confront the question "how should we live when we are dying?" Imogen was 10 when a defiant Margaret was diagnosed, and Stephen became her full-time carer. The film gets three screenings in August 2017, in the Wellington leg of the NZ International Film Festival.
For this 2017 feature film, eight Māori women each directed a 10 minute segment of events circling around the tangi of a boy named Waru. Each director had a day and a single shot to capture their take on the context behind a tragedy. After its debut at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival, Waru won a rush of social media attention, and screened at the Toronto and ImagineNATIVE festivals. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for bringing "a sense of dramatic, urgent realism to a story that plays out like a suspenseful mystery". Waru was produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton.
With The Free Man, genre-hopping director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands) takes on the world of extreme sport. The globetrotting documentary is built around encounters between Kiwi freestyle skier Jossi Wells and The Flying Frenchies, known for their base jumps, wingsuit flying and tightrope walks at terrifying heights. As Wells gets direct experience in the art of walking a highline, director Fraser investigates what adrenaline junkies gain — and lose — when putting their lives on the line. The Free Man got its Kiwi premiere during the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
Ricky is shy and has an overbearing father. He and extroverted misfit Telly (Chelsie Preston Crayford) slip out into the night, commandeering Ricky's father's fishing boat and heading out into the freedom of the fog. Peter Salmon's short film highlights oppression, boredom and sex in a small New Zealand town. Fog was shot in Ngawi, an isolated fishing village on the Wairarapa coastline. It was invited to 20 international film festivals, including the Critics' Week section at Cannes. At the 2007 NZ Screen Awards, Chelsie Preston Crayford was awarded for Best Performance in a Short Film.
Documentary She Shears profiles five women who blow away stereotypes and sexism in the traditionally male world of sheep shearing. Two are legends of the sport: Emily Welch and Jills Angus Burney (also a High Court barrister). The other three are hoping to make their mark with the blades at the sport's pinnacle: Masterton’s Golden Shears. The event has no separate gender categories. She Shears was directed by first-timer Jack Nicol, and produced by Breaker Upperers producers Ainsley Gardiner and Georgina Conder. It debuted at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
Director Dustin Feneley’s first feature is set in a wintry Central Otago landscape. It charts the relationship between a man on parole (Kieran Charnock from The Rehearsal and short Cub) and a woman just out of a psychiatric facility (Arta Dobroshi, from Belgian film Lorna’s Silence). A highly successful crowdfunding campaign raised $125,000 towards the film. Stray won the first of many awards (for actor Charnock) when it premiered at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival. Critics found it "compelling and haunting" (The NZ Herald) and "indelibly beautiful" (Stuff).