This April 2001 report comes from a function to farewell film salesman Lindsay Shelton. Over 22 years at the NZ Film Commission, Shelton played a key role in selling Kiwi films to overseas markets, including Goodbye Pork Pie, An Angel at My Table, and Once Were Warriors. Those on hand in Wellington to salute his efforts include Film Commission Chief Executive Ruth Harley – who praises Shelton’s "remarkable optimism about New Zealand films" – and directors Vincent Ward, Jane Campion, Peter Jackson (via video link), and John O'Shea, who calls Shelton the "backbone" of the NZFC.
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
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.
Separation City is a comedy-drama about the complications that ensue as two marriages collapse. Men's groups and midlife crises in contemporary Wellington make up the world in which the multi-national cast explores, in screenwriter Tom Scott's words, "biology and human nature". This feature marks the first solo film script by political cartoonist Scott, who honed his writing skills on a run of TV projects during the two-decade journey to bring the film to the screen. Successful commercials director, Australian-based Kiwi Paul Middleditch, directs.
In Gaylene Preston's documentary, seven elderly women recall their personal experiences of World War II. Their intimate, unadorned stories are filmed talking heads style, interspersed with personal photographs and period newsreel clips. From tragic love stories to long-suppressed revelations of sex and death, War Stories is a revealing touchstone of New Zealand history. It received international acclaim. LA Times writer Kevin Thomas enthused that Preston takes "a simple idea and turns it into a rich, universal experience".
Following the big-screen success of Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls came another chronicle of a Kiwi entertainment legend: sometime Taranaki bandito, giggling newsreader and crooner Billy T James. The film uses remastered footage and an impressive cast of interviews to capture his path from cabaret singer to fame, fan clubs and eventual financial and bodily collapse. Te Movie director Ian Mune originally cast James in the classic Came a Hot Friday, as the Māori-Mexican Tainuia Kid; Te Movie co-producer Tom Parkinson played a hand in making Billy T a TV star.
When Love Comes features Rena Owen as a once were famous singing star who returns to NZ, in need of reinvention. Staying with a close gay friend (Simon Prast), she is reenergised after meeting a wastral songwriter (Dean O'Gorman) and two loved up young musos (Sophia Hawthorne and Nancy Brunning, the former in her big screen debut). Invited to a slew of North American festivals — including Sundance and Toronto — Garth Maxwell's sun and song-lashed tale won stateside praise for its "energetic direction" (The Hollywood Reporter) and impassioned performances.
This theatrically released documentary charts 23 years of highs and lows for one of NZ's most enduring rock bands — complete with personal dramas, early tragedy, adoring local audiences, album sales of 250,000, attempts to crack the United States, and that agonising name change. Seeking an audience beyond the faithful, award-winning director Sam Peacocke expanded the story's scope to feature the band's family and friends as much as the music. NZ Herald entertainment writer Scott Kara called the result "a cracker", and "a must-see for fans of the band".
Journalist Kim Webby's Price of Peace is a portrait of Tūhoe activist Tame Iti, whose family Webby has known for 20 plus years. After the 2007 police raids, Iti was one of four to go on trial, accused of plotting terrorist activities. Webby’s film ranges widely from early land grievances to modern-day jail cells — and a police apology. NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder praised the result for balancing a personal focus on Iti, with “a powerfully affecting” examination of the 2007 raids, which placed the raids in "the wider context of Tūhoe history and the process of reconciliation”.
For her first feature, writer/director Gillian Ashurst wanted a “big wide road movie; big skies; big long roads.” Cruising the Canterbury landscapes are small-town dreamers Alice (Heavenly Creature Melanie Lynskey) and Johnny (future Almighty Johnson Dean O’Gorman). But the duo’s adventures go awry after encountering a charming American cowboy. Reviews were generally upbeat: praising the talented cast, plus Ashurst’s ability to mix moods and genres. Snakeskin won five awards at the 2001 NZ Film and TV Awards, including best film and cinematography.