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Whale Rider US Premiere NZ In The Spotlight

Whale Rider US Premiere Keeps New Zealand In The Spotlight

LOS ANGELES MAY 28, 2003 -- New Zealand filmmaking was again at the forefront of the movie-making world today with the US west coast premiere of Whale Rider in Hollywood. Guests, including directors Andrew Adamson (Shrek) and Michael Apted (Enough), gave the film a rousing reception – many of them saying it was one of the most moving films they had seen.

Investment New Zealand Director for North America, Jane Cunliffe, said the quality of Whale Rider is playing an integral part in reinforcing New Zealand’s reputation as one of the hot new movie producing countries.

“The Lord of the Rings grabbed global attention and really thrust New Zealand filmmaking onto the limelight, but in many respects the foundations of New Zealand’s film industry are films like Whale Rider – films that are conceived, funded, directed and produced by New Zealanders in New Zealand”.

“In my view it’s critical for the long term success of our film industry that we have many more films like Whale Rider coming through – films that demonstrate the technology infrastructure, talented crew, and great locations that are setting New Zealand apart”, she said.

According to Cunliffe the timing of the release of the film is also important as it keeps the New Zealand brand in front of the major US film studios in the lead-up to the release of the third and final film in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which will have its world premiere in Wellington at the end of the year.

And judging by the reaction Whale Rider has hit a sweet spot. The awards certainly speak for themselves; Whale Rider won the 2003 Canal Plus Audience Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2002 and the audience award for Best Narrative Feature, at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The Los Angeles premiere and a similar event planned for New York on June 2nd are being used by Investment New Zealand to market New Zealand’s creative sector to influential US investors and film studio decision makers. Guests at the premiere function at the stylish Argyle Hotel on Sunset Boulevard included representatives from Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, New Market Films and New Line Cinema.

Cunliffe says that feedback she has received from New Zealand businesses operating in the US is that New Zealand’s profile is the highest it has ever been, and that there is a window of perhaps 12 – 18 months to really cement the advantages New Zealand offers in the minds of US business influencers.

“We are in a unique position having penetrated the US media clutter with Lord of the Rings and Americas Cup. We have a very good reputation in the US business community and it’s now up to us to capitalise on that profile and reputation as much as possible. We must do everything we can to keep our name in lights for as long as possible, and in that regard the launch of a film the calibre of Whale Rider is a huge advantage,” she said.

She says that all the New Zealand government agencies operating in the US are working hard to promote the New Zealand advantage. Tourism New Zealand, the Los Angeles Consulate, Trade New Zealand and Investment New Zealand have all worked closely with the distributors of Whale Rider to ensure the film and New Zealand film industry gets as much profile as possible.

The film’s international releases began in May in Australia and the Netherlands followed by the USA and UK in June, South Africa in July, Germany in August, France in September and Switzerland in October.



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