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Homegrown hits in Film Festival

Homegrown hits in Film Festival
Screen Innovation Production Fund backs eleven films
in New Zealand International Film Festival

Eleven of the films by New Zealand filmmakers screening in this month’s New Zealand International Film Festival were supported with grants from the Screen Innovation Production Fund, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Four of the 11 films feature in the main programme and seven in Homegrown, a programme devoted to New Zealand short films, or as a short film preceding a feature. Emerging Wellington filmmaker Michael Reihana is delighted that his debut movie, Little Gold Cowboy, will premiere in Homegrown and reach a wide, national audience.

Little Gold Cowboy, described as a 12-minute “surreal Kiwi flick in which the gold-painted hero and his goldfish set out on a bizarre quest for true love”, last year received a $22,000 grant from the Screen Innovation Production Fund.

“The grant enabled me to complete the film and actually helped me get a job,” Reihana says. “It’s also inspired me to keep on writing and making movies.”

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says that over the years, the Screen Innovation Production Fund has supported many filmmakers whose work has gone on to win awards and screen at international film festivals.

“The Fund supports New Zealand’s most innovative moving-image artists,” she says. “It’s available to both emerging and established artists, and actively encourages risk-taking and experimental work.”

The Homegrown programme was selected by Deborah Lawler-Dormer, Director of the Moving Image Centre in Auckland, and Helen Martin, a board member of the Moving Image Centre.

“The Screen Innovation Production Fund films stand out because they experiment with their medium, are well-constructed and engaging,” Deborah Lawler-Dormer says.

Many of the films deal with strong issues – abortion, the invasive nature of technology, death – while a number take a surreal or dream-like approach. For instance, the short dance film, Fly, is based on the Greek myth of Icarus, and plays with the languages of the deaf and of dance. The Screen Innovation Production Fund supported the production of Fly with a $26,838 grant.

Featuring in this year’s Homegrown programme are five short dance films. Three of these films have been supported by the Screen Innovation Production Fund: Fly by Auckland choreographer Shona McCullagh; Wireless by Dunedin choreographer Daniel Belton and Good Company; and The Schminke Box, a documentary by Christchurch oral historian Halina Ogownowska-Coates about 82-year-old dance pioneer Shona Dunlop McTavish, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago last year.

The two other short films in Homegrown, supported by the Screen Innovation Production Fund, are Still by Wellington filmmaker Jonathan King; and Rover by Auckland filmmaker Morag Brownlie.

Four of the New Zealand films in the main programme of the New Zealand International Film Festival have been supported by the Screen Innovation Production Fund. They are:

 Savage Symbols, a documentary by Wellington filmmaker Makerita Urale
 In a Land of Plenty, a documentary by Wellington filmmaker Alister Barry
 Blessed, a feature film by Wellington filmmaker Rachel Douglas (Wellington-only screening)
 .OFF., a feature film by Wellington filmmaker Colin Hodson (Wellington-only screening).
Makerita Urale’s film debut, Savage Symbols, explores the strengths and passion of urban Samoan males in New Zealand who have dared to face the excruciating pain of the tatau (tattoo) as a symbol of identity, artistic expression and cultural ties outside their homeland.

“Savage Symbols would never have happened without the grant,” Urale says. “The Fund gives emerging filmmakers like me a kick-start. I’d been working in theatre for 10 years and so the grant helped me make the transition into film.”

Urale says that by supporting her project, the Fund also gave her a chance to express something about the culture of New Zealand Samoans and their issues.

The Screen Innovation Production Fund also supports films that go on to win awards or screen at festivals overseas. Christchurch filmmaker Zoë Roland’s 27-minute experimental documentary, From Memory, has already enjoyed local and international success. To screen as a short before a feature film, it explores New Zealand Vietnam War veterans’ shifting perspectives on the memory of war.

Last November, Roland was invited to present From Memory at the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam and take part in discussions and masterclasses with leading international documentary-makers. The film also screened at the Women in the Director’s Chair festival in Chicago in February 2002 and was awarded Best Film at the inaugural Otago Film Festival in October 2001.

Two films selected for the Commonwealth Film Festival, screening in July during the Manchester Commonwealth Games, are When the Jars are Done (producer Fraser Clark and writer/director Chris Clark) and Face Value (writer/director Fiona Bartlett and producer Jo Hiles). When the Jars are Done also won three awards at the recent Drifting Clouds International Short Film Festival. Both films received grants from the Screen Innovation Production Fund.


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