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Homegrown hits in Film Festival

Homegrown hits in Film Festival

Screen Innovation Production Fund backs innovative films in New Zealand International Film Festival

Innovative feature films and a number of short films, made by New Zealand filmmakers and screening in this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, are also being recognised on the international film festival circuit.

Two of the feature films and five of the short films in the Film Festival’s Homegrown programme received funding support from the Screen Innovation Production Fund, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Both of the feature films by Auckland filmmakers - Christmas by Gregory King and Woodenhead by Florian Habicht – are screening in the Melbourne International Film Festival this month. Both convey a strong sense of New Zealand but from very different perspectives.

Habicht, who was born in Berlin but came to New Zealand with his German family at the age of seven, presents an immigrant’s perspective on life in New Zealand. He describes Woodenhead as a surreal, musical “Grimm” fairytale with circuses, magic beans, accordions and a donkey. It tells the tale of Gert, an “innocent” dump-hand who believes he is the luckiest man under the sun.

One of the innovative features of this film is the fact that the entire soundtrack (including dialogue and location sounds) was created before the images, with Habicht directing the film to accompany the original score by Marc Chesterman, Mardi Potter and Steve Abel.

James Hewison, Creative Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival describes Woodenhead ( as “a truly unsettling, visually inventive, stylistically thrilling and quite marvellous diamond in the rough”. The Screen Innovation Production Fund supported the production of Woodenhead with a $25,000 grant. In contrast, Gregory King’s Christmas offers hard-hitting realism and is described in the Film Festival programme as “a bleakly funny, R-rated vision of Kiwi life” in which the only escape from the nightmare of Christmas is the bathroom. Brock Oliver of Pulp magazine writes: “The awkward aspects of our beloved culture are exposed behind pre-fab walls.”

Christmas is one of only 18 films worldwide, produced on digital, to be selected for the video competition section of the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland next month. It will also screen at the Edinburgh International Film Festival before going on to Toronto in September, the second biggest film market in the world after Cannes. The Screen Innovation Production Fund supported the production of this film with a $25,000 grant. Christmas is Gregory King’s first feature film although he has made several acclaimed short films. He was recently selected to attend the prestigious Maurits Binger Institute in Amsterdam from September until January 2004, where he will work on his second feature film project.

Michael Wrenn of the New Zealand Film Commission says the Screen Innovation Production Fund supports filmmakers, including those experimenting with the digital medium, to experiment and develop their own unique voices.

“The resulting work screening in the Film Festival is exciting and innovative,” he says.

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.

“We greatly value our long-standing partnership with the New Zealand Film Commission and through the Screen Innovation Production Fund, we’re able to support some of New Zealand’s most innovative moving-image artists,” she says.

“The Fund is 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, filmmaker Simon Raby and film director Dorthe Scheffman.

“The Screen Innovation Production Fund films stand out because they experiment with their medium, are well-constructed and engaging,” Deborah Lawler-Dormer says. “They also illustrate the diversity of projects that the Fund supports. They’re all quite different in content, style and genre.”

The five short films in Homegrown that received Screen Innovation Production Fund support are:

Kitty, a surreal, black comedy by Wellington filmmaker Patrick Gillies. It has also screened at the Sydney, London and Montreal International Film Festivals, plus the 2003 Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester. It’s currently screening at the Just For Laughs – Eat My Shorts Film Festival in Montreal, and will also be screening at the Hof International Film Festival in Munich and the Sao Paulo International Film Festival later this year.

Bouncers, a quirky claymation comedy by Wellington filmmaker Barry Prescott, set in the night clubs and bars of the not-too-distant future where genetically engineered super-bouncers keep the “trash” out and the “class” in.

Dot, the first 35mm work from Auckland media artists Sean Kerr and Kim Fogelberg, where minimalist dot patterns tease the eye in a collision of sound and image

This Present Tense, by Auckland filmmaker Grant Bryant, which brings together priests, TV addicts, teachers and messiahs – disparate people unified in the celebration and lamentation of life

Sweet as Candy, a fantastical musical extravaganza by Auckland filmmaker Kezia Barnett set in a stylised 1950s’ parallel universe.

In addition to the Screen Innovation Production Fund films, Creative New Zealand through the Arts Board has supported two dance films, Lumin and Haunting Douglas, premiering at the New Zealand International Film Festival. Dunedin choreographer and filmmaker Daniel Belton’s 25-minute film, Lumin, features in the Homegrown programme. Two-and-a-half years in the making, Lumin celebrates light, dance, and the struggle between order and chaos. The film will also have its European premiere in September at Videodance 2003 in Athens.

Belton’s 2002 film, Wireless, had its European premiere earlier this month at the Napoli Danza International Film Festival.

A 75-minute documentary about the life and work of New Zealand choreographer Douglas Wright, Haunting Douglas, was commissioned by Television New Zealand and will screen on TV One on Saturday 26 July. It also screens at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland on 21- 22 July and Wellington on 27 – 28 July.

As well as drawing on revelations in Wright’s forthcoming book, the film’s director Leanne Pooley had access to an “awe-inspiring collection of archival footage through which we relive some of the greatest moments in dance”.

For the screening times of these films – and many more – visit the New Zealand International Film Festival website ( or pick up a programme around town.

© Scoop Media

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