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Oscar-winning filmmaker to become honorary doctor

Oscar-winning filmmaker to become University of Canterbury honorary doctor

April 9, 2014

His film won an Academy award, he is good friends with actors such as Robin Williams, and next week Vincent Ward becomes an honorary doctor of the University of Canterbury.

Vincent Ward, whose films were selected for three Cannes festivals, will receive his fine arts honorary doctorate at next week’s graduation ceremonies. Corporate magnate Alan Gibbs and Christchurch property investor and entrepreneur Antony Gough will also receive honorary doctorates.

Ward, who has been appointed adjunct professor of the university, is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated filmmakers and screenwriters and is a recognised artist. His films have received critical acclaim both within New Zealand and overseas, and are known for their strong visual and atmospheric elements and unique character voice.

His first feature film, Vigil (1984), was the first New Zealand film to be invited to enter the competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) and Map of the Human Heart (1993) also featured at Cannes. His 1998 film What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams, received an Academy Award for best visual effects.

His films began receiving international recognition and critical acclaim even before he had graduated from Canterbury in 1979 with a Diploma in Fine Arts (Honours).

While based in Hollywood in the late 1990s, Ward developed the initial story for Alien 3, executive produced the Academy Award nominated film The Last Samurai, which starred Tom Cruise, and
and later directed the historical epic River Queen. Ward received the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to filmmaking in 2007.

Rain of the Children won one of the largest film festivals in eastern Europe voted by the audience from 250 films. What Dreams May Come not only grossed over $US80 million in theatres alone but double that from television and DVD but. It also opened as the No.1 movie in the US box office for its first weekend.

``I love the film industry. I’ve met some great people and actor Robin Williams is a major friend. He went out of his way to endorse me for the Shanghai Art Biennale which was unbelievably generous of him,’’ Ward says.

``I’m hugely honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from Canterbury which was where I got my honours degree and now I feel it is time to pay it back.

``It will be exciting talking to film students and others doing fine arts there as the School of Humanities is so much fuller and richer these days. I want to help arts at Canterbury to get greater international recognition.

``It will be exciting to help motivate and encourage students. The film industry is fraught with all sorts of challenges and is extremely hard to survive in but I want to help students grow stronger so they can be better prepared as they launch their careers.

``I feel a real connection with the university and it’s amazing they have formed a whole department that is almost in parallel with my own practice - moving between different practices.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Arts Professor Jonathan Le Cocq says Ward’s appointment aligns with the development of a renewed film school which focuses on key aspects of quality film-making, including sound, scriptwriting and cinema theory.

``It is a real coup to have Vincent on board. He has had a brilliant career.’’

Ward will give a public lecture at the University next Monday night (April 14).


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