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NZFC & Screen Australia Partner on Indigenous Initiative


October 2019 and April 2020 respectively mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s maiden voyage to the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department are partnering on a one-off joint initiative supporting a creative collaboration between indigenous peoples of the Pacific region impacted by Cook’s arrival including Māori, Aboriginal, Pacific and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

two women in a
small double-hulled boat off forested land

Image: Vai, Solomon Islands, written and directed by Matasila Freshwater


“This joint initiative brings together the indigenous voices of Australia, Māori and the Pacific peoples and can inspire us to rethink the old contours and framings of history,” said NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan. “A collaboration between New Zealand and Australian indigenous filmmakers is a truly exciting way to retell that story and reset the conversation.”

“This initiative presents a shared international opportunity for First Australians creators to re-examine and engage with the effects of colonisation through the perspectives that drama can provide,” said Penny Smallacombe, Head of Indigenous at Screen Australia. “We are looking for passionate indigenous filmmakers who want to collaborate with our Māori and Pasifika storytellers to be a part of this ground-breaking creative partnership.”

The funding programme will be known as Ngā Pouwhenua Joint Indigenous Initiative in New Zealand, and as Cook 2020: Right of Reply Joint Indigenous Initiative in Australia.

Four teams each from New Zealand and Australia respectively will be selected to come together to wananga (workshop) and develop eight dramatic narrative short films exploring their own unique indigenous perspectives related to the arrival of Cook.

The dramatic shorts will share the theme of cultural survival and can take many forms, from experimental, comedy, genre and/or animation. The successful screen practitioners must have an open mind in terms of working with the other successful collaborators to ensure a cohesive, eight-part anthology feature.

“Tangata whenua of Aotearoa and the Pacific consider the arrival of Cook as the beginning of colonial attitudes that have left significant marks on the land and its people. It is essential that these stories are expressed,” says Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble, Pou Whakahaere/Māori Screen Executive for NZFC.

On completing the development process, the selected short films will be supported with production funding of up to NZ$125,000/AU$125,000 per short.

Māori and Pacific Island creative teams from New Zealand can find guidelines and information about how to apply for this initiatve on the NZFC website. Indigenous Australian or Torres Strait Islander teams can find their guidelines and application information on the Screen Australia website.


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