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New Zealand Country of Focus at Sydney Film Festival

New Zealand Country of Focus at Sydney Film Festival
Monday, 13 May 2019

The programme for the 66th Sydney Film Festival has been released with New Zealand featuring prominently as the Festival's country of focus with eight feature films and six shorts selected this year.

Bellbird, the feature debut for writer/director Hamish Bennett will have its world premiere in Official Competition at the Festival. Produced by Orlando Stewart and Catherine Fitzgerald, the film stars Marshall Napier, Cohen Holloway and Rachel House and is a story about loss, love and hope. Told with great heart and warm humour, the film shines a light on the plight of a small rural community where the people are the heroes. Transmission will distribute in Australia and New Zealand.

Jason Pemberton's documentary Capital in the Twenty-First Century, will also have its world premiere at the Festival in the International Documentary section. A co-production with France, the film is produced by New Zealand's Matthew Metcalfe and based on Thomas Piketty’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller of the same name. The film explores one of the most controversial subjects of our time: wealth, and who gets a share of the dividends. Transmission will release in Australia and New Zealand.

Following its critically acclaimed world premiere at last month's Tribeca Film Festival, Ant Timpson's debut feature Come to Daddy will have its Australasian premiere in the festival’s Freak Me Out and Festival Hits sections. Starring Elijah Wood and produced by New Zealand's Emma Slade, the film is a NZ/Canada co-production. After being summoned to a remote coastal cabin by his long estranged father, Norval a wannabe music impresario and fashion snob finds himself well out of his comfort zone when his father’s dark past comes knocking. Umbrella will release in Australia and New Zealand.

Also having its Australasian premiere at SFF is The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps. Screening in the Sounds on Screen section of the Festival, the film is directed by Julia Parnell and produced by Nicola Peeperkoorn, Tim Riley and Parnell. Martin Phillipps came close to conquering the international music world with his band The Chills, but instead fell into decades of debt and addiction. At 54, he is given a dire medical prognosis, forcing him to face his demons and realise his musical ambitions before it's too late. Madman are distributing in Australia and New Zealand.

Following its successful New Zealand release, musical romance Daffodils, written by Rochelle Bright, directed by David Stubbs and produced by Richard Fletcher, will have its international premiere in the Festival Hits section of the festival. Starring George Mason, Rose McIver and Kimbra the film is based on Bright's award-winning play of the same name. Set to re-imaginings of iconic New Zealand songs, the film celebrates a young couple's love and marriage tested in a heart-aching drama. Transmission have distribution rights for Australia and New Zealand.

The Heart Dances: The Journey of The Piano – the ballet will also have its international premiere in the festival. Directed by Rebecca Tansley and produced by Robin Laing and Tansley, the iconic film is re-imagined by celebrated Czech dancers Jiri and Otto Bubenicek for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, setting the stage for a voyage into uncharted territory for everyone involved. Rialto are releasing in Australia and New Zealand.

Heperi Mita’s Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen along with portmanteau film Vai written and directed by nine Pacific Island women will screen in the festival’s First Nations programme. Merata,produced by Chelsea Winstanley and Cliff Curtis, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and Vai, produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton opened the Berlin Film Festival’s Native Section in February. Merata is being released in New Zealand and Australia by Rialto, and Vai by Vendetta.

"New Zealand is honoured to be the Sydney Film Festival's country of focus in 2019. Australia is an important audience for us and one that we are strongly connected with. The success of New Zealand films such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Breaker Upperers in cinemas across Australia reflects our shared sense of humour, history and perspective of the world from downunder," said New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan. "Strengthening this relationship is our recent partnership with Screen Australia on a joint anthology feature for filmmakers from both countries to share their voices, stories and histories by examining the impact of James Cook's voyage to the Pacific. We look forward to seeing the transformation of individual stories into a single, shared vision."

New Zealand short films, A Matter of Time, Rū and Hinekura will have their world premieres' at the festival, along with Australasian premieres for Falling Up, The Gravedigger of Kapu, and Hush.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 5 - 16. The full festival programme can be found here.

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