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Mark Burton Speech: Women in Film

Mark Burton Speech: Women in Film

Good evening and greetings. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to this New Zealand Trade and Enterprise reception honouring the three New Zealand filmmakers being featured in the BFI London Film Festival.

Film is one of the world’s most powerful storytelling tools, transcending cultural, language and political boundaries.

Obviously, successful films can also have valuable economic spin-offs. As New Zealand's Minister of Tourism, I have seen the very real impact that film has had on our country over the past few years. In fact, it would be difficult to overstate the value that film has added to our tourism sector.

Just as it has in tourism, this government continues to take an active role in supporting and promoting New Zealand's creative industries. We are seeing the value of working together, in industry clusters bringing companies together, and in government-industry strategic partnerships for economic development. Film is one of the most promising areas in which we can move to build new partnerships, as well as strengthen those partnerships which already exist.

Our government has set out a vision for New Zealand as a great place to live, learn, work, and do business; a birthplace of world-changing people and ideas; a place where people invest in the future; and a land where diversity is valued and reflected in our national identity. Our New Zealand filmmakers are the embodiment of this vision, and their successes, both at home and internationally, prove that “creative capital” is not just a smart marketing slogan.

But, beyond the obvious economic benefits such as the effects of raising our tourism profile internationally, New Zealand is also seeing the effect that quality film making can have in communicating our stories to the world.

Tonight, we are pleased to be joined here by a diverse range of representatives of the UK film industry – from filmmakers to distributors – including some of your most distinguished members.

There are many members of WIFT (Women in Film & Television) here this evening. I am especially pleased to have the chance to speak to and meet with you, as it has been women filmmakers who have been the creative force behind many of New Zealand’s recent successes.

While it is Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy which has highlighted creative and innovative New Zealand filmmaking to the world in a most spectacular way,
one of the earliest films to capture international attention for New Zealand was The Piano, directed by Jane Campion.

The Piano portrayed a uniquely New Zealand story and made use of our naturally beautiful and rugged coastline. Gaining both financial and critical success, The Piano was acclaimed at film festivals around the world (most notably, Cannes where it won the top prize, the Palme D’or), and went on to Oscar success, a New Zealand first.

Our most recent landmark film has been Whale Rider from director Niki Caro. The international success—again, both financial and critical—of this film has been truly amazing. I was delighted to see that recently, it was named number 7 in the New York Post readers’ list of their favourite films of all time. This is an incredible achievement for a film with a modest budget, which tells a story of a small Maori community in a country that, ten years ago, many in America had not even heard of.

I am also delighted that Icon has had such success with the film here in Britain. Whale Rider is a good example of the New Zealand government’s commitment to its partnership with the creative sector, in this case, through the New Zealand Film Production Fund and New Zealand Film Commission.

While Whale Rider is our latest success story, a new wave of New Zealand films is on the horizon, and women filmmakers are again providing the driving force.

This year's London Film Festival has celebrated NZ filmmakers in their selection – honouring NZ women film makers specifically. For the first time ever, New Zealand films will be the opening and closing attractions at this event.

The opening film was of course Jane Campion's acclaimed new work, In the Cut. The closing gala features Sylvia, based on the life of Sylvia Plath and directed by Christine Jeffs, who gained international recognition for her film, Rain.

The programme also features a stunning new film shot entirely on the remote west coast of the South Island - Gaylene Preston's Perfect Strangers. It’s a particular pleasure for me to welcome Gaylene here tonight, along with the star of her film, Rachael Blake.

I look forward to seeing these movies, and to the next New Zealand films to make their mark internationally.

So, congratulations to the London Film Festival—I’m certainly pleased and proud to join you in this celebration of the craft and creativity of New Zealand filmmakers.

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