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Bellbird to be first Te Reo Maori subtitled film release

In a first for a New Zealand film, Bellbird distributor Transmission Films, will make Te reo Māori subtitles for the film available for cinemas. Bellbird is a film which reflects New Zealand as we know it, where Māori and Pākehā stand side by side in a recognisable rural community as equals and Te reo Māori can and should too.

Transmission Films ambition is to honour this official language and the Māori cast and crew of Bellbird. Organisations such as Air New Zealand, Te Papa, and DoC for example have already normalised Te reo Māori in their core business. Film has the opportunity to do likewise.

Bellbird is written and directed by Hamish Bennett (Ngāti Whakaue, Patuharakeke, Kati Waewae) and stars well-known NZ cast; Annie Whittle, Marshall Napier, Cohen Holloway, Rachel House, Stephen Tamarapa and newcomer Kahukura Retimana.

Bellbird writer and director, Hamish Bennett states, “Being a part of making Bellbird, and bringing it to screens around Aotearoa, has been a very special experience. It has been a community and whānau driven project at every step of the process, which makes sense given Bellbird is a film that, at its heart, is about community and whānau connection. Being able to acknowledge the importance of the indigenous language of Aotearoa, by providing subtitles for Bellbird in Te reo Māori, fits this kaupapa perfectly. It ensures all speakers and learners of Te reo Māori can enjoy our film and provides another way for communities and whānau across Aotearoa to connect with our story. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou - Kia kaha Te reo Māori!”

Well-known and respected owner of Blueskin Films and Bellbird producer, Catherine Fitzgerald states, “We are thrilled to recognise Te reo Māori as an official language in our film by providing subtitles for the English dialogue, just as we include closed captions for the hard of hearing. It ensures greater access to this distinctively New Zealand film which we have seen warm the hearts of audiences everywhere with its humour and emotional connection.”

General Manager of Transmission Films New Zealand, Mark Chamberlain states, “It is such an honour for us to include Te reo Māori subtitling for our release of BELLBIRD. It is also a responsibility on our part as distributors to respect the wishes of our film makers to make this beautiful story accessible to as wide an audience as we can.”

Sessions with Te reo Māori subtitles will be noted in directories or on cinema websites, so keep an eye out if you would like to book seats to a session in this format. It’s up to the individual cinema if they offer the Te reo Māori format as an option.

After premiering at the Sydney Film Festival earlier in the year and receiving a standing ovation with similar response when it screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July 2019, Bellbird will open to the New Zealand public of November 7, 2019.
Bellbird, a story of loss, love and hope. Told with great heart and warm humour, this film shines a light on a small rural community where the people are the heroes.

Set over four seasons on a humble Northland dairy farm, Bellbird is the story of a dairy farmer struggling to cope with the sudden death of his beloved wife, and the gradual bond he builds with his gentle only son and the local community. Ross (Marshall Napier) is a man of few words and when his wife Beth (Annie Whittle) dies, so does his spirit. His son Bruce (Cohen Holloway) is reluctant to change his own life to help run the farm but can see his father struggling, both physically and emotionally. Without Beth as a buffer, the distance in their relationship is exacerbated. The presence of local boy Marley (Kahukura Retimana) proves useful, as does the unsolicited support from Bruce’s boss at the dump, Connie (Rachel House), and from Clem (Stephen Tamarapa), the local vet. It’s been almost a year since Beth’s death when things unexpectedly come to a head and Ross has to finally connect with his own grief and let go.

Bellbird opens in New Zealand cinemas on November 7.

Head to the official Bellbird Facebook page @bellbirdfilm to keep up to date with weekly updates.

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