Vincent Ward’s new feature Rain Of The Children wins film festival selection

11 09 2008

Vincent Ward’s new feature Rain Of The Children is winning selection in some of the world’s leading film festivals.

It has been selected for two competitions: at the Hawaii Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival.

“The Chicago selection is full circle for me,” says Ward. “The new film evolved from my 1980 documentary In Spring One Plants Alone, which won a Silver Hugo at Chicago. It is exciting that my new film will also be in competition at Chicago.”

Rain Of The Children has also been selected for the Hof Film Festival, one of the most influential film events in Germany, which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year.

And it will be representing New Zealand in Thailand at the Bangkok Film Festival, with the director as a festival guest and a reception in the film’s honour hosted by the New Zealand Ambassador.

The film has already scored international success by winning the grand prix at the New Horizons Film Festival in the Polish university city of Wroclaw. The film then screened in the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Its world premiere in the Sydney Film Festival was followed by screenings in the Melbourne Film Festival with actor Temuera Morrison representing the film, and in the Brisbane Film Festival.

Its New Zealand premiere at the Auckland Film Festival was attended by more than 300 Tuhoe representatives many of whom traveled to Auckland from the Urewera region where the film was made.

Rain of the Children uncovers the story of an old Maori woman who was the subject of Ward’s In Spring One Plants Alone, which he made when he was 21. It showed the life of 80-year-old Puhi who lived in remote bush country looking after her 40-year-old son Niki. Ward lived with Puhi for 18 months but never unravelled the mystery of her life. In the new film, we learn her extraordinary story.

Critics have been impressed. “A haunting historical epic,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter. “Emotionally rewarding, powerful and heart-wrenching,” wrote Variety. Auckland Film Festival director Bill Gosden wrote: “You are bound to be amazed and shaken by the spectacular fusion of documentary, myth and personal history.”

Rain Of The Children begins its New Zealand theatrical release in main centres next week, after previews starting today (Thursday 11th) in seven provincial towns.


Katie Wolfe’s This is Her selected for New York Film Festival

9 09 2008

This is Her NZ short film starring Mia Blake as Evie

This is Her NZ short film starring Mia Blake as Evie

Katie Wolfe’s New Zealand short film This is Her has been selected to screen in official selection at the 46th New York Film Festival later this month after premiering in North America at the prestigious 35th Telluride Film Festival last weekend.

This follows nominations for This is Her in all four short film categories of the New Zealand Qantas Film and Television Awards including Best Short Film.

“We are absolutely thrilled that This Is Her has been selected to screen in such important festivals as Telluride and New York. With so many short films being made around the world, it’s a huge honour to be invited to these highly competitive festivals. These selections indicate the strength of the short film’s unique voice,” says NZFC Short Film Manager Juliette Veber.

This Is Her is a 12 minute black tale directed by Katie Wolfe about the bitter aftertaste of love. As she watches her younger self in the throes of childbirth, Evie’s devastatingly wry commentary reveals exactly what life has in store for her, her loving husband, and the six year old bitch who will one day steal his affections and destroy her life. This is Her is written by Kate McDermott and produced by Felicity Letcher and Rachel Lorimer.

“There was a lot of interest in This Is Her at Telluride, and It was heartening to see that the comedy of the film translated into the American sensibility,” says director Katie Wolfe.

“Telluride is a very small, select festival. You get to see a lot of wonderful films, and to interact with amazing filmmakers, in my case Mike Leigh and David Fincher. I also connected with a network of upcoming filmmakers from around the world.”

“Telluride was amazing, and I’m now looking forward to seeing the film with a New York audience, especially as it is playing in the revived Ziegfeld Theatre.”

Producers Rachel Lorimer and Felicity Letcher say This Is Her’s success is a testament to the storytelling talents of Katie, and of writer Kate McDermott, and the efforts of a terrific cast and crew.

“We are absolutely delighted by the response to This Is Her, both at home and overseas. Telluride has a reputation for selecting shorts from new filmmakers who go on to make feature films very quickly. New York is one of the great film festivals.

“It is fantastic to see a contemporary Kiwi story embraced by moviegoers around the world.”

This Is Her screens at the 46th New York Film Festival before the Mexican feature film I’m Gonna Explode (Voy A Explotar). The New York Film Festival showcases inspiring and provocative cinema by emerging talents and first rank international artists whose films are often recognised as contemporary classics. The festival has introduced filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, Francois Truffaut and Wong Kar-Wai to the United States.

This Is Her was funded by the Short Film Fund of the New Zealand Film Commission.

The film premiered at that Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this year, and has screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The 46th New York Film Festival runs 26 September to 12 October 2008, for more information see

Toa Fraser’s Dean Spanley feature film to premiere in Toronto

20 08 2008

Peter O’Toole and friend in a scene from Toa Fraser’s Dean Spanley, NZ 2008

Peter O’Toole and friend in a scene from Toa Fraser’s Dean Spanley, NZ 2008

Confirming its position as the prime North American launch pad, the Toronto International Film Festival has added more world premieres to its line-up. Among the new titles announced today is director Toa Fraser’s Dean Spanley starring 8-times Academy Award nominee, Peter O’Toole.

The film will have a red carpet Gala screening during the opening weekend in Toronto, on Saturday 6 September.

Dean Spanley joins a select list of others premiering at Toronto, including new films from critically acclaimed filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Caroline Link and Anees Bazmee and feature performances by Brad Pitt, Rachel McAdams, John Malkovich, Julie Christie, Vincent Cassel, Ellen Burstyn, Edward Norton, Christina Ricci, Colin Farrell, Akshay Kumar, Jon Voight, Scarlett Johansson, James Caan, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Jeremy Northam, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda, Matt Dillon, Tim Robbins, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Angela Bassett.

The Gala programme is described by the Festival as a ‘high profile showcase of films with major impact’. The film will premiere at the 2,600 seat theatre, the Roy Thomson Hall. This is the first time a NZ feature film will have a Gala screening at Toronto, which is the most exalted slot the festival offers.

“The gala screening represents a spectacular launching pad for Dean Spanley” says director Toa Fraser. “We put our hearts and souls into making the movie and I can’t wait to see it up there on the big screen at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals.”

Toa Fraser will be in Toronto to introduce his film along with his cast – Peter O’Toole, Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill and Bryan Brown. They will be joined by screenwriter Alan Sharp and producers Matthew Metcalfe and Alan Harris.

Set in the early 1900s, Dean Spanley is a whimsical, poignant tale of a father and son, and their encounters with an eccentric stranger.

NZ Film, which is the sales arm of the NZ Film Commission, is handling world sales of the film.

Dean Spanley will be released in Australia and New Zealand early 2009 by Transmission Films in association with Paramount Pictures.

Following Toronto, the subsequent Canadian release of the film is being handled by of Alliance Pictures (The World’s Fastest Indian; The Lord of the Rings).

A UK-NZ co-production, Dean Spanley was financed by Aramid Entertainment, the NZ Film Commission’s Film Fund 2, Lipsync Productions and Screen East. Executive Producers are David Parfitt, Finola Dwyer, Simon Fawcett and Alan Sharp.

The thirty-third annual Toronto International Film Festival will be held from September 3 to 13, 2008.

Under the Mountain Feature Film starts shooting

4 08 2008

Under the Mountain, the motion picture adaptation of the popular, award-winning Maurice Gee novel of the same name, will begin principal photography on Monday August 11, 2008. The film’s locations around Auckland, include the iconic Rangitoto Island, a volcano in the Hauraki Gulf. The production will conclude in early October 2008.

The film will be released in New Zealand in 2009 by Walt Disney Studio Pictures.

Under the Mountain is produced by Jonathan King and Matthew Grainger of Index Films Limited and Richard Fletcher of Liberty Films Limited. Chris Hampson, Chris Bailey and Trevor Haysom (In My Father’s Den) are the Executive Producers.

Jonathan King is directing Under the Mountain, from a screenplay adaptation written by himself and Matthew Grainger. Jonathan King most recently directed and wrote the hit kiwi film Black Sheep which won four international awards, grossed more than $NZ800,000 in New Zealand, $NZ2million in the United Kingdom and sold to 49 international territories.

Under the Mountain is a dark fantasy adventure story about teenage twins who battle dark forces hidden beneath Auckland’s volcanoes.

“I want to deliver a scary and exciting adventure for teenage audiences,” says Jonathan King. “The story will contrast a contemporary Auckland city setting with a fantastic subterranean world beneath.”

The creature effects will be produced by Academy Award® winner Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand. Weta Workshop was responsible for effects in the Academy Award® winning Lord of the Rings films and King Kong, as well as Jonathan King’s earlier Black Sheep.

Jonathan reunites with Black Sheep Director of Photography, Richard Bluck and the film features the work of Production Designers Kim Sinclair and Ralph Davies, Editor Chris Plummer (Dean Spanley) and Composer Victoria Kelly (Out of the Blue). Kelly’s original score for Under the Mountain will be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the second of their sponsorships of local films.

Sam Neill (Dean Spanley) stars as the benevolent Mr. Jones and Oliver Driver (Black Sheep) will take the role of the evil Mr Wilberforce. Under the Mountain’s cast introduces two exciting young newcomers, Sophie McBride as Rachel and Tom Cameron as Theo. The 28-member Kiwi cast also includes well-known New Zealand actors Nathaniel Lees, Madelaine Sami and Matt Sunderland.

Maurice Gee is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished novelists. In 1979, Under the Mountain (Penguin) was his first novel written and published for teenage readers. The book has sold more than 70,000 copies and has often featured in the New Zealand school curriculum.

Post production will take place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.

Investors include New Zealand Film Commission through Film Fund 2, New Zealand on Air, Footprint Films, 120 dB Films, Ally Media Finance, TVNZ in addition to significant international pre-sales.

International sales are being handled by Kathleen Drumm of NZ Film.

Rain of the Children Feature Film wins Grand Prix in Poland

30 07 2008

Vincent Ward’s newest feature film Rain of the Children has won the Grand Prix at a film festival in Poland.

His film was one of 16 features selected for competition at the Era New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw which is Europe’s biggest film events, screening 360 films.

The prize is selected by audience vote.

Ward, who was in Poland as a guest of the festival, said he hadn’t expected the award and was delighted with the audience response.

The Wroclaw festival also presented a retrospective of Ward’s work (nine films), one of the few occasions when the complete work of a New Zealand film maker has been acknowledged internationally.

The festival also celebrated other New Zealand talent, screening 19 other New Zealand features, 45 New Zealand short films and bringing New Zealand musicians, a choreographer, photographer, actor and nine film makers to Poland.

Ward noted: “There is tremendous interest in and appreciation of our films and music, creating a fantastic atmosphere at the Festival.

“Afterwards many Poles commented that they want to visit New Zealand.”

Rain of the Children has just completed New Zealand premiere screenings in the Auckland and Wellington Film Festivals, and is to screen in the other New Zealand film festivals before beginning a theatrical release via Rialto Distribution.

Reviewed in the Hollywood Reporter, it has been acclaimed as “a stunning docu-drama … masterful … compelling in its personal detail and almost mythic in its sweep.”

The film was produced by Vincent Ward, Marg Slater and Tainui Stephens, and written by Vincent Ward. Investment came from the New Zealand Film Commission, Te Mangai Paho and NZ On Air.

International sales are being handled by NZ Film, the NZFC’s sales agency.

Collaboration crucial for success of New Zealand Film Industry

22 07 2008

Geographical distance and the attendant costs are seen as the biggest hurdles to New Zealand film makers, a survey commissioned by the New Zealand Film Commission has found.

The independent survey involved interviewing New Zealand producers and distributors about their perceptions of the industry and the NZFC’s role.

While New Zealand’s geographical distance was seen as a barrier, producers and distributors believed the solution lay in the industry working together. And the NZFC was seen as critical to the survival and success of the industry.

NZFC Chief Executive Dr Ruth Harley says the survey reinforces the important role of the NZFC in supporting the industry, as well as helping to identify areas for future focus and energy. In particular:

· There is a desire for the NZFC to increase its “professional development” work – particularly around script writing and development. There was also a strong interest in a NZFC seminar about the workings of the industry as a whole – covering every aspect from script to screen.

· There is a perception that there is a great story to tell about New Zealand’s film industry, but that we could be telling it more persuasively.

· There is a gap between the way producers and distributors understand the NZFC’s sales and marketing role.

· Some survey participants want more information about funding decisions and their rationale, as well as information around market success.

· There is concern that NZFC has funded too many “culturally generic” horror films.

Dr Harley says the Board of the NZFC will give more consideration to all of these areas in coming months.

“The areas we have identified as priorities are around boosting professional development, becoming a stronger teller of the New Zealand film “story” and making sure industry players have access to the information they need around the decisions we make.”

Dr Harley says overall the survey findings are positive for the industry and the role of the NZFC in providing vital support.

Ngai Tūhoe to attend Rain of The Children Film premiere

11 07 2008

Vincent Ward’s RAIN OF THE CHILDREN premieres on Saturday 12th July, 6.15pm at the Civic theatre, in the 40th Auckland International Film Festival.

The New Zealand premiere will host approximately 400 members of Ngai Tūhoe Tribe who will make the trip from around the North Island to be at this prestigious event, and a packed cinema is anticipated.

Accolades have been flowing from the two key US industry publications, Hollywood Reporter and Variety, since its world premiere at Sydney Film Festival.

Temuera Morrison, Waihoroi Shortland, Taungaroa Emile and the five of the Tūhoe women that play Puhi will be at Saturday’s premiere.

With a heart-rendering Powhiri and these distinguished guests looking on, it will be a feast for the senses, a truly spectacular event.