Big New Zealand presence at Berlin and SXSW

‘Vai’ (Photo credit: NZFC)

Ten New Zealand features and shorts including a record number by female directors will screen in official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival next month while two will feature at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas in March.

Written and directed by nine Pacific women and filmed in seven different Pacific countries, Vai will open the Berlinale’s NATIVe section and will then have its North American premiere at SXSW.

Produced by Waru’s Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, Vai chronicles the journey of empowerment through culture over the lifetime of one woman, Vai, played by a different Indigenous actress in each of the Pacific countries.

The writer/directors are ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga, Nicole Whippy and Sharon Whippy.

MPI Media is handling international sales and Vendetta Films will distribute in Australia and New Zealand.

Co-directed by Julia Parnell and Rob Curry, The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps will have its world premiere in the Austin festival’s 24 Beats Per Second showcase.

Produced by Nicola Peeperkoorn, Tim Riley and Parnell, the feature documentary follows Phillipps and his band The Chills as he fights his creative demons, conquers the music world, inspires a generation and then retreats into depression and addiction.

Phillipps and his band will perform at SXSW music festival which runs concurrently with the film festival. International sales will be handled by Submarine Entertainment and Madman Entertainment will distribute in NZ.

‘The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps’ (Photo credit: Herman Nijhof, courtesy NZFC).

In Berlin two Kiwi short films, Hush and Ani, both directed by women, will screen in competition in the Generation section.

Written by Armagan Ballantyne and Maria Ines Manchego, directed by Ballantyne and produced by Larissa Tiffi, Hush tells the story of Ava, a young woman who surprises her brother and friends when she suddenly turns up in her small home town with a secret.

Ani, written and directed by Josephine Stewart – Te Whiu and produced by Sarah Cook, follows nine-year-old Ani, who drifts into a land of play and make believe after her mother runs out on the family, leaving Ani and her father to fend for themselves.

Chef’s Table – Asma Khan, an episode of the Netflix Original documentary series directed by Zia Mandivwalla has been selected to screen in the Culinary Cinema program.

Among the other Kiwi titles in the NATIVe section is For My Father’s Kingdom, produced by Sandra Kailahi and Vea Mafile’o and directed by Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti.

The feature doc profiles Vea’s father, Tongan migrant pensioner Saia Mafile’o, who, driven by his deep faith in God and Tongan culture, carefully navigates the rough streets of South Auckland and his sometimes-fraught relationship with his New Zealand-born son Robert, who struggles to accept his father’s commitment to a Kingdom that tore their family apart. Rialto Films will distribute in Australasia.

Liliu, a short written and directed by Tauamiti and produced by Ngaire Fuata, tells the story of a young ambitious court interpreter in Samoa who risks everything when Nua, a wrongfully imprisoned chief, fights to get back to her stranded grandchildren.

Another short, Toa’ipuapugā Strength in Suffering, written, directed and produced by Vea Mafile’o, is about a young Samoan woman who sees visions and shows signs of stigmata during an Easter service and must confront social media abuse and controversy.

Heperi Mita’s feature doc Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen will follow its international premiere at Sundance with a European premiere in Berlin. One Thousand Ropes, which had its world premiere at the Berlinale in 2017, will screen as a retrospective along with short films Snow in Paradise and Va Tapuia.

Congratulating the filmmakers, New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan said: “The Berlinale is such a significant festival and a great platform for introducing New Zealand voices to European audiences. That this year’s selections include so many women and indigenous filmmakers is truly exciting, given the focus that our organisation and the wider film industry has placed on reaching gender equality and reflecting true diversity.”

The 2019 Berlinale runs from February 7-17.