Jonathan Ogilvie’s ‘Head South’ to open Rotterdam

'Head South'.

Jonathan Ogilvie’s semi-autobiographical music drama Head South is set to open the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in January.

Set in 1979, the film follows schoolboy fantasist Angus (Ed Oxenbould), who is drawn to underground post-punk music scene of Christchurch, and must confront self-doubt, the derision of his friends and a family tragedy to acquire an appreciation of true character.

Starring alongside Oxenbould are Márton Csókás as Angus’s father, singer-songwriter Stella Bennett (Benee) and Roxie Mohebbi.

The film features music from Toy Love, The Slits, Public Image Ltd, Magazine, The Scavengers, Wire and Lou Reed. Shayne Carter is the film’s composer.

Antje Kulpe and Ogilvie produce, with Emma Slade, Lee Hubber, Gary Phillips, Mark Vennis, and Mat Govoni as executive producers. Heads of department include editor Julie-Anne De Ruvo, production designer Chris Bruce, DOP John Chrisstoffels, costume designer Lesley Burkes-Harding, and makeup/hair designer Verity Griffiths. 

Head South is inspired by Ogilvie’s own experiences as part of the post-punk ensemble YFC.

“I am very excited about bringing this small world to the larger world. It’s a time and place in New Zealand’s recent cultural history that deserves to be shown-off and celebrated,” said Ogilvie.

Head South is an authentic local story with truly international reach, and I can’t wait to share it with audiences. It’s a return to the world of music and ideas – and indeed the place, Ōtautahi Christchurch – that first inspired me to become a screenwriter and director.”

The writer-director is not a stranger to Rotterdam; his film Lone Wolf screened in the Big Screen competition in 2021.

IFFR festival director Vanja Kaludjercic described Head South as Ogilvie as an “unpredictable coming-of-age story that delights in its shifting tone.”

“Quirkiness and nostalgia become sober and thoughtful, only to turn exuberant and then something else again, in a fitting tribute to post-punk subculture. Ogilvie is the kind of filmmaker we cherish at IFFR: those for whom the art is, above all, an adventure of discovery,” she said.

The film was funded by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) in association with Head South Cohort, Black Frame, I&G and Moviehouse Entertainment, and with the assistance of the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production rebate and the Screen Canterbury NZ Production grant.

Label Distribution will handle the theatrical release in Australia and New Zealand, while Moviehouse Entertainment is handling international sales.

NZFC CEO Annie Murray said it was exciting to have a New Zealand film open Rotterdam.

“This is a unique film, with a distinctly New Zealand perspective capturing a significant period in New Zealand’s cultural and modern history.”

Alongside Head South, other titles that have been confirmed for Rotterdam include Ishan Shukla’s Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust, Voy! Voy! Voy! from Omar Hilal, Billy Woodberry’s Mário and Ann Hu’s Elegies. The full line-up for the festival will be announced December 18.

IFFR runs January 25 – February 4.