Leah Purcell will take her talents to New Zealand’s North Island in September after being announced as the inaugural Māoriland Filmmaker in Residence.
Delivered with support from Māoriland Charitable Trust and Women in Film and Television (WIFT), the initiative consists of national and international Indigenous artists being invited to work for up to three months at the Māoriland Hub in Ōtaki.
While there, they will be encouraged to collaborate with Māori filmmakers and other artists and have the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge base, particularly with rangatahi participating in Māoriland projects.
The announcement comes after The Drovers Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, for which Purcell was writer, director, producer, and lead actor, opened the 9th Māoriland Film Festival last week.
Based on the Henry Lawson short story, the film follows a woman and her stubborn determination to protect her family from the harshness of life in 1893, Snowy Mountains.
It has grossed more than $1.7 million at the Australian box office since being released in May.
Māoriland Film Festival director Libby Hakaraia was pleased to welcome Purcell and her producer husband Bain Stewart for the screening, describing her as a “groundbreaker for Indigenous filmmakers and especially for Indigenous women”.
“[Purcell] believed that the stories from her own land and from her own family had to be told and she found a way to do it across multimedia,” she said.
“In every telling, she triumphed, and the feature film of The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is not the end of the story.”
The Māoriland Film Festival caps off a busy month for Purcell, who was also honoured at the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in Winton, where she received a star on the Winton Walk of Fame.
Her workload shows no signs of slowing down, with pre-production underway for a drama series of The Drover’s Wife, while there are also plans for an operatic version of the story.