For the first time in 20 years two New Zealand films are included in the programme for the Venice Film Festival announced today.

Jake Mahaffy’s Free In Deed will screen in the Orizzonti Section of the festival and Pietra Brettkelly’s A Flickering Truth in Venice Classics. Both are world premieres.

Written and directed by Mahaffy and produced by Georgina Conder, Michael Bowes, Mike S. Ryan and Brent Stiefel, and starring David Harewood (Showtime’s Homeland) and Edwina Findley (HBO’s The Wire) the film is set in the distinctive world of storefront churches and based on actual events. Free in Deed depicts one man’s attempts to perform a miracle. When a single mother brings her young boy to church for healing, this lonely Pentecostal minister is forced to confront the seemingly incurable illness of the child… and his own demons as well.

The Orizzonti section of the festival is a competitive section for films representing the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema. Eighteen international films are screening in this section.

Mahaffy’s previous work includes the feature Wellness, which won the 2008 SXSW Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, and many short films such as AD 1363 (Sundance, 2015) and Miracle Boy, which had its international premiere at the 69th Venice Film Festival in 2012.

Mahaffy, who coordinates the Screen Production program at Auckland University said, “We’re glad to premiere at Venice- it’s a great festival and I’m thrilled to be returning with a feature film.”

A Flickering Truth, directed and produced by Pietra Brettkelly, documents the preservation of Afghanistan’s film archive. The film follows three men who have dedicated decades to protecting this important vessel of Afghan culture through 100 years of war, hiding it from the Taleban, protecting it from the ravages of war and Kabul’s extreme weather. Now their project is to restore the archive and save the thousands of hours of film revealing cinema from the time of King Amanullah Khan in the 1920s, the invasion of the Russians, and the days when women wore miniskirts. A Flickering Truth unwraps a world literally frozen in time and dust.

A Flickering Truth will screen in Venice Classics, a competitive section which showcases documentaries about cinema and a selection of restored classic films.

Brettkelly’s previous films include Maori Boy Genius, which premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2012 and The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins which won the World Documentary Editing award at Sundance in 2008.

Brettkelly says, "This is what I’ve been working towards throughout my career and definitely over the last three and a half years making this film. To be selected in competition at one of the world’s great festivals is not simply a testament of my efforts but a recognition of the work of many people in front of and behind the camera, making this a film I believe is mystical, entertaining and importantly will re-set thinking on this war-ravaged country."

The New Zealand Film Commission invested in both productions. Congratulating the filmmakers, NZFC CEO Dave Gibson said, “It is exciting to have two New Zealand films selected to screen in Venice this year. These two very different films reflect how well our filmmakers tell other countries’ stories – with an understanding and creativity, unique to a New Zealand perspective.”

The last time New Zealand had two films screen in the festival was in 1994 with Heavenly Creatures and Once Were Warriors.

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