Tag Archive for: Australia

Congratulations to DEGANZ members Vanessa Wells and Emma Smart for their short film making the Wild Earth Oceania Film Festival (WEOFF) selection! Te Whakairo – Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao (The Carvings Carry the Stories of the World), directed and produced by Vanessa and edited by Emma, follows two skilled carvers from opposite ends of Aotearoa on their journey to and mahi in Antarctica.

James York (Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi) and Poutama Hetaraka (Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Tahu) bring their toi whakairo (carving) to Antarctica as part of Aotearoa’s kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of The Ross Sea, the world’s largest protected marine area. They travelled as part of the mātauranga Māori perspective of the five-year Ross Sea Marine Protected Area monitoring programme and the Community Engagement Programme with Antarctica NZ. For the film, Vanessa accompanied them to Antarctica.

The 14-minute short will screen in the festival’s Wildlife Through an Art Lens programme on 10-11 September in Sydney. WEOFF is Australia’s first film festival to focus purely on wildlife. It aims to create a thriving and sustainable future for wildlife and people in Oceania by showcasing wildlife, Indigenous, environmental, and natural history films.

Te Whakairo – Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao premiered in 2019 at Show Me Shorts. Since then, it has played at the Polar Film Festival in New York, FIFO in Tahiti, CSFF in China, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, and the Earth Futures Festival.

Best of luck to Vanessa, Emma, and the team at the festival!

The trailer for We Are Still Here was locally released on July 25, giving us a taste for this new, exciting film. The directorial team includes DEGANZ members Chantelle Burgoyne, Tim Worrall and board member Renae Maihi, along with Richard Curtis, Miki Magasiva, Mario Gaoa, Beck Cole, Danielle MacLean, Dena Curtis and Tracey Rigney.

The uniquely Indigenous film will make its Aotearoa premiere at the Whānau Mārama: NZIFF on August 4. It is also set to screen at MIFF in Melbourne and featured during the Sydney Film Festival’s opening night.

We Are Still Here is told through the perspectives of eight protagonists across 1,000 years, spanning past, present and future. It explores themes of kinship, grief and resilience. The interwoven stories highlight the strength of love and hope over the trauma that Indigenous people in the Pacific share. The film seeks to remind viewers that despite colonialism, racism, imperialism, and the attempted erasure of lives and culture, Indigenous people are still here.

Purchase tickets for NZIFF


Members Kath Akuhata-Brown and Bala Murali Shingade will soon head off to the MIFF Accelerator Lab at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Kath and Bala will be attending the Lab’s programmes this August with the financial support of the NZFC.

The Accelerator is an acclaimed lab for promising short filmmakers to assist in their transition into feature filmmaking. Each year, MIFF selects by invitation up to 25 directors from the festival’s short film programme.

The programme provides four days of seminars, workshops, screenings and networking opportunities on the screen industry’s business and creative aspects. These events occur in August alongside the films’ public screenings in the specifically tagged Accelerator Screenings selection. This concludes with the MIFF Shorts Awards. The award winners of the Best Short Film, Best Australian Short Film, Best Documentary and Best Animation will be eligible to enter the Oscars.

Kath Akuhata-Brown

Kath will be attending the MIFF Accelerator Lab for directing Washday, a short film inspired by an ancient Māori story of the wind and the power of a child’s love for a parent. Eight-year-old Hine devises a plan to wash away her father’s grief for her passed mother. The film highlights simple rituals of daily life and the constant spiritual presence of gods and ancestors in a small Māori family.

This touching story has screened at multiple other festivals and crowned NZIFF’s Best Short Film in 2021. Additionally, Washday will be screening at the Smithsonian’s Native Cinema Showcase in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this August.

Bala Murali Shingade

Bala was invited to the programme with his film Perianayaki, edited by fellow DEGANZ member Shailesh Prajapati. Titular character Perianayaki, a recent Sri Lankan immigrant, is forced to reconcile with the bittersweet realities of her life on the day of her wedding anniversary. The film encourages empathy and provokes audiences to reconsider their assumptions of often ignored immigrants and service industry workers. The slice-of-life film will premiere at NZIFF this year as part of the Whānau Mārama: New Zealand’s Best selection.

We wish Kath and Bala a great time at the Accelerator Lab!

View from the Top banner

Undoubtedly obvious to many of you who read this column regularly, but for those who don’t, I’ll point out that I monitor the happenings in the screen industry in Australia as one possible bellwether for New Zealand’s screen sector.

A trend there that has become blindingly clear from doing so is the incredible volume of commissioning going on in Australia by streamers. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been replicated in New Zealand.

So it was with interest that I read the story by screen ‘rag’ if.com.au about veteran screen journalist Sandy George’s Paper on the need for cultural value and Australianness to be the primary driver of screen funding for film and drama.

From the article:

George argues if there is nothing recognisably Australian on the screen, it carries little cultural value. It is ‘Australianness’ that excites local viewers, and cultural value is the main reason why taxpayer funding underpins drama production.”

From George’s paper:

“It’s time to be very clear that Screen Australia is there for culture.”

“Depending on economics to deliver cultural value is arse about.”

One underlying reason for George’s issue-raising is the homogenising of ‘Australian content’ due to the foreign money, projects and commissioning flowing into the country—its Australian distinctiveness is being lost.

Another is the convenient obfuscation that lumps foreign production in Australia together with Australian production, and calling it all Australian production. This makes it look like the screen industry there is rosier than it actually is.

At a time when Nude Tuesday, Whina, the soon to be released Muru, Good Grief and Creamerie amongst others are putting a distinctive Aotearoa NZ stamp onto screen content, you’d think we wouldn’t have to worry about loss of our identity.

But then, we haven’t been getting the volumes of international projects and commissioning that our cuzzies across the Tassie have.

However, George’s statement that Screen Australia is there for culture is very pertinent for us. Some argue that the New Zealand Film Commission and the Government have been gradually losing their ways on this front, including depending on economics to deliver cultural value when it comes to screen. The Screen Sector Investment Review, now underway, which is focused very particularly on the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZ’s version of the Aussie Producer Offset) and whether or not it’s delivering for New Zealand and our creatives, is therefore very timely.

Another point George makes is how exceptional cultural value in projects delivers exceptional Australian talents, the likes of Baz Luhrmann and George Miller, who then go on to deliver exceptional economic value. In our case, the likes of Peter Jackson, Jane Campion and Taika Waititi. She questions what and how screen talent development is conducted and focused to ensure these kinds of people come along—something we ourselves could give more attention to.

The article here and George’s paper here make interesting reading. And food for thought about how we could be doing things better from here on in.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

The 69th Sydney Film Festival (June 8-19) will be back in cinemas across 12 days and nights, promising to showcase the greatest, strangest and most exciting works cinema has to offer, with a number of DEGANZ members featuring.

Anthology film We Are Still Here will open SFF as well as have its World Premiere. The film is an unparalleled First Nations celebration, interweaving eight stories by 10 directors from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. That includes DEGANZ members Tim Worrall, Chantelle Burgoyne and board member Renae Maihi.

Conceived as a cinematic response to the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in this region, We Are Still Here is a poetic and powerful statement of resistance and survival. The other directors involved are Beck Cole, Danielle MacLean, Dena Curtis, Richard Curtis, Miki Magasiva, Mario Gaoa and Tracey Rigney. We Are Still Here is a joint indigenous initiative between Screen Australia’s First Nations Department and the NZ Film Commission.

Nude Tuesday is set to have its World Premiere at the festival as well, featured in the Special Presentations programme. Directed by our member Armagan Ballantyne and written by fellow DEGANZ member Jackie van Beek, the unique comedy, filled with eccentric characters and a made up language, follows a conservative middle-aged couple who try to rescue their failing marriage by attending  a new-age relationship retreat.

Directed and co-written by DEGANZ member Michelle Savill, Millie Lies Low, will have its Australian Premiere at SFF. Praised at the Berlin International Film festival and SXSW, Michelle’s dark comedy is a thoughtful exploration of anxiety and imposter syndrome.

Another Kiwi film having its Australian Premiere is biopic Whina. Directed by James Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones, Whina follows the tumultuous personal journey and unshakeable inner strength that led Whinā to become one of Aotearoa’s most formidable leaders.

Congratulations to our members and safe travels to those heading across the ditch to attend!

Learn more at the Sydney Film Festival website.