Tag Archive for: feature film

The highly anticipated Ka Whawhai Tonu – Struggle Without End is out now in cinemas nationwide! DEGANZ member Tim Worrall wrote the screenplay while current board member Te Rurehe Paki and fellow member Martin Brinkler ACE edited the film.

The action feature recreates the historical battle of O-Rākau, told from the Māori point of view for the first time on screen. Set in 1864 in Waikato, the film tells the story of a pivotal battle in the first land wars between Māori and Colonial forces through the eyes of two teenagers. Amidst the chaos and violence of the conflict, the two forge an unlikely friendship and take control of their destiny.

In an article with Stuff, director Mike Jonathan comments,

Making films about our past and especially the battles that happened, it’s about honouring those of the past and how else can you do it than making a movie to immortalise our tīpuna? […] It’s all about ‘ka whawhai tonu’ – to keep fighting, and we do that every day.”

Congratulations to Tim, Te Rurehe, Martin, and the rest of the team on the successful premiere!

You can catch Ka Whawhai Tonu at a cinema near you.

Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is on now, with features and shorts from DEGANZ members.

This year marks the 71st iteration of the festival with over 200 films from 69 countries in the programme. From 5-16 June, there will be screenings, film talks, red carpets, and parties across the city to celebrate the cinema and creatives selected.

SFF is launching the First Nations Award this year, establishing the world’s largest cash prize in global Indigenous filmmaking. 10 films have been selected including The Convert, Ka Whawhai Tonu, First Horse, The Mountain, and Lea Tupu’anga/Mother Tongue from Aotearoa with DEGANZ members involved.

Check out all films from DEGANZ members below!

The Convert

Programme Strands: Special Presentations, First Nations Award

Munro, a soldier turned lay preacher, comes to New Zealand to minister to the first British colonists, but he is converted by the powerful chief Maianui to serve a different purpose.

Editor: Luke Haigh

First Horse

Programme Strands: First Nations Award, Shorts Before Features

It’s 1826, and Aotearoa is on the cusp of colonisation. A young Māori girl’s encounter with a dying man and his horse exposes her to the best and worst of her rapidly changing world.

Editor: Cushla Dillon

Ka Whawhai Tonu

Programme Strand: First Nations Award

Set in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1864, Ka Whawhai Tonu tells the story of a pivotal battle in the first New Zealand land wars in the Waikato region. A battle fought with impossible odds between Māori and the Colonial forces. This heroic conflict is told through the eyes of two young teenagers forced to take control of their own destiny amidst the chaos of the battle and their escape.

Editors: Te Rurehe Paki and Martin Brinkler, ACE

Lea Tupu’anga/Mother Tongue

Programme Strands: First Nations Award, Shorts Before Features

A young speech therapist disconnected from her Tongan heritage lies about her Tongan language skills to get a job. Out of her depth, she must find a way to communicate or else she risks her patient’s life. Sundance 2024.

Director: Vea Mafile’o

The Mountain

Programme Strand: First Nations Award

Rachel House makes her directorial debut with this riotous and colourful drama about three children discovering friendship’s healing power through the spirit of adventure.

Co-Editor: Cushla Dillon

The Moon is Upside Down

Programme Strand: Features

A mail-order bride from Siberia, the lonely wife of a wealthy property investor, and an anaesthetist looking for frisky fun, are the engaging central characters in this sharply observed slice-of-life set around Wellington.

Director: Loren Taylor

A forty-five-second short horror film, garnering 16 million views online, propelled me into a dream I didn’t know I desired.

Life is a game of random chances. You put in the work and hope the universe aligns. For me, the creative professions were distant stars in the constellation of ‘What you could be when you grew up.’ For good reason. My parents grew up in extreme poverty. There were days when my father’s dinner consisted of just two mouthfuls of food. My mother studied under the light of a kerosene lamp. Surviving life in the thick political humidity of Malaysia, they rose above it all and won national scholarships that turned them into local beacons of hope, elevating their lives to the middle class. This was what made me resist committing to filmmaking for the longest time.

My first memory of watching a movie is time-stamped between the ages of two and five. Perched on my dad’s lap, tightly shutting my eyes and covering my ears in an attempt to shield myself from witnessing the eerie metamorphosis of a man to a werewolf.

My life was filled with any movies I could get my hands on: Hong Kong movies, Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies – I was agnostic. It didn’t matter whether it was good or bad; it was my escape from the stifling Malaysian life. I wondered about my sliding door moment if I never came to New Zealand. Because New Zealand is my enabler.

Hweiling directing on the set of ‘Vaspy’ / Photo: supplied

When Ant Timpson ran a competition for his ABCs of Death anthology. Our team, consisting of Peter Haynes, Johnathan Guest, and Nick Burridge, entered with T is for Talk, a horror concept that I came up with. This was my creative awakening. For the first time, I experienced what it was like to see something my brain cooked up translated to screen. And it was watched, ripped, re-uploaded by others. I believe the true viewership count is in the millions.

From this short film, three things happened almost simultaneously: we received Skip Ahead funding; CryptTV, a digital studio, reached out looking for short horror bites in under a minute; and I received the New Zealand Film Commission’s one-off Women’s Short Horror Film Fund.

We pitched ten ideas to CryptTV, and they selected the two I came up with. I knew nothing about directing and insisted that I needed to direct at least one of the short films we pitched to CryptTV. The Tattooist climbed to 16 million views within the first year.

Hweiling directing on the set of ‘Vaspy’ / Photo: supplied

Being a migrant in this country is challenging. Social nuances are different. I was still looking for my tribe. I had gotten so used to being on the outside. This is where I met my second enabler. A chance meeting with Mia Maramara, where she made me giggle about eyeballs floating in fish guts; we would cook up ideas and enable each other, propelling us into various places. We shared many values. Along the way, we combined forces with the amazing Morgan Leigh Stewart and created MHM Productions with a shared vision to work on genre films and collaborate with cool people.

Homebound 3.0 was another random chance encounter. When NZ On Air called for Asian Pacific web series, I rallied everyone I knew to apply. I had just come off directing Sam Wang in a play and he pitched his idea to me and I immediately saw its potential. It didn’t get into that initiative, but it won the SPADA big pitch 2019 and caught the attention of Kevin and Co. Empowered by friends, I asked to direct a couple of episodes, and thankfully, the team said yes.

Hweiling directing on ‘Vivie’, her latest short film selected to premiere at SXSW Sydney / Photo: supplied

Since then, I have been phenomenally grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. With the support of the New Zealand Film Commission, I was able to direct and write my short films Vaspy (horror), ChengBeng (Unreal), and Vivie (Kopere Hou). I co-wrote and co-produced Albularyo with the MHM team, which was part of Beyond the Veil on TVNZ. I received the New Zealand Writers Guild Seed Grant and co-wrote the feature horror Grafted with Mia Maramara, set to release later this year. Additionally, I received another Seed Grant for a feature comedy about a nihilistic Asian grandmother.

 My advice to cut through the noise? Utilise the free online soapbox to your advantage. Popularity and external validation literally count. You will be asked what your voice is. And I challenge you to look for the uncomfortable truth within yourself, the one that makes you feel vulnerable. That is likely your authentic voice that people want to hear and see. And then ensure you are supported by a team of people (definitely do a background check no matter what their credits are – hahaha) who will care for that heart as you journey through baring your soul naked to the world.


About Hweiling Ow

Upon arriving in New Zealand, Hweiling Ow was bitten by a radioactive Weta that made her fall stupendously in love with film-making. She has since developed muti-hyphenated skills in the areas of producing, writing, directing and acting, and has been taking the world by storm with her online digital series and short horror films that have garnered millions of views. She has also successfully received New Zealand funding for numerous local productions. Like a moth drawn to a flame thrower, she is attracted to telling genre stories with a migrant twist. Her quirky cheery view of the world influences the type of projects she is captivated by. She is the recipient of the 2020 WIFT Women to Watch and participated in DEGANZ’s Women’s Filmmaker Incubator in 2021. She is currently one-third of MHM, a collaborative production company between her and fellow creatives Mia Maramara and Morgan Leigh Stewart.

How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with admin@deganz.co.nz if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Poppy, edited by Jonno Woodford-Robinson (DEGANZ), has won the 2024 Cannes Écrans Seniors competition.

The feature follows Poppy Simpson, a young woman with Down Syndrome who refuses to be defined by disability and takes control of her own life. Her ambition to become a motor mechanic is stalled when her brother inherits the family garage business, preventing her from taking the apprenticeship promised to her by her late father. She then teams up with a friend from school who needs his car fixed to progress her plans.

Cannes Écrans Seniors is an annual film competition by the city of Cannes in collaboration with Cannes Cinéma. Poppy screened in a showcase highlighting films from Aotearoa and Australia and received the award from a jury of cinephiles headed by French director Emmanuelle Dubergey.

This accolade is another on the film’s long list of awards and festival screenings. Congratulations to Jonno and the team!

DEGANZ member Loren Taylor‘s directorial debut, The Moon is Upside Down is out now in cinemas across Aotearoa.

The Kiwi dramedy follows the intersecting lives of three women as they each venture through unfamiliar landscapes, grappling with loneliness, isolation, and longing. Natalia, a mail-order bride from Siberia with dreams of running a cafe, arrives in Aotearoa to find the reality of her situation is far from what she was led to believe. Briar, a burnt-out anaesthetist, attempts to have a romantic weekend away with her long-time, online boyfriend despite their plans falling apart. Faith, a wealthy empty nester, goes to great lengths to honour a stranger’s life after unexpectedly coming into possession of their ashes.

Loren not only wrote and directed the film, but she also stars in it as Briar. Joining her in the stacked cast is Jemaine Clement (MacIntosh), Rachel House (Tuffy), Elizabeth Hawthorne (Faith), Robyn Malcolm (Hilary), Robbie Magasiva (Tim) and more.

The film has received critical acclaim in the festival rounds, winning Best First Feature Film at the PÖFF Tallinn Black Night Film Festival in 2023.

You can find screenings near you here.