By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since last Thursday (August 10th), Rio de Janeiro has been hosting the New Zealand Film Festival for the first time. After passing through São Paulo, the free event presents nine feature films at Espaço Itaú de Cinema, in Botafogo, in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone).
Among the films that will be available to the public, two are featured: “Mahana (The Patriarch)”, nominated for six awards at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards 2017; and “White Lies”, which received the Best Director Award at The WIFTS Foundation International Visionary. Both are based on the works of writer Witi Ihimaera.
Mahana screened Thursday on the opening night but can be seen again tomorrow, on Sunday, August 13th. The film is based on a novel by Ihimaera, who also wrote the book behind the 2002 breakout hit “Whale Rider”, which is screening tonight, Saturday, August 12th at 9:20 PM.
Whale Rider was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 2004, for the young Keisha Castle-Hughes, and is perhaps the best know film from New Zealand after the 1994 shocking drama “Once Were Warriors”.
The list of productions in this New Zealand Film Festival also includes the documentary Hip Hop-eration and The Ground We Won and other feature-length films based on real events: Boy, The Dead Lands, The Dark Horse and Born to Dance. The festival runs until Wednesday, August 16th and then passes through Curitiba (August 17th-23rd) and Belo Horizonte (August 24th-30th).
The first New Zealand Film Festival in Latin America will also go to Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Mexico, Cuba and Colombia. According to New Zealand Consul General Nick Swallow, film is a great way to present the country’s culture and the project’s purpose is to increase the interaction between countries, especially Brazil, through audiovisual co-productions.
“We know that there is growing interest in Brazil for quality films and international co-productions. We are working for more and more interaction between our [film] industries. Our film industry is relatively small, but it is very innovative, creative and internationalized. We believe that, together, the audiovisual professionals of Brazil and New Zealand, can produce productions of the highest quality,” the consul-general told a government news agency.
According to Swallow, Brazil and New Zealand have been tightening relations for some time and for various reasons. “I think we are realizing more and more that we are closer than we think and that we have many cultural points in common. Simple and informal lifestyles are perhaps the main ones. We believe that personal ties and cultural interaction are central to long-term relationships.”
New Zealand’s Ambassador to Brazil, Caroline Bilkey, also highlights the similarity between stories and characters recorded in both countries’ audiovisual works. “Perhaps the most interesting similarity between the two countries is the fact that they both accumulate great stories, lived by seemingly trivial characters and documented in cinematographic works.”
She adds, “The works we have selected for the festival approach these possibilities. They are stories that translate to film the strength of the characters, the impact, the contributions and revolutions that can be caused by individuals.”
What: New Zealand Film Festival
When: Thursday, August 10th Wednesday, August 16th
Where: Espaço Itaú de Cinema – Botafogo