Dubbed by the American Film
Institute as "one of the wonders of the world... an
unparalleled success story", the film industry of
New Zealand is truly amazing.
Surely the population
of filmmakers from New Zealand who have gained the
attention of the world is well beyond what the
nation's small population and separate location from
major city centers of culture might be anticipated
to have presented.
The success of the industry has been based on the
practice of versatility and modernization which has
influenced the industry from its younger days.
values of industry have been preserved, not just out
of need, but due to the well-built value New
Zealanders place on doing things that way.
The first movies were presented in New Zealand as long ago
as 1896, but the film industry’s 1st phase started in 1913
when 3 films directed by Gaston Melies founded on the
stories of the Maori, were shown.
These were “Loved by a
Maori Chieftainess”, “How Chief Te Ponga Won His Bride”, and
“Hinemoa”. Approximately 28 movies were produced in the next
30 years. These included the 1922 film “The Birth of New
Zealand”, the 1925 flick “Rewi’s Last Stand”, and “Down on
the Farm” shown in 1935.
The present phase in the filmmaking industry in New
Zealand started in the 1970s with a film production
revolution. Over 200 movies have been produced in
the thirty years since the 1977 flick “Sleeping
Dogs” by Roger Donaldson.
New Zealand went on to produce directors who were
successful such as the director of the hits of 2001
“Rain” and 2003 “Sylvia” Christine Jeffs, and
director Niki Caro who’s works were 2002 “Whale
Rider” and 2005 “North Country”.
Perhaps the industry’s highpoint production came
with the 2001-2003 “The Lord of the Rings trilogy”
by director Peter Jackson.
Those 3 movies, with technology effects of produced at the
Wellington facilities of Jackson, were the best proof of the
production and technical abilities of New Zealand’s film
industry at any level.
This decade has seen the rise of new young filmmakers of New
Zealand making names for themselves globally, pursuing a
wide array of genres and themes.
A number like the makers of “Black Sheep” (Jonathan
King, 2007), “The Ferryman” (Chris Graham, 2007) and
“The Tattooist” (Peter Burger, 2007) have joyfully
specialized in horror of a supernatural nature.
Horror and science fiction have combined in “Perfect
Creature“ by Glenn Standring (2007), a truly unique
manner of reinventing the vampire myth set against
an alternate variation of the 1960s.
industry of New Zealand has also allowed for a
showcase for its local actors, several of whom have
become famous internationally. The career of Sam
Neill (of “Jurassic Park” and “The Piano” fame) was
established with “Sleeping Dogs”, and he has become
one of the most successful actors of New Zealand.
Other notable actors from New Zealand are Anna Paquin (New
Zealand’s first actor to win an Academy Award for her
performance in “The Piano”), and Keisha Castle-Hughes of
“Whale Rider” fame was also nominated for the coveted award.