WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Don’t misunderstand: New Zealand’s independent film community is enormously grateful for Peter Jackson, whose blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, among other things, gave Kiwi directors a jolt of confidence.
“We saw one of our own kind do it,” said Robert Sarkies, a Wellington-based screenwriter and director. “For a remote country that lacks industry and has a feeling of cultural insecurity, what Peter Jackson achieved is pretty huge.”
Still, some film people here worry that Mr. Jackson’s rise has come at a price. The New Zealand government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Mr. Jackson’s mainstream movies and even rewritten labor laws to accommodate his Hollywood partners. What about other homegrown directors, particularly those interested in artier cinema? Is enough being done to make their careers sprout?
“The government has shown generosity toward these big films while smaller ones are left to struggle,” said Mr. Sarkies, whose movies include “Two Little Boys,” a comedy starring Bret McKenzie. “The fact is, government funding for smaller New Zealand films hasn’t even remained the same; it has gotten smaller and smaller.”
This time last year, New Zealand was under the spell of the Rugby World Cup, with host nation enthusiasm going a long way to realising the organisers’ vision of a “stadium of four million”. In 2012, the big event features hairy feet of a different sort, with the New Zealand-made film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening with a world premiere in Wellington, the home town of director Sir Peter Jackson, in six weeks.
A decade after Jackson’s three-film adaptation of JRR Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings emerged to critical and popular acclaim, the countdown to The Hobbit – in its film form, also a trilogy – began last week in earnest. In earnest and in fact: Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown unveiled a giant clock, complete with an image of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, counting down the minutes to the 28 November premiere.
The clock sits atop the Embassy Theatre, the handsome 1920s cinema that will host the screening. A bevy of international stars, led, it’s safe to predict, by Freeman, will return to Wellington to walk the red carpet down Courtenay Place. The last time the 500m carpet was unrolled, for the world premiere of The Return of the King in 2003, about 120,000 people came to watch the procession. Organisers expect a similar turnout this time. “It will be a real carnival atmosphere,” promises Wade-Brown.
There is nothing subtle about efforts to piggyback. The national tourism slogan “100% Pure New Zealand” has become “100% Middle-earth“, while in the days leading up to the premiere Wellington will be “renamed”, Wade-Brown announced last week, as “Middle of Middle-earth”.
It would all no doubt bewilder Tolkien, who conjured up his Middle-earth from Oxfordshire in the 1930s, and never travelled as far as New Zealand.
Several New Zealand wine brands have been honoured by an international magazine.
Drinks International produces a list of top 50 ‘world’s most admired wine brands’ and this year seven NZ-based names feature.
Brancott Estate, Oyster Bay, Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, Babich, Wither Hills, and Nobilo are listed alongside international brands such as Penfolds, Michel Chapoutier, and Chateau Margaux as being leading players in the global wine industry.
Chris Yorke, New Zealand Winegrowers’ Global Marketing Director, said he was delighted with the recognition.
“It reconfirms New Zealand’s position as a producer of premium, diverse and sustainable wines,” he said.
Sixty members of the global wine community – including wine masters Peter McCombie, Peter Marks, Tuomas Meriluoto, Kym Milne and Lynne Sherriff -nominated the wine brands they admire most.
Brancott Estate – which was recently rebranded from Montana – and Oyster Bay both featured in the top 20.
Strange Random Wine Quote:
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
‘I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine’.
G.K. Chesterton, Wine and Water
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The Ngakau Toa theatre company, who launch the festival with their performance of Troilus And Cressida, shook London’s Globe Theatre with the rhythmic stamping and cries made famous by New Zealand’s rugby team.
The actors’ tattooed thighs were an unusual sight at the Globe Theatre, a replica of the 16th century playhouse on the south bank of the River Thames that presented many of of Shakespeare’s plays during his own lifetime.
Other highlights of the Shakespeare festival will include a South Sudanese version of Cymbeline, a performance of The Comedy Of Errors by Afghan actors, and Richard III by the National Theatre of China.
Deaf actors will also present Love’s Labours Lost in sign language.The festival runs until June 9 as part of cultural celebrations leading up to the Olympics, which begin on July 27.
“It’s probably one of the most ambitious festivals of all time,” director Tom Bird said, adding that a key aim was to attract London’s many linguistic communities to the theatre.
“The other thing is to show that Shakespeare isn’t really an English poet,” he said.
“He’s become a part of world culture.”
Strange Random Maori Quote:
“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Maori Proverb
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“Kiwi society functions in a way both recognisable and reassuring to Americans: everyone speaks English, people shake hands when they meet, and they eat bacon and eggs for breakfast,” he says in Notes From a New Zealand Newbie.
“Still, another country is another country, and since it is my first visit here, I decided to jot down all the reminders that I wasn’t in Kansas (or New York or California) anymore.”
Kugel, who writes a weekly travel column for the Times as the ‘Frugal Traveller’, says people in New Zealand like walking around without shoes – at supermarkets, on streets, “all over”.
“It’s not everyone, but it’s a significant enough minority to be quite striking and a bit disconcerting. Sure, city sidewalks are clean. But they’re still city sidewalks.”
Prior to coming Downunder, Kugel had only heard of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and was consequently “misled by the English-sounding names”.
But the Maori language is in fact everywhere, he tells readers.
“Certain words are used frequently, even by those with no Maori ancestry.”Pakeha”, for example, is a common word for people of European origin – used by both Maori and European New Zealanders.”
Strange Random New Zealand Quote:
“Terrible tragedy of the south seas. Three million people trapped alive.” – Thomas Jefferson Scott
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