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Wairarapa stories to inspire

The cast and crew of Come Morning – directed by American Derrick Sims, now based in Pahiatua. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
[email protected]

A dark comedy starring a pre-fame Jemaine Clement, an arthouse whodunit shot on a smartphone, an up-close-and-personal musical biopic, and work from one of world’s finest indigenous directors: the 2022 Wairarapa Film Festival has no shortage of “uniquely Wairarapa” content to thrill audiences and galvanise up-and-coming filmmakers.

The second annual festival kicks off next weekend at Regent 3 Cinemas in Masterton – with screenings of short and feature-length films including Wairarapa actors, screenwriters, and production crew.

The Masterton programme features content by both emerging and veteran artists: from two visionary Masterton teenagers to pre-eminent activist filmmaker and Chanel College alumnus Barry Barclay.

Each screening will be followed by Q&A sessions with members of the films’ cast and crew, who will share their experiences, insights, and creative processes with the audience.

The festival will continue throughout the year, with events to be held in Carterton and South Wairarapa.

A scene from the music documentary Swagger of Thieves, by Wairarapa filmmaker Julian Boshier.

Festival director Jane Ross organised last year’s event to showcase Wairarapa’s many talented filmmakers – and was encouraged to make the festival an annual event after a “phenomenal” response from the community.

Ross, a television and film writer, critic, and proud cinephile, has organised various film festivals throughout the country – and said it was important for Wairarapa audiences to see themselves represented on screen.

“Wairarapa deserves to have its own event that’s dedicated to our own, unique local stories,” she said.

“There’s something so powerful in being able to recognise yourself and your community in the media you enjoy – it creates a real sense of pride.

“Plus, it’s inspiring for young and emerging filmmakers in Wairarapa – it shows them what is possible.”

The festival will open on Friday, May 27, with screenings of the 2000 short film Fizz – featuring a young Jemaine Clement as a man who faces off against a vending machine – followed by Come Morning, a backwoods mystery set in rural Arkansas.

The latter film was a collaboration between director Derrick Sims and his screenwriter wife Alaina – who relocated to Pahiatua from the US last year, and now manage the town’s Regent cinema.

The next day will begin with a matinee screening of Milk Stains, a short film by WaiCol pupils Luca Neilsen and Daniel Johnston-Kanavatoa (“about a milk man who loses his mind”), followed by the 2018 film Blue Moon, starring Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, and Liz Mullane, who lived in Wairarapa at the time.

Blue Moon, screened as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival, was filmed at a Motueka petrol station – using an iPhone.

Ross said she is particularly excited about the Saturday night screening of Swagger of Thieves: a documentary by director and Kuranui College old boy Julian Boshier, capturing “the high and lows” of Kiwi rockers Head Like A Hole.

The documentary, filmed over two decades, is a “hard watch”, Ross said, but is also a moving portrayal of the friendship between founding members Nigel Beazley and Nigel Regan, who met while boarding at Rathkeale College.

“It’s amazing. There’s a lot of hard stuff, like thieving, drug use, and nudity. But then there’s all these lovely scenes of the two Nigels having breakfast with their children.”

The programme will conclude on the Sunday, with screenings of The Old Man Next Door, starring veteran actor and “friend of the festival” Lawrence Wharerau, followed by Barry Barclay’s 1987’s drama Ngati – thought to be the first film to have a solely Māori cast and crew.

For this year’s festival, Ross has partnered with Wellington UNESCO City of Film – which has provided funding for Victoria and Massey university students to participate in the festival.

UNESCO will cover the cost of the students’ tickets to two of the screenings, and transport to and from Wairarapa.

“I studied film myself – and I know how hard it can be to participate in these events when you’re a student and struggling with money” Ross said.

“Having that engagement with rangatahi, and creating an accessible film culture, is so significant.”

  • More information is available at waifilmfest.co.nz.

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