Jane Ross, director of the first Wairarapa Film Festival. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

In a world first, the Wairarapa Film Festival will be coming soon to a theatre near you.

The festival will feature films, presentations and exhibitions inspired by the region, its history, and its inhabitants.

Many of the event’s 24 films have been made or produced by people from Wairarapa.

Festival director Jane Ross said she was inspired by her background in film to curate and organise the event, which has been almost a year in the making.

“To the best of my knowledge there has never been a Wairarapa Film Festival,” she said.

“I would call it a passion project. It’s come together surprisingly well. I can’t wait to share this with the entire community,” she said of the project.

The collection of nine feature films and 15 short films, together with visiting guest speakers all have some connection to the region.

As well as the films, there will be a series of archival images curated by Wairarapa Archives telling the story of local cinema and cinema-going.

“I wanted to celebrate that we really do have a rich history of film-making and cinema in Wairarapa.”

There are a variety of genres, including comedy, sci-fi, drama and others. Ross has added a nostalgia element by showing ‘shorts’ before the feature-length offerings.

“That was my childhood, growing up,” Ross said of the double features.

The programme features historically significant and current films. Many films have introductions by people connected with them.

“The very first film dates from 1940 and will be shown at the Regent in Masterton because of it’s historical significance. Called ‘Rewi’s Last Stand’, the lead actress was born in Martinborough.”

It is based on the famous battle of Orakau when Rewi Maniapoto resisted more than 2000 British troops during a three-day siege.

Lead actress Ramai Te Miha still has family living in the Pirinoa area.

The film would also be shown in Martinborough.

Vigil, directed by Greytown-born Vincent Ward, was the first New Zealand feature film to be selected to compete at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1984.

It was met with widespread international critical acclaim, including winning best film at the Madrid film festival.

“It put New Zealand film making on the international stage,” Ross said.

“I’ve been very humbled by how generous my film makers have been. Vincent Ward took the time to do a 45-minute radio interview with me which is now on a podcast.”

The film, based on the experiences of a child living in a remote valley, was based Ward’s own life growing up on a remote rural farm and having those feelings of isolation.

A surprising addition is the well-known ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, included because co-director, co-producer and co-writer Jemaine Clement grew up in Masterton and went to Makoura College.

Other films include ‘March On’, a documentary about the Featherston Military Camp, and ‘A Seat at the Table’, about the New Zealand wine industry.

The Wairarapa premiere of ‘Two idiots and a Tin Whistle’, a mockumentary filmed near Carterton, is part of the festival.

Makoura College would be featuring a short film made by the students as part of the programme.

Both Makoura College and Kuranui College would be running fundraisers.

The festival will have screenings in Masterton, Carterton, and Martinborough starting on May 26 through to the end of October.

  • More information and a full programme is at www.waifilmfest.co.nz.


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