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AFTAs a stacked deck

13 July 2011
Mike Riddell Media release

The 2011 Aotearoa (formerly Qantas) Film & Television Awards are proceeding with a stacked deck, according to film producer Mike Riddell. He accuses the organising committee of the new AFTA awards of an inbuilt bias before the judging has even begun.

His claims of prejudice result from the news that film entries to the Awards will be subsidised for films funded by the NZ Film Commission, but not for independents. Riddell argues that this is a form of discrimination that removes any pretence of a level playing field. Last year the NZFC funded entirely all entries to the Qantas Awards.

Each entry to the film AFTAs will cost $300 per category, with seventeen feature film categories meaning a potential cost to unsubsidised films of $5,100. “Show me the genuinely independent film that has that sort of money to throw around,” says Riddell.

Riddell’s film The Insatiable Moon (starring Rawiri Paratene) featured at the NZ Film Festival in July last year, and was a sell-out success that received a prolonged standing ovation. The low budget movie, shot for $340,000, out-performed the majority of the NZFC’s films at the box office. It received accolades both here and abroad, where the prestigious UK Empire magazine awarded it four stars – a rating of ‘excellent’.

“We made the film entirely on private investment when the Film Commission refused to fund us,” says Riddell. “That’s their judgement and we can live with that, but to be penalised by the AFTA organisers for not getting financial support from the gatekeepers of NZ film is a real kick in the guts. It’s like the days when they used to charge people for ‘insufficient means of support’”.

Riddell argues that the subsidy, which is provided by the NZFC, should not be used to allow easier access to films coming from their own stable. “A film competition needs to be open and accessible to all entrants, regardless of the resources they have received for production,” argues Riddell. “This early hint of bias discredits the entire competition.”

“One of the characters in The Insatiable Moon has a line that sums up what it’s like to be on the bottom of the heap: ‘Bastards are bastards, and they’ll be kicking the shit out of the likes of us until the end of time’”, says Riddell. “It’s a sentiment I can identify with.”

Not to lie down and take it, the film’s producers are having a whip-round among their supporters, trying to honour their cast and crew by nominating them for awards. Given the opportunity, Riddell claims they’ll give the NZFC-funded films a run for their money. “All we want is a fair shake,” he claims.

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