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NZIFF 2013 announces first features

The NZIFF has announced Alison Maclean as selector for this year’s New Zealand’s Best Shorts and the first six features to play in the festival. Four of the features are local, three of them documentaries.

Maclean is well known for her Cannes-debuted and multiple award-winning short Kitchen Sink (1989) and features Crush (1992) and Jesus’ Son (1999). More recently she’s been focused on US TV work, which includes The L Word, The Tudors and Sex and the City. In the last decade she’s also made three more shorts herself: Intolerable (2006), The Choices We Make (2007) and the in-post The Professor.

Once the festival team has whittled down entries for NZ’s Best Shorts to a dozen, Maclean will select up to six finalists. The finalists are due to be announced 30 May.

Last year’s inaugural edition of the competition, for which Roger Donaldson made the finalists’ selection, was won by Sam Kelly’s Lambs. It beat out Campbell Hooper’s 43,000 Feet; Michelle Savill’s Ellen Is Leaving; Thomas Gleeson’s Home; Marina Alofagia McCartney’s Milk & Honey; and Zia Mandviwalla’s Night Shift.

Night Shift and Ellen is Leaving have both qualified for consideration at next year’s Oscars, courtesy of their respective wins at Show Me Shorts and South By Southwest. Richard Mans’ Abiogenesis, which also screened in last year’s NZIFF, achieved an honourable mention from the Academy.

The six features announced for the NZIFF include a pair from the US, Rick Rowley’s documentary Dirty Wars (trailer) and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color (trailer), plus four local features.

All the local features are making their world premiere appearances at the NZIFF.

Following the success of last year’s nuns-in-the-country hit How Far is Heaven, Jess Feast taps into the zeitgeist with Gardening with Soul, a portrait of former NZ Gardener of the Year and nonogenarian Sister Loyola, still tending a community garden she established and “providing refreshingly candid reflections on life and religion”.

Also with soul, Amy Taylor’s Soul in the Sea follows dolphin Moko, who spent six months in Whakatane shortly before his death in 2010.

Anthony Powell’s Antarctica; A Year on Ice is the product of nine winters in one of the planet’s less hospitable environments. It offers a hi-def look at the continent’s harsh conditions, covering some of the same territory Richard Sidey’s 2010 stunning triptych Landscapes at the World’s Ends captured.

The one fiction feature to make the first announcement is Zoe McIntosh’s debut fiction feature The Deadly Ponies Gang (“a strange yet familiar world of green Kiwi hills, pony clubs, and backyard barbecues, strangely intersecting with the music, and tribal customs of ghetto L.A.”).

McIntosh’s short Day Trip played the 2010 festival and went on to win Best Actor at the final Qantas Film & TV Awards that year. Her feature doco, Lost in Wonderland won Best Cinematography (Doco/Factual) and Best Popular Documentary at the same event.

This year’s NZIFF kicks off in Auckland on 18 July and Wellington 26 July, completing its run in New Plymouth on 6 November.

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