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The Orator speaks for New Zealand

The NZFC announced yesterday that Tusi Tamasese’s debut feature O Le Tulafale/The Orator has been submitted for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.

The NZFC made the announcement in a media release, announcing the committee that selected the picture as comprising writer, director and producer Sir Peter Jackson; writers and producers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens; designers Ngila Dickson and Grant Major; actress Keisha Castle-Hughes; editor David Coulson (features The Vintner’s Luck, We’re Here to Help, Whale Rider and shorts Manurewa, Kitchen Sink); NZFC CEO Graeme Mason and cinematographer John Toon (Sunshine Cleaning, Rain, Broken English).

The Orator premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in the Orizzonti Competition section. It came away with a positive Variety review and three awards: a Special Mention from the Orizzonti Jury; the Art Cinema Award from the CICAE Jury of the Festival; and the CinemAvvenire Best Film Award from the Jury of the Associazione Centro Internazionale CinemAvvenire.

It’s since had screenings in Samoa where it was shot and earlier this week in Wellington for an audience including the Samoan Prime Minister and royalty.

The Film Commission has been excited about the film for some time, but it was only after its Venice screenings and reception that the decision was taken to put it forward for Oscar consideration, once the NZFC confirmed that “it wasn’t only us who loved it.”

Graeme Mason said, “This is the first time New Zealand has submitted a film for consideration for the Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards®. The selection of this film by a committee of such calibre is a further endorsement of the special qualities of this beautiful film and could provide a terrific platform for Tusi’s career as a filmmaker.”

As several of the committee are previous Academy nominees or awardees, and many in the middle of The Hobbit, it’s a strong endorsement for the film.

The NZFC put in 90% of the film’s $2.3 million budget, with the Government of Samoa stumping up the remainder. Michael Eldred’s Transmission Films, which last year released Boy, distributes the film in NZ. NZ Film, the sales arm of the NZFC, is handling world sales of the film.

The list of films (currently 45) will be cut to five by the Academy, with the nominees announced on 24 January. The Oscar ceremony will be on 26 February.