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The Orator to speak in Venice

The 68th Venice International Film Festival announced today in Rome that New Zealand feature film The Orator (O Le Tulafale) has been selected to premiere in competition in the Orizzonti (New Horizons) section of the Festival.
New Zealand Film Commission CEO, Graeme Mason, said today “The Orator’s selection is outstanding and an important endorsement of New Zealand as a significant and relevant part of the global film industry.  To have a film from New Zealand selected to compete against feature films by industry greats like Jonathan Demme, and for that film to also premiere alongside new works by world renowned directors, is an incredible honour.  I congratulate Tusi, Catherine and all the cast and crew on their film’s selection.”

Tamasese’s Samoan language short Va Tapuia (Sacred Spaces) premiered at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival and went on to the ImagiNative, Show me Shorts, Clermont Ferrand, Oberhausen and All Roads Film Festivals.

Written and directed by debut feature film-maker Tusi Tamasese, The Orator’s selection will place Tamasese in an illustrious group of New Zealand filmmakers whose films have screened at the Venice International Film Festival. 

The first was Jane Campion’s special jury prize winner An Angel At My Table in 1990, followed by Peter Jackson’s 1994 Heavenly Creatures (winner, Silver Lion).

The mid-90s were a bit of a purple patch for NZ in Venice. 1994 also saw Lee Tamahori’s debut feature Once Were Warriors win the festival’s Best First Film award. The following year Gaylene Preston’s War Stories (Our Mothers Never Told Us) screened as on official selection. Jackson returned in 1996 with the co-written and -directed (with Costa Botes) 1996 Forgotten Silver.

Rachel Douglas’ 2002 Blessed was the most recent NZ feature selected, until this week.

Filmed entirely on the island of Upolu, Samoa and in the Samoan language, The Orator is a contemporary drama about courage, forgiveness and love.  It tells the story of Saili who lives a simple, humble life with his beloved wife and daughter in an isolated, traditional village in the islands of Samoa.  Forced to protect his land and family, Saili must overcome his fears and find the courage to speak up for those he loves.
Produced by Catherine Fitzgerald (Rain of the Children, Two Cars One Night) with Associate Producers Maiava Nathaniel Lees and Michael Eldred, the film was shot by acclaimed NZ cinematographer Leon Narbey (No 2, Dean Spanley, Whale Rider).
Tusi Tamasese and Catherine Fitzgerald will attend the premiere of The Orator with the assistance of the New Zealand Film Commission and the Venice International Film Festival, which runs from August 31st through to September 10th, 2011, just ahead of Toronto.
The Orator has been financed by the New Zealand Film Commission with assistance from the Government of Samoa.  It will be distributed in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands by Transmission Films, who released Boy.  NZ Film is handling world sales of the film.
The full list of films selected for Venice’s New horizons strand is here.