The Wairoa Maori Film Festival returns to its former home the Gaiety this year, following a revamp that’s come about from an unlikely combination of forces.
While re-opening the theatre is no small achievement in itself, it’s only the beginning of a bigger plan for the district to establish itself as a serious presence on the national and international media landscape. The local council is keen to establish a digital creative workspace in the region, and sees re-opening the Gaiety as a first step.
It’s been a while coming. After the Gaiety closed six years ago, for all the same reasons many small independent cinemas around the country have closed their doors, the film festival moved to Nuhaka Marae. The then council didn’t support upgrading and re-opening the theatre, but the council elected last year got on board the idea.
The deal is between Wairoa District Council, Te Mātārae o Te Wairoa Trust (which manages the Gaiety Theatre) and Eric Stark, CTO of Shaw Studios in Hong Kong, whose Starkraving company is installing the country’s first 9.3 surround sound system in the theatre.
Once the Gaiety is up and running again, Stark’s team will develop a schools’ workshop programme on picture, sound and VFX. From there, the plan is to establish a tertiary level school.
Wairoa District Council’s Fergus Power said the plans represented “a very real possibility of local employment for our creative young people, keen to adopt skills in the latest digital technologies.”
Stark told The Wairoa Star, “It is our intention to employ locally as many people as we can, as well as bring in national and international media projects to be completed in Te Wairoa.”
Stark and Creative Coast’s King first met through Alex Galvin’s independent feature Eternity, on which they were both producers. The film shot and posted here and in Hong Kong. Eternity was the second NZ feature to do post work in Hog Kong in recent years, after Roseanne Liang’s My Wedding & Other Secrets did its print subtitling there.
King was also a producer on Bos O’Sullivan’s 2011 doco Through the Heart, and is presently producing another documentary, due for completion later in the year.
The Gaiety has its grand reopening on Saturday, with various of the festival’s programmes playing there through the weekend. Gaylene Preston will keynote at Saturday night’s gala awards bash.
Festival director Leo Koziol said, “Seeing a state-of-the-art cinema in place is a grand achievement with much promise for Wairoa.”
Wairoa Maori Film Festival runs 29 May – 1 June.