NZIFF’s highlights – One screening: New Zealand’s Best Short Films

Kiwi director Christine Jeffs (Sunshine Cleaning, Sylvia, Rain) chose successfully six finalists from a shortlist selected by New Zealand International Film Festival programmers Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell from 75 submissions. I already wrote it in my half-time report that I was very impressed by the quality of the New Zealand’s Best Short Films I saw at the NZIFF 2015.

As it is difficult to see shorts outside of the festival circuit, I’ll try in this post to give you a glimpse of these little gems.

On the featured image, you can see Director Mike Jonathan (Ow What!) and Director Ivan Barge (Madam Black) with Programmer Michael McDonnell at the screening of the New Zealand’s Best Short Films – NZIFF 2015

Showcasing short films

New Zealand is a small country with a developped & gifted cinema industry but still,  cinema costs a lot of money and small countries with smaller economy have more difficulties to support their industry. That’s why it’s almost a wonder that Peter Jackson could build his studios in Wellington; we forget that too often.

In this perspective, directing & producing shorts is a good way to showcase Kiwi talents overseas. All the shorts I present here have received the support of the New Zealand Film Commission and most of them have been presented in famous film festivals such as Palm Springs, DC Washington, Rhode Island International Film Festival etc. But because of the regulation of the festival circuit, there were no Kiwi Premiere at the NZIFF this year.

A very diverse choice

The screening was made up of six shorts and there was no time to get bored! Actually, I wish it didn’t stop 🙂 Christine Jeffs, Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell chose very different movies: some from professional and even wellknown filmmakers (Alyx Duncan for example), some by emerging talents (Not Like Her is the work of a student of Victoria University!). They’ve got all in common a polished and original cinematography and a coherent, well-plotted script. That what we expect from short movies: a unity as a whole that takes us into a perfectly controlled world.

What are they about?

New Zealand’s love for rugby is a never-ending inspiration for artists: Both Tits on a Bull and Ow What refer to it. The first introduces us realistically to a female rugby team; the second presents us the aspiration of a Māori boy that wants to be like his absent rugby-playing father, the film plunges us in a more dreamlike atmosphere. It’s also important to note that Ow What was set in the Ruatoki Valley which is situated in the East of North Island of New Zealand. There lives Tūhoe, a very independant Māori tribe.

Not Like Her is darker, it’s a social critic. It takes its inspiration from the “thinspo”, a social phenomenon that leads girls and women to starve themselves to be the skinniest they can. The director wanted to explore what kind of mothers these girls could become and the effects that could have on their children.

Reknown choregrapher and filmmaker Alyx Duncan (The Red House, 2012) directs her own father in The Tide Keeper. The short is inspired from a scene of The Red House that has been cut down in the editing room. The surreal poetic vignette has a very special powerful imagery that will make you shiver.

A selection without any horror movie would not be a Kiwi selection! (I understood while watching Deathgasm  at the Embassy how important is the horror movie tradition since Braindead and probably even before!) Feeder, a short by Peter Jackson’s awarded visual effect art director Christian Rivers plays with the genre. A musician running out of creativity moves in a new flat that gives him unexpected ideas: but it is magic or is it a curse?

Finally, Madam Black which received the Audience Award at the NZIFF this year is a joyful tale about a mediocre photographer that will have to challenge himself because of a pet. A funny and moving story with good actors.

Find out more about New Zealand’s Best Short Films with articles and trailers

Trailer cannot sum up the intensity of a short movie and, most of the time, they reveal too much, but still, it’s very hard to see short movies out of the festival circuit. So, if you don’t have the chance to see them, here are

Tits on a Bull  by Tim Worrall:

The film stars rugby player Ngawaea Taia in her first role and Maria Walker who appears in Top of the Lake (by Jane Campion) :

The Tide Keeper by Alyx Duncan:

Behind the scenes of The Tide Keeper:

Feeder directed by Christian Rivers:

Do you recognise the lead actors?  Cohen Holloway and Loren Taylor both played in cult geek movie Eagle VS Shark by Taika Waititi!

Madam Black directed by Ivan Barge:

Enthralling interview with lead actor Jethro Skinner:

Work of screenwriter Matthew Harris:

Not Like Her  by Hash Perambalam:

Learn more about the director here:

Ow What by Michael Jonathan:

I coudn’t find any trailer of Ow What, but here is a auditions Montage of the short film. A cute way to discover a movie’s behind-the-scenes.

The NZIFF is non-competitive but there was a competition for the short films. Here are the winners:

I hope you will find these movies by one way or another and that you will enjoy them as much as I did. Keep an eye on the Film Festival Programmes of your countries!

By the way, Michael Jonathan seems to be one of the official movie clip director of House of Shem, the famous Kiwi reggae band. What’s better than a good Kiwi vibe to conclude this article?



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