Girls on Film
Hi, for those who don’t know me, I’m a script writer, actor, water ballerina, surfer, basketballer, wife, mum, TED talker and good time girl! I am also currently the President of the NZ Writers Guild and listening to Duran Duran as I pen this article.
I used to love short films. Not to say that I don’t love them now, I do. I just don’t seem to get the opportunity to watch them very often. At the risk of showing my age (if that Duran Duran reference didn’t already give it away) I yearn for the time when they used to play a short before a feature. A tasty little appetiser before the main. A perfect morsel that wets your appetite for things to come… But, I digress.
So given the above, I jumped at the opportunity when I was asked to write about a selection of short films, seeing it as the perfect opportunity to catch up on my sadly lacking repertoire. So many to choose from! In the interest of narrowing things down, I thought I’d concentrate on New Zealand female writer/directors. Not in any particularly feminist bent or anything, just as a fellow screen practitioner I thought this was an excellent opportunity to see what my lady colleagues have been up to. Lots of awesomeness as it turns out.
These are three that stood out for me.
Christine Jeffs, 1994
Stroke has to be my favourite NZ short of all time. As an avid water ballerina, the material of course resonates. But it’s more than that. Long before I donned my bathing cap, this film spoke to me.
A simple story told without dialogue. The bright and colourful palette, with just a hint of Baz Luhrmann for good measure. The tight choreography and almost dance like nature of the swimmers. What really stands out to me is the vibrant use of soundscape to build the tension and help tell the story. And Fiona Samuel (another awesome writer/director) is delightful. Stylish. Fun. With a large dollop of girl power.
Swimming has never looked so beautiful.
Jane Shearer, 2006 (Co written with Steve Asyon)
When I think of a ‘classic’ New Zealand film, short or feature, this has to be one of them. NZ bush. Death. Dark. Foreboding. For my money; a typical ‘Cinema of unease.’ I must admit that I’ve seen a few of these kinds of films over the years so what sets Jane Shearer’s Nature’s Way apart from the rest?
It is beautifully shot, the story telling is powerful and economic and the lack of dialogue lets the tension build. Shearer creates an evocative portrait of the killer, played by a broody Mathew Sutherland, who seems much more three dimensional than most – when was the last time you saw a kiddy fiddler vacuuming the carpet?
For me, the surrealism is what elevates this film, the idea that the bush becomes an active character in the story that makes it stand out. (Click to watch through NZOnScreen)
Little Red Riding Hood
Jackie Van Beek, 2011
I admit including this film is a little bit of a stretch as I can hardly claim that Jackie penned this classic yarn. However, I think it’s worthy of inclusion as it speaks to Jackie’s strong style and aesthetic as a film-maker.
I have long been a fan of Jackie’s, dating back to her theatre work at Bats during the late 90s, she has an eye for the quirky side of life teamed with a great sense of humour. Little Red Riding Hood sees Jackie go back to her theatre roots, with a fun and touching rendition of this classic Grimm fairy tale made in collaboration with over 40 school students with special needs.
It’s told with warmth and humour and full of charm. Feel good cinema.
(Click to watch through Vimeo)
To be fair, these three films are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what New Zealand female writers and directors have to offer. Lots of them are doing really great things that I couldn’t include here. I’m also looking forward to seeing Michele Savill’s “Ellen is Leaving”, written by Martha Hardy-Ward, and Lauren Jackson’s ” I’m Going to Mum’s” – both of which have already done well on the festival circuit. Excited enough even, to shake me out of my short film malaise and actually go out and watch them, so thanks for that ladies.