In response to: Cinematic Diplomacy, Back to the Future, again…

“I enjoyed Dr. Nick Cull‘s recent column on film. It is pertinent to us - we have just set up a film library incorporating 11 feature films and six short films for use by our posts overseas, and we are actively undertaking film public diplomacy around the world, sometimes using the library, sometimes not. In the last 18 months we have provided funding for film screenings/activities in France (the Antipodes film festival), Berlin, Beijing, Turkey, Hamburg, Mexico, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Washington and Indonesia, with more to follow in the next year in Prague, France, London, Brussels and Doha.

We see our film work in a positive light, and whilst we recognise that some films may show us to be an entirely odd or possibly dangerous country (Once Were Warriors springs to mind) we tend to hope that the audience will realise that what they see on the screen may not necessarily tally with the country in reality (for a start, we may be much more boring that our films tend to indicate!). We think this is a good way to show ourselves as interesting, dynamic, and creative with a world leading film industry more than able to make the next great international film. We have much national pride in the success internationally of our films and film industry.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade works very closely with the New Zealand Film Commission and is working
more collaboratively with Film NZ, which promotes NZ as a location in which to shoot and make films (i.e. Lord of the
Rings and The Hobbit), including post production and digital (i.e. Avatar). We are aiming to make sure that our film work offshore is coordinated and that all film activity funded by the government should be conscious of the need
to help achieve the government’s economic as well as brand objectives. We agree with the view of the Hollywood Reporter writer who wrote that “Filmmakers were once attracted to New Zealand for its rugged mountains and bright skies; now, they are lured just as much by technical know-how, world-class equipment and innovative people.”

One film event I was involved in went spectacularly wrong. When I was living at the New Zealand High Commission in
India, we staged the first ever screening on the subcontinent of the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was huge interest in the event. We staged it outside on the lawn, in winter - a gorgeous setting. Guests were served Hobbit food - dhal and chapattis. It was served by local staff dressed as Hobbits, who turned out as pirates. We had a gas-fired ring of fire set up, which went off when the High Commissioner had raised the Middle Earth flag up the flag pole. Guests then sat down in their seats, and the High Commissioner and Trade Commissioner gave speech about our technological innovation. At this point the two ancient (pre Raj?) projectors squawked like a New Zealand bird being strangled and failed to work. So everyone went home, but thankfully not before they drank all our lovely wine. The last words I remember hearing were a guest blaming “bloody Indian technology.”! We made the front page of the newspaper back here in Wellington. The first and only time.”

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