International Report From the Field with Cynthia Kane

Posted on February 25, 2009

Kia Ora (“hello” in Maori) from Auckland, New Zealand! 

The DocNZ Summit has been lively and enlightening. Plus, it has grown exponentially in the year and half since Independent Lenss Series Producer Lois Vossen and I came last. I was greeted last Saturday evening by Doc Summit producer Alex Lee and DocNZ festival director Dan Shanan, and swept away to an amazing (and abundant) Chinese dinner in Auckland’s scenic circle district. Most of the international guests had arrived and joined us, including Grit Lemke, director of DokLeipzig; Hans Robert Eisnhauer, commissioning editor of ZDF/ARTE (and frequent co-producer with ITVS International); Christoph Müchern, director of the Goethe Institute in New Zealand; and Thomas Tielsch, German producer from Filmtank, who co-produced ITVS International’s THE MOSQUITO PROBLEM & OTHER STORIES

The Goethe Institute is providing a scholarship for a New Zealand filmmaker to go to Germany for three months to develop a documentary idea and observe the documentary industry. The festival opens tonight in Auckland with the Canadian doc All Together Now and, beginning next week, will screen in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for 10 days each as part of a nationwide festival to promote documentary in New Zealand and give others the opportunity to see some of the best work from around the world. The first day of the summit looked at how documentaries can be repositioned and rebranded to give a better presence and longer life. 

Highly robust discussions focused on the future of documentary filmmaking in New Zealand and what broadcasters might do to create better opportunities for strands and funding––creating the first new steps at ways broadcasters, funders and "doco-makers" (as they say here) can work together stronger. Maori Television, TVNZ, Channel 3 and the Documentary Channel-New Zealand all were involved in these talks as well as some of the best filmmakers in New Zealand such as Annie Goldson, Leanne Pooley, Stuart Page and Robin Kewell. Tuesday gave a new look into cross-platform and new forms of distribution possibilities. 

These panels were led by Wendy Levy of Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) and Sandi DuBowski of Films That Change the World. Sandi is also here to show his "doco," A Jihad for Love, that he produced with Parvez Sharma. His next stop is Jerusalem where he will continue shooting a new project. Sandi also promises he will apply to ITVS for funding for the first time with this new film. Day Three was the Big Pitch in the morning, the Goethe Scholarship Pitch in the early afternoon and the most energetic round of fast pitch meetings, aka “speed dating,” that I’ve ever encountered. We finished the day with the awards and opening night launch party where At the Death House Door (with Peter Gilbert to accept the award) and Don Roberto’s Shadow took the International Competition and The Last Western Heretic and Shustak won the New Zealand Competition Awards. 

ITVS International’s SEA POINT DAYS took the Editing Award. Unfortunately, director Francois Verster couldn’t be here but sent a lovely note that was read at the ceremony. It’s been a most amazing journey “down under” and as much as I am sad to leave, it will be great to be home again. We’ve making our way through Phase 1 of International Call 2009 and there’s lots to do in the coming weeks as we look to green light a whole new slate of untold stories with unique points-of-view from around our incredible and surprising world. 

-Cynthia, ITVS International Programming Manager

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