NZ Deaf Film Festival 2015

One of the initiatives funded through the NZSL Fund's first round was the New Zealand Deaf Film Festival, which was held in 2015. You can find out more on the Festival on this page.

New Zealanders can be massively proud of our film culture – our country has produced great filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Taika Waititi who are globally famous for their work. As part of this strong film culture, several film festivals are held each year across New Zealand.

Around 170 people attended one such festival in Wellington over the first weekend in September 2015. This festival had a point of difference though – all the films featured were made by or starred Deaf people. Many also had dialogue almost entirely in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), meaning audience members got to learn more about NZSL and Deaf culture while being thoroughly entertained at the same time.

As NZSL is a visual language with no written form, filmmaking is a key way for the Deaf community to document their language and culture. The New Zealand Deaf Film Festival provides a great opportunity for Deaf filmmakers to showcase their work in front of an audience and compete in its New Zealand Deaf Short Film Competition.

This year eight brilliant New Zealand short films were entered into the competition and screened for audiences at Ngā Taonga, the NZ Archive of Film, TV & Sound.

Audiences interested in what it takes to create a short film got to quiz four of the short film directors and actors – Oliver Ferguson (Railway Crossing), Zoe Ferguson (Bridge of Revenge), Ava Buzzard (Yellow Sash) and Jack Donnell (Copper) – about their experiences at a Question and Answer Forum.

Aspiring filmmakers who missed out on entering into the Short Film Competition had the opportunity to compete in a Mobile Film Competition. Three teams entered and each was given a genre and challenged to create a short film in just three hours with nothing but a smart phone. Not an easy task, but the teams thoroughly enjoyed themselves and created some extremely entertaining mobile films.

As Deaf people still face many barriers in filmmaking, an Open Discussion Forum was held to get people’s views on how to address these and how to encourage even more people to get involved in the Festival. On the panel was Mark Berry, a Deaf person who has been involved in filmmaking; Paul Wolffram, a lecturer in film studies at Victoria University; Richard Benge, Chief Executive of Arts Access Aotearoa; and Oliver Ferguson, a filmmaker who works at Weta Digital, an internationally acclaimed visual effects company based in Wellington.

The Festival also included a Film Showcase, where audiences watched feature-length films created by Deaf people from across the globe. No Ordinary Hero, Small World and The Wall were some of the biggest hits, with No Ordinary Hero, about a Deaf actor who plays a superhero on TV, proving particularly popular.

The Festival came to a satisfying conclusion with a roaring 20s/Prohibition-themed awards night for the Short Film Competition. The winners were:

  • Best Film: Bridge of Revenge – Zoe Ferguson
  • Best Youth Film: Zombie Lover – Kaori Kobayashi and Justin Joel
  • Audience Choice: Railway Crossing – Oliver Ferguson
  • Production Value Award: Railway Crossing – Oliver Ferguson
  • Creative Narrative Award: Aotearoa – Joanne Klaver
  • Playful Filmmaking Award: Two Second Hands – Vincent Donavin
  • Collaborative Filmmaking Award: Yellow Sash – Lynette Pivac
  • Heartfelt Filmmaking Award: Little Butterfly Gone Too Soon – Danielle Mackay
  • Documentary Award: Wild Ride in Vietnam – Amber Shaw

The Festival was funded by a generous grant from the NZSL Fund along with support from other organisations including the Wellington City Council.

If you missed the 2015 Festival, fear not – another one is planned for 2017, with several groups already inspired to create short films. Will you be one of them?

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