Published on 11th August 2014
When the New Zealand Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste, put on a Kiwi Film Festival last month, NZ Inc was out in force.
VSA volunteer Catherine Madigan, who’s volunteering as a Production Team Mentor with PixelAsia Productions, had already been toying with the idea of one-off fundraising events when she heard about the Embassy’s plan to put on the Festival. Even though it meant losing a couple of the films she’d planned to use as fundraisers, she says, she jumped at the chance of a bigger event.
Catherine worked with the New Zealand Ambassador, Jonathan Schwass and Hannah van Voorthuysen, Deputy Head of Mission, to bring four New Zealand films to Dili: Beyond the Edge, Mr Pip, Boy and Whale Rider.
A couple of the films have special meaning for VSA: Beyond the Edge tells the story of our founding President Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mt Everest. Some of the Volunteers were familiar with the village where Mr Pip was filmed in having previously being VSA volunteers on the island of Bougainville. Catherine was also involved in the production of Mr Pip and Beyond the Edge.
Catherine says, “The Festival was free, which was important as it gave an opportunity to Timorese families to come to the Cineplex that otherwise they wouldn't be able to afford.” People were sitting in the aisles during Beyond the Edge and had to be turned away from the screening of Boy, demand was so high.
Several other VSA volunteers were involved in bringing the Festival to life: Josh Brooks, Stephanie Harris, Dana MacDiarmid, Del Bolville and her partner Tony, all assigned to different partners in Dili, were part of the organising team on the day, alongside Catherine’s colleagues Estela Sangkop, Eduardo Marques da Piedade and Charles Meluk from PixelAsia. She says, “Edu our Timorese graphic artist came up with this amazing kiwi design for the posters and postcards after just one meeting at the Embassy,” and adds, “Josh was the saviour spending days in the Cinema making all the technical stuff work… there were a few nervous moments in the days leading up to it but Josh sorted it all in time!”
Catherine also notes the special support she received from the New Zealand producers and the NZ Film Commission, “who all kindly gave their permissions for the Dili screenings (at no charge!) plus being able to use the Diplomatic Bag to bring the films to Dili always has a certain thrill about it. The Beyond the Edge 3D DCP [Digital Cinema Package] even had to travel from Italy!”
His Excellency Jonathan Schwass says, “The NZ Inc thing – crossing government and non-government agencies – really is a meaningful concept here and we’re grateful for that.”
The festival also had a wine and food event aimed at the retail/hospitality trade and a showcase of New Zealand’s development assistance activities.
“Our local partners turned out in force for our events, which was great,” he adds. “VSA help was core to the success of the whole enterprise – quite a few volunteers chipped in extensively without being even asked.”
And the verdict on the films? Catherine says the feedback was positive with all the films – particularly to Beyond the Edge, presented in 3D. “People said they were exhausted afterwards – they felt like they’d been climbing the mountain with Sir Ed!”