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Lowdown: Resignations, Residencies & Recognition

25 Jan 2024

Departing veteran calls festival a "shadow of its former self", as well as huge international opportunities and honours announced for Aotearoa creatives in the return of your arts news bulletin for 2024.

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Ant Timpson. Photo: David White.

Names come and go from positions in the creative community - and most departures have a degree of lip service to them.

Not Ant Timpson.

The well-regarded renegade of the film world has definitely gone out on his own terms after announcing he's ending his association with the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) - and not minced his words.

"I have officially resigned/ bailed/ departed/ shuffled-off from my role as programmer for NZIFF. It’s been a long 30-year jaunt and I am still indebted to the late great Bill Gosden for giving me the freedom to run wild and programme (whatever the hell I wanted) inside an event I once referred to as a place for ‘snobby art-lobsters’, while busy promoting my own Incredibly Strange Film Festival."

Timpson's contributions to Aotearoa's screen community shouldn't be underestimated, both as a producer and the founder of the 48-Hour Film Fest, a breeding ground for so many future talents in front of and behind the camera. In explaining his history with NZIFF and why he's leaving - he makes some pointed remarks that are worth highlighting.

"I created the Incredibly Strange Film Festival in 1994 and in 2004 it was absorbed into the NZIFF as its own section. Always placed at the back of the fest guide (where the naughty kids sit). It was devoted to movies/docs that I loved and wanted to share with others - it was as simple as that. I’m not going to dress it up with fancy embroidery. It’s always only ever been about the movies & audiences. 

"But now it’s 2024 and things have changed. The exhibition scene and entire film landscape has changed dramatically. And the festival at times feels like a shadow of its former self and like many others around the world, it will need to adapt in a major way to survive in the future. An outrageously pricey programmer like myself would be a burden to any festival, let alone one that needs major restructuring from top to bottom.

"I wish everyone at Fest HQ a lot of luck for the future and hope to see fresh blood and clever innovation used in restructuring it to become more contained, robust and experiential."

All eyes now on what the next moves are in this space.

Honour for Hakaraia

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Libby Hakaraia. Photo: Supplied.

One of the hardest-working names in the Aotearoa film community is basking in the glow of another milestone.

Libby Hakaraia's body of work over the last three decades has seen her bestowed with the Merata Mita Fellowship by the Sundance Institute, named after the late Māori film-maker to support Indigenous women-identified artists endeavouring to direct their first feature film.

For Hakaraia (Ngati Kapu, Ngati Raukawa au ki te tonga), it's just the tonic as she works on her highly anticipated directorial debut feature film TANIWHA, to be produced by Tainui Stephens and Desray Armstrong.

“It is an honour to receive this award. It comes at an exciting time for me and the projects I have been developing whilst building the Māoriland Film Festival over the past decade. Merata Mita was an inspirational storyteller who challenged Indigenous filmmakers to strive for excellence in their craft. She remains a motivating force for me and for so many others and hence why I am humbled to be the recipient of this year’s Merata Mita Fellowship.

“With this support from the Sundance Institute, along with that of my mentors within the Indigenous filmmaking community, I intend to be bold and aim for new heights in storytelling. This fellowship will enable me to strengthen my skills, extend my networks, and grow my confidence — and prepare to helm a large-scale genre feature in 2024.”

The fellowship, now in its ninth year, includes yearlong support with activities, including attendance at the Sundance Film Festival, access to strategic and creative services offered by Sundance Institute’s artist programs, a cash grant and mentorship opportunities.

McSweeney's Umbrella opportunity

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Jasmin McSweeney. Photo: Supplied.

One of the New Zealand Film Commission's (NZFC) long-time staff has landed in a new role.

Jasmin McSweeney left NZFC in December after 18 years driving the marketing department - during which she was honoured with the Industry Award for Excellence from the New Zealand Motion Picture Industry Council, made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film and joined as a directory of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) Board since 2022.

Now she's been appointed as Head of Sales and Acquisitions for Australian independent film distributor Umbrella Entertainment's first foray into NZ. 

McSweeney is tasked with spearheading the growth of Umbrella’s presence in New Zealand through the acquisition of local content for theatrical distribution - as well as Umbrella's new online streaming service, Brollie.

London bound

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Hana Pera Aoake. Photo: Matthew George Richard Ward.

A major opportunity has been snapped up with both hands by Hana Pera Aoake.

After more than 30 applications from emerging/mid-career curators were whittled down to a shortlist of four, Aoake (Ngati Hinerangi, Ngati Mahuta, Tainui) was the last name standing to take up the New Zealand curator-in-residence position in Delfina Foundation’s Spring 2024 Residency season in London.

Brought together by Delfina and Metroland Cultures in the UK - as well as Te Tuhi, Kent Gardner, Creative New Zealand and the British Council Aotearoa New Zealand and Pacific - Aoake will spend 12 weeks in London, starting in April, working alongside Metroland Cultures in Brent as well as pursuing their own research. 

Aoake reacts “I'm very humbled and excited for this opportunity to share and learn in a city as dynamic as London. It will be the longest time I've spent away from my two-year-old so I'm very nervous but feel privileged and grateful to my whānau for allowing me to take this opportunity! I am keen to bring what I learn home to enrich my community and practice.”

A Māori artist, writer, teacher and curator based in Kawerau, Aoake works as the museum curator at the Sir James Fletcher Kawerau museum, a part-time lecturer at University of Canterbury in art history and co-organises Kei te pai press with Morgan Godfery. 

Aoake explains their practice as hinging on ways to share ideas, knowledge and resources in accessible ways to benefit her rural community, and in building connections to larger, globalised struggles.

While in Brent, Aoake will spend 2-3 days a week gaining skills and experience while embedded in the curatorial workings of Metroland Cultures. The rest of the week will be spent pursuing their own research through a bespoke programme delivered by Delfina Foundation as part of their ‘open’ Spring 2024 residency season which includes introductions to museums, galleries, non-profits, artist-run spaces and studios, as well as trips to institutions outside London. 

Lois Stonock, Founder and Director of Metroland Cultures, comments “We can’t wait to welcome Hana to Metroland Cultures - and to Brent. Our work sits at the intersection of art and community and we aim to test and pioneer new ways for artists and community groups to work together. We are looking forward to learning from Hana and their approach with their communities in New Zealand."

Continent change for climate change mahi

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Ron Bull, Stefan Marks, Heather Purdie, Janine Randerson and Rachel Shearer. MĀKŪ, te hā o Haupapa: Moisture, the breath of Haupapa (still), 2023. Commissioned by Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Image courtesy of the artists.

Te Tuhi's helping other Aotearoa artists make their mark internationally, also confirming that creatives who delivered a project they commissioned will get to share their work in India.

Ngā Raraunga o te Mākū: the data of moisture - by collaborators Ron Bull, Janine Randerson, Rachel Shearer and Stefan Marks - will be shown in a new iteration at KHŌJ, a leading contemporary art centre in New Delhi, opening on 31 January. The installation visualising data, sounds and images from Haupapa Glacier, Aoraki Mt Cook will be live-streamed to KHŌJ. 

At the opening event, sound artist/designer Shearer (Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Pākehā) will also be performing live sound of processed field recordings from Haupapa glacier and other locations from Aotearoa, presented as a collateral event to the India Art Fair at KHŌJ Studios.

Shearer, alongside moving image artist Randerson and programmer Marks all travel to India this week to present the work. Ngā Raraunga o te Mākū: the data of moisture will be shown along with other selected works commissioned for the World Weather Network in the exhibition, 28° North and Parallel Weathers.

The artists have already shown the artwork in various iterations in Aotearoa and at December's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH) Asia Conference in Sydney, prompting this latest invitation.

CubaDupa's super lineup

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Yaw Asumadu and Ozi Ozaa. Photo: supplied.

CubaDupa's revealed their first release for this year's epic and much-loved event - proudly promoted as the biggest and most diverse street festival in Aotearoa (23-24 March)

Among those set to hit the Cuba Street precinct with street performers and musicians from Korea, large-scale live painting work from Australia, afro-groove and jazz musicians from Ghana and French digital and sound artists.

But of most interest are the local contingent of artists. Among the headliners will be touring regulars Foley and MELODOWNZ, Taupō's Lost Tribe Aotearoa, seven-piece Māori neo soul, pop and funk band MOHI, Shepherds Reign, Jordyn with a Why, Tom Knowles with Friends, Hearth, Iskra, PollyHill x Samara Alofa, Soft Bait, WHO SHOT SCOTT,  and Waiata Māori Music Award winner, Amba Holly

Ones to watch include Yaw Asumadu and Ozi Ozaa, an Afrofunk/Highlife style ensemble of 11 musicians; Revulva, a femme-lead soul, funk, disco eight-piece from Pōneke with a ton of festival experience.

Festival Director Drew James told The Lowdown "CubaDupa is a multi-headed beast that's presented on stages, on streets, in carparks and venues throughout the Cuba Street precinct.  

"Every year we keep it fresh by presenting and featuring new artists and groups on our stages.  All of the artists announced in the first release are first-time performers at CubaDupa. 

"This year we have a very strong Maōri and Pacifica programme featured on Toi Māori stage in Te Aro Park, with a number of Tāmaki Makaurau artists making the journey to Pōneke.  This includes Jordan with a Why, Mohi, and Shepherds Reign.

"The yet-to-be announced Carnival Central will feature Brazilian and Latin American artists including international guests.  Each year features performances and parades by Aotearoa’s movement of Brazilian Batucada bands who go all out with new themes, costumes and dance moves to wow audiences and get them dancing in their wake."

n the performance space, award-winning professional theatre partnership, Birdlife Productions has also been announced, bringing their own breed of entertainment through puppetry, masks, music, and storytelling - while CubaDupa’s first-ever Uke-a-Dupa parade will see 23 groups made up of all ages will be stationed in different spots around the festival, parading their skills through the charming timbre of the ukulele, eventually meeting up to play a mass performance.

Festival Coordinator Abby Lyons, remarks ”The street music and theatrical performances are truly going to take over this year. We are so excited about our community engagement activations, such as Uke-a-Dupa!, and other exciting projects we have cooking up. The streets are going to be electrified with talent, with spectacular, whacky, wild and joyful work.”

Zine of the times

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Writing residencies can sometimes be accused of being unapproachable and too high-brow in the modern context of writing forms.  That won't be the case with this year's Elizabeth Brooke-Carr Emerging Writers Resident.

Kate Aschoff is a queer, Pākehā multimedia artist and writer, with a background in theatre, campaigning, and community organising. The one-week residency operated by Dunedin's Caselberg Trust, will see Aschoff continue to edit their first book of poetry and creating new zine-based work.

"I strive to keep my writing intimate, diaristic, and confessional. But I also aim to be silly and playful, reference pop culture, and break down traditional forms of poetry. I first and foremost write to know and understand myself. To make peace with life. My creative practice helps me find myself, over and over again."

The residency shifts focus slightly each year by offering emerging writers from a variety of writing genres – poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and journalism. This year’s focus is on zines.