Make a big difference to The Big Idea.  Help us tell the most creative stories.

Home  /  Stories  / 

NZIFF Q&A: Zia Mandviwalla

01 Aug 2012
Writer/director Zia Mandviwalla of 'Night Shift' says the short film is about people who exist on the periphery and how we perceive and judge others.

We hear from Zia Mandviwalla, writer/director of Night Shift, one of New Zealand’s Best shorts at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Zia says Night Shift is about people who exist on the periphery and our perception of others.

“How we perceive and judge others based upon their jobs, their appearances and their actions.  And how those perceptions can shift and judgements can be misguided until we fully understand the nature of someone else’s predicament.”

* * *

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Usually at night – when the world is quieter and inboxes and phones stop beeping. 

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

Not sure….realism maybe?

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

Seeing my work play in a room full of people up on the big screen. 

How does your environment affect your work?

Greatly – if my environment isn’t tidy and quiet no work of any substance gets done

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

Both.  I like oscillating between the two. 

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

Be versatile, open, flexible and a jack of more than one trade. 

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

All of my projects have given me satisfaction in different ways – its hard to answer that question. 

Who or what has inspired you recently?

Seeing a lot of filmmakers from around the world making beautiful work with very little money and resources. 

Tell us a bit about your background.

A Zoroastrian - Indian by birth and parentage, I immigrated to New Zealand in 1996.

My work thus far has travelled to film festivals worldwide including London, Pusan and Melbourne.  Awards include Best Short Film Script at the 2005 NZ Screen Director’s Guild Awards, Best Director and Best Short Film at Fitzroy Shorts in Melbourne and a grand jury nomination at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York in 2008.   I was also the recipient of New Zealand’s New Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2009.

I have represented New Zealand at the Berlinale Talent Campus and at the prestigious Accelerator program at the Melbourne International Film Festival.  In 2008, I spent four months in India working alongside Nandita Das on her directorial debut Firaaq, the award winning, multi-lingual feature film based on politically contentious material in India.
Since 2010, I have been a writer/director represented by Curious Film.  Night Shift is my fourth short film. 

Tell us a bit about your film, from inception to conception.

Night Shift is a film about people who exist on the periphery.  As we walk through the security checks, lengthy queues and muffled announcements, rarely do we notice or pay attention to someone like Salote – much less think about what her life might be like.

This is also a film about perception.  How we perceive and judge others based upon their jobs, their appearances and their actions.  And how those perceptions can shift and judgements can be misguided until we fully understand the nature of someone else’s predicament.

Night Shift shows us a different side of a country renowned for its majestic natural beauty and its idyllic lifestyle: a more ‘interior’ landscape, in every sense of the word.   

Shot over several nights on location at Auckland International Airport, Night Shift is set against the thoroughly authentic backdrop of a fully functioning international terminal.  

The film’s delicately observational style evolved from a need to remain unobtrusive to the day-to-day workings of the environment – actors were sent out into the world of the airport while the camera remained invisible, observing from a distance. 

The film features dramatised scenes alongside real, incidentally captured moments. Bringing Salote’s story to life involved considerable research into the world of the airport cleaner. 

Aside from numerous nights spent observing and photographing the airport in its various public and ‘behind the scenes’ spaces, lead actress Anapela Polataivao and I followed cleaners on their shifts and learned for ourselves what real night shifts are like. 

What do you hope the audience takes away from it?

A sense that you should always reserve judgement until you understand the full nature of someone’s predicament. 

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

No idea!

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

Loud in a car with the world rushing by. 

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

A sail?

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Exercise till it hurts. 

What’s great about the NZ International Film Festival?

The fact that it showcases the incredible talent we have in this country.

What’s your big idea for 2013?

Hopefully a feature film. 

* * *

* Festival programmers Bill Gosden and Michael McDonnell viewed 109 submissions to make a shortlist of 12 from which filmmaker Roger Donaldson selected these six finalists. A jury of three, Actress Robyn Malcolm, filmmaker Sima Urale, and Madman Entertainment representative Michael Eldred, will select the $5000 Jury Prize winner and $3000 Friends of the Civic Award. The winner of the Audience vote takes away 25% of the box office from the Festival screening. 

The winners will be announced on Saturday 4 August at the Closing Night of the NZIFF in Auckland.

New Zealand’s Best next showing is at Dunedin Thursday 9 August, and will continue to screen around the country as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.