Wellington Scoop

The premiere of a film from 30 years ago, and the debut of a teenage star

by Lindsay Shelton
The past and the future coincided on Friday in Wellington at the opening screenings of the NZ International Film Festival.

A magnificently restored new version of Geoff Murphy’s 1983 feature Utu was given its world premiere, with many of the cast and crew from thirty years ago in the audience – except, as the director said during his cheerful introduction, for those who had died.

And the Utu screening was preceded by the premiere of a new British film directed by Sally Potter, which was notable (among many reasons) for the memorable feature-film debut of Jane Campion’s teenage daughter Alice Englert.

Friday was also the day when Peter Jackson completed shooting his Hobbit trilogy, with the director sending out a live blog describing his work on the last day.

Peter was still making home movies when Geoff was completing the visionary Utu. Two years later he asked the Film Commission for $7000 to start making real films, but the Commission turned him down. It relented in 1987 and a year later Bad Taste launched the Jackson career which has made him one of the most successful filmmakers in the world. By that time, some of New Zealand’s leading filmmakers, including Murphy, had moved to the United States. But the Jackson career would reach the heights while staying securely based in Wellington, a fact which has a direct connection with the restoration of Utu. The work was done at Park Road Post and Weta Digital, two of the world-leading organisations which Peter has established on the back of his immense success with the three Lord of the Rings films.

Jane Campion lives in Sydney, though she’s generally known as a New Zealand filmmaker not only because she was born in Wellington but also because her two most successful films – An Angel at My Table and The Piano – were made here. Her mother Edith Campion was the unchallenged star of the New Zealand Players, which toured New Zealand in the 1950s. And anyone who saw Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa at the film festival on Friday will have no doubt that Jane’s daughter, who is not yet 20, has inherited her grandmother’s assurance and power as an actor, as well as her commanding profile. There’s one more chance to see this amazing debut – when the festival gives the film a repeat screening on Monday afternoon.

Dan Slevin tells me that Beautiful Creatures, Alice Englert’s second feature in which she takes a leading role and gives another star-quality performance, has been and gone without being noticed in Wellington cinemas. That’s our loss. But you shouldn’t miss the chance to see the start of a brilliant film acting career. And you shouldn’t miss the chance to see how a New Zealand film from 1983 has more power and resonance and relevance for us now than we were able to recognise thirty years ago.

Ginger and Rosa – NZIFF at the Embassy – Monday at 1.30pm.
Utu – NZIFF at the Embassy- Wednesday at 4pm.


  1. tree cop, 29. July 2013, 16:37

    In filmmaking nepotism is everything. Those who benefit protest it only gets their foot in the door and then it’s about talent, but for film actors the foot in the door is everything.

  2. Phil C, 30. July 2013, 0:31

    Very pleased to see this restored.

    Geoff Murphy never lived up the promise that he showed with Utu and The Quiet Earth. May we also have a restored version of the latter?