By James Cook
More than just Lord Of The Rings….
New Zealand sprung onto the world stage becoming a key figure in film production since the release of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The base of operations for the New Zealand film industry is Wellington. So much so that Wellington has gained the nickname of ‘Wellywood’ (there was even a mockup of the Hollywood sign saying ‘Wellywood’ but it after much outcry from Wellontonians it was changed to say ‘All Blacks’).
The evidence of the New Zealand film industry is all around Wellington. In Courtney place (the ‘strip’ of Wellington) there are 3 cinemas, one of which, The Embassy was the host to the world premier of the Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King and one of the Hobbit films is also due to be released here.
Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop
The New Zealand film industry is defined by 2 main players, Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. Both of them came to fame outside of New Zealand with their work on the Lord of the Rings films. Peter Jackson directed and Weta workshop provided the Special effects which were (at the time) unparalleled and Weta is still at the forefront of movie special effects.
If you are so inclined you can take a bus out to Mirimar (return $9) and go visit Weta Cave a small museum and gift shop that holds some of the iconic props from films they have worked on over the years including, the Lord of the Rings, Avatar and, District 9. You can also view a short documentary on what Weta does. I would recommend Weta Cave only to the serious fan as it is really only a glorified gift shop. You will NOT get to see them at work creating the special effects. Which I was pretty bummed out about.
If you really love the Lord of the Rings films you may want to look at buying the location guidebook and doing a tour of the Lord of the Rings locations. It is pretty easy to see a few of them. Jade and I did not buy this book, but when I was looking over it I found that we had been to quite a few of the locations. We have seen Mordor (The Tongariro National Park), the Dead Marshes (Kepler Mire) and the Misty Mountains (The Southern Alps). There are also many tour companies that offer special location tours.
7 New Zealand Films You Should Watch
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – You can’t not talk about New Zealand films without mentioning these films. They utilize New Zealands unique terrain so that it becomes almost another character in the movies.
- Once were Warriors – This is a powerful film about an urban Maori family. It deals with sensitive issues including domestic violence, alcoholism and gang culture.
- Eagle Vs. Shark – This is a light hearted comedy starring Jermaine Clement, of Flight of the Concords. As a awkward geeky guy who goes back to his family house in order to try to win the respect of his father.
- Black Sheep – This film is Horror Comedy gold with sheep mutating and developing a thirst for humans
- Whale Rider – The story of a 12 year old girl trying to become the chief of her tribe (a position that is only reserved for males). The film received great critical acclaim.
- Boy – From the same director as Eagle Vs. Shark, Boy is another very good example of putting Kiwiana on screen.
- The Worlds Fastest Indian – A biopic of the holder of the world land speed record for motorcycles under 1000cc.
If you want to learn more about the New Zealand film industry (and you are in Wellington) you can go to the National Film Archive. A cinema and cafe that frequently holds screenings of rare and interesting works.
What are you favourite New Zealand films?