Award winning Māori filmmakers aim to increase diversity in industry

Writing, directing and starring in a winning film may sound like a daunting task, but for Waikato filmmaking duo Mary Rinaldi and Sasha Nixon, passion and resourcefulness has landed them three awards in the Tropfest NZ 2017 short film festival: ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Actress’ and the ‘Te Tohu Auahatanga Māori Award’ for outstanding Māori creativity in film.

Judged by a panel of industry success stories, their talents earned them $1000 for Best Actress, $2,500 for the creativity award and $10,000 for Best Film, plus a once in a lifetime trip to Hollywood where they will attend a five day film immersion course with other filmmakers from around the world.

Rinaldi says, “It was an incredible feeling to have all of our hard work recognised on the night. We are completely blown away by the positive feedback we have received and are excited to make the most of this opportunity.”

Nixon says, “Meeting with TV and film executives in Hollywood is huge. It is a great chance for us both and we will be working very hard between now and our trip to be as prepared as possible for the experience.”

Their film, titled ‘The Anniversary’ is a playful yet heart breaking tale, compacted in to seven minutes. The pair, who plays a couple dealing with tragedy, says that they wanted to make a film about the importance of reconnection.

Rinaldi says, “The idea actually started from a much simpler and lighter concept, but we spent months developing it into a heartfelt and character-driven story, one we hoped would resonate with its audience in a powerful way”.

That development led to a decision to tell the story visually, without any dialogue. Rinaldi’s theatre background provided her a good grounding for this purely visual method of storytelling but Nixon, a Screen and Media Honours Graduate from the University of Waikato and seasoned Hamilton filmmaker, admits this style was new to him.

“I really enjoyed taking on this new challenge. There’s something equally liberating and terrifying about telling a story without dialogue. The beauty is that it forces you to hone your storytelling craft and rely more on the performances and cinematography.” says Nixon.

The duo aspire to turn this passion into a full time career and hope that their win will help encourage others to try their hand at filmmaking.

“We are both incredibly passionate about increasing diversity within the filmmaking community here in Aotearoa. Filmmaking is often about having the right tools and connections and I want to eventually play a role in helping more Māori and women to get involved,” says Nixon.

The pair is set for Hollywood in November and in the meantime they will spend their time behind and in front of the camera to focus on new short film projects.