Opening Night - 33rd Auckland International Film FestivalArts, Culture and Heritage
Good evening, Bill Gosden, members of the film industry, and sponsors and trustees of the Festival.
It's always exciting and a great pleasure to be asked to the opening night of the Auckland Film Festival. I think Auckland is the luckiest venue for the International Film Festival - with the grand and gorgeous Civic to enjoy the films in.
I bring you the greetings of Prime Minister Helen Clark - the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage - who first introduced me to the Film Festival.
- The significance of the Film Festival -
The International Film Festival is a major date on New Zealand's arts calendar. Last year's festival broke records by attracting more than 215,000 audience members.
Almost as satisfying as seeing the films, is the pleasure of flicking through the Festival Programme. At each Festival, there is such a variety and so many choices that making those choices is almost an exercise in military precision - what session shall I go to, how many days do I need off work, which cinema do I want to see it in?
I have to say that as a politician, I'm always guiltily relieved that the bulk of the Film Festival takes place during a Parliamentary Recess…
This year's festival boasts an even greater choice of films. And we have the added magnet of a significant selection of New Zealand films. Films such as Rain, in achieving international success, are shining examples of what can be produced by a credible, consistent and mature industry.
And it's fantastic when New Zealanders who are concentrating on careers overseas come home to work on New Zealand films - as Melanie Lynskey did for Snakeskin - and I'm delighted she's also home for the premiere
Congratulations to all those luminaries involved in making the New Zealand films at this Festival!
And congratulations to those who similarly enrich our lives by bringing into New Zealand the best of overseas films.
Access to other cultures is essential for broadening our outlook and keeping us in touch with the rest of the world - and every year the Film Festival provides this access in abundance.
It is through high-quality international films and other visual and performing arts that we have the opportunity to understand how other people live. And many of this year's offerings show that it is often through film that those who don't have the opportunity to speak out can be given a voice.
- The Importance of film to New Zealand's culture & economy -
World wide, the cultural and heritage sectors are among the key growth areas for the 21st century. We must have an environment in which New Zealanders can express themselves and pursue satisfying careers in film, theatre, broadcasting.
I see film as important for New Zealand not just culturally, but also economically. Film is one of the key cultural industries - as is music -that is being looked at by the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand, with a view to developing strategies to generate further growth.
That's why in last year's budget we committed ourselves to realising the potential of New Zealand film by our investment in the Film Production Fund.
The Film Commission has a similar commitment to New Zealand culture.
Its strategy to continually reinvigorate the talent base of all those involved in making good film in New Zealand benefits our film producers, directors, script writers, cinematographers, musicians and other film professionals.
New Zealand has proven itself a popular, welcoming and responsive venue for film-making. I congratulate all those who have had a hand in ensuring that this is so.
I am enjoying very much my involvement in these initiatives. For me, creating an encouraging environment also means honouring and encouraging the talents of our film professionals - and the young aspirants to those positions.
So I am excited about two recent initiatives that will help to strengthen those talents, particularly in the area of scriptwriting.
One is the newly-established New Zealand Writers' Foundation - this in response to a perceived need to strengthen the film industry 'through the creation of outstanding scripts'.
And recently, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the Michael Hirschfeld Director of Scriptwriting position at Victoria University in Wellington. The Director will lead the Master of Arts in Creative Writing - Scriptwriting, starting next year.
The ultimate goal is for graduates in all performing arts disciplines to find a strong infrastructure in theatre, broadcasting and film that will provide them with a vehicle and a stage for their work.
- Thanks to the Film Festival organisers -
And as we all know in the arts sector, much of the hard work is done behind the scenes. This is especially so with the International Film Festival, which is borne along each year by the enthusiasm and efforts of a large number of people. I would like to thank the Film Festival Trustees, the sponsors, and all those involved in the Festival organisation and management.
And I'd particularly like to praise Bill Gosden - whose own energy and huge contribution to the film festivals in New Zealand were so rightly recognised in the New Year Honours earlier this year.
Thank you for bringing us yet another colourful and dynamic Film Festival programme. Thank you for giving us, each year, that sense of excitement when our films are chosen, our annual leave is organised, our cell-phones are off, and the lights are finally going down in the theatre.