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Monday, August 19, 2013

Should New Zealand get an Oscar?

In the BBC magazine, Megan Lane makes  an interesting point.

Is New Zealand itself a character in the many award-winning films that have been shot on location here?

"If a country could be eligible for a best actor award, New Zealand could be in the running for every gong going, with its contrasting moods showcased most recently in The Hobbit and Top Of The Lake," she says, and then asks, "Is the scenery more than just a dramatic backdrop?"

I certainly agree that there is something more to the spirit of New Zealand than the stunning scenery.  Many New Zealanders share the ancient Maori belief that the country itself has spirit and life.  Both Maori and pakeha (the more recent settlers) identify with a mountain, a river, a lake, and/or a particular stretch of the coastal sea. 

Delight is taken in the growing of native plants, and the watching and feeding of native birds.  There is a sense of pride in seeing tui foraging the blossoms of the pohutukawa trees that grow in the grounds of the parliament buildings -- a pride that is oddly proprietorial.

So, should our scenery earn an Oscar? 

For versatility, perhaps.

New Zealand can shift from one idea of the land to the other - pastoral to gothic, cultivated to wild," says Prof Laurence Simmons, head of media, film and television at the University of Auckland. "It's been used by filmmakers to fit a variety of global locations and historical periods, from small-town America in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners to 19th Century Japan, let alone Middle-earth and the landscape of Avatar."

Many of these films have helped to attract visitors to the country, just as the New Zealand Film Commission hoped would happen when it first started funding home-grown features in the 1970s.

In a survey conducted in the first quarter of 2013, one in 10 international arrivals said The Hobbit sparked their interest in New Zealand as a destination.

"We estimate that 47,000 visitors a year visit a film location," says Danielle Genty-Nott of Tourism New Zealand.

And that number is bound to increase.  Rumor has it that the eighth Doctor Who season will be filmed in other-worldly New Zealand

(And no, that third picture is not upside-down.  It is a reflection in a lake.)

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