In June 2018 I had the pleasure to attend the NZFC delegation to Taipei, Taiwan along with a number of Māori filmmakers including Briar Grace-Smith, Tui Ruwhiu and Tammy Davis, and a number of other kiwi filmmakers and film practitioners. 

Opening ceremony, Matariki celebration, Taipei

The delegation was organised to facilitate face-to-face meetings between (on our side) NZ  filmmakers and NZFC staff including CEO Annabelle Sheehan and Head of International Chris Payne, and (on the Taiwanese side) Taiwanese filmmakers and industry members, including indigenous Taiwanese filmmakers.

I attended both as a filmmaker with active interest in Asian coproductions – my company, 10000 Company, has a number of coproductions at various stages of development, including a NZ / Korea war romance, a NZ / China romantic comedy, and a NZ / Japan rugby movie – and also as representative of Ngā Aho Whakaari.

I have had a long standing goal to get to Taiwan, and to begin the process of trying to forge an appreciation of the indigenous Taiwanese peoples, their history and their culture. As we now know, the links between Māori and the 16 different indigenous Taiwanese groups are clear and undeniable. Linguistically, genetically and culturally Taiwan seems unquestionably the ground zero to which Māori can ultimately whakapapa. It is incredibly exciting to imagine the kinds of stories that could explore these connections, but without direct contact to indigenous Taiwanese, filmmakers and others, it is a bit of a one-sided thought process.

NZFC Delegation at Taipei Misacepo’ Festival

The delegation coincided with a Matariki celebration organised by the NZ Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei, including screenings of a number of NZ feature films for Taiwanese audiences. Over the 4 days of events, meetings, attending the Misacepo’ Festival (Indigenous Peoples festival), and a well-attended Film Industry Networking Forum, I was able to meet and begin forging potential creative relationships with a number of Taiwanese filmmakers, including indigenous filmmakers, and non-indigenous filmmakers who had made feature films in indigenous communities.

Michael Bennett speaking at the Networking Forum

Taipei has an easy warmth and relaxed vibe you don’t get in other big Asian cities, and ditto with the Taiwanese filmmakers. Compared to the gargantuan Chinese film industry and the very robust Korean industry the Taiwanese industry feels relatively small, but it is clear that strong interest and strong goodwill exists to forge links between our film and television industries. 

During the Film Industry Networking Forum, I had the opportunity to address the Taiwanese film professionals on behalf of Ngā Aho Whakaari, and I passed on the warm welcome from NAW Chair Christina Asher, for indigenous Taiwanese filmmakers to become associate members of our organisation at no cost, to further links between indigenous Taiwanese filmmakers and Māori filmmakers. The offer was warmly received.

Two Taiwanese filmmakers, including an indigenous actress / director, are planning New Zealand visits in the next four months, and this is a great opportunity for interested filmmakers to further discussions with them about potential coproduction concepts.

During the Taipei delegation, the NZFC and the Taipei Film Commission launched an annual professional screenwriters exchange, for one professional screenwriter from Taiwan to travel to New Zealand and one professional screenwriter from New Zealand to travel to Taiwan for at least a month, to strengthen cultural ties and promote greater cooperation between the two film industries. With the world-first co-production agreement between Taiwan and New Zealand and specifically an undertaking within the agreement to foster and promote indigenous collaborations between Taiwan and New Zealand, the door is now truly open to finding and telling the stories that explore the ancient and profound connections between us. The meetings and initiatives made during this trip will be a significant step towards walking through that door together.

Many thanks to NZFC and Ngā Aho Whakaari for the support in facilitating my attendance as part of the delegation.