Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Zealand Doctor Premieres Ambitious Trilogy

As one might expect for a New Zealand family physician with a sideline cinema practice, Peter Jackson is cited as a filmmaking influence. But so too, on David Whittet's handsome honor roll page, are Franco Zeffirelli, David Lean and Steven Spielberg, alongside a few other broader muses like Charles Dickens and Steve Jobs.

In keeping with this august list, Whittet didn't just crank out a quick short or participate in some 48-hour weekend filmmaking competition. Rather, he began work on a romantic drama in 2008 that turned into a trilogy and finally got its full, finished world premiere tonight in Gisborne.

From his blog:

When I first conceived the idea of Amiri & Aroha, I had no idea of the extraordinary journey that was about to begin. All artistic endeavors have moments of both agony and ecstasy and the trilogy has certainly had more than its fair share of trauma, anxiety and sleepless nights! Yet the reward of watching the dream take shape and gradually become reality makes all the stress seem immaterial. And the joy of completing the films and sharing them with an audience is without equal.

The three films - Amiri & Aroha, Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children - were shot in and around Gisborne. Whittet describes the trilogy as 'a Māori Lorna Doone; a poignant love story set against a background of tribal warfare with the East Cape of New Zealand as the canvas.'

As the British-born Whittet recently told the Gisborne Herald, a dispute between Peter Jackson's production company and the Australian actors union caused him to lose his cast just before shooting. The good doctor went on a local radio station, Turanga FM, to plead for local actors. Among those who ended up helping was the station's breakfast announcer Walter "The Wiz" Walsh, who co-stars as a gang leader:

Walsh’s film experience as an Orc in Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came in handy on set. "A lot of extras play gangsters in my film but between scenes there was a lot of waiting around," says Whittet. “Some of the extras got impatient, but Walter got up and said, 'If you think this is bad, you should go and work for Peter Jackson. I spent three days in latex and prosthetics.'"

The trilogy runs three hours and 22 minutes.

[Amiri & Aroha]

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