Here at NZIFF, we’ve watched – and felt – the extraordinary blow to the cultural sector over the past two months due to the COVID-19 situation. Both the cascade of event cancellations and the wellbeing of artists and the industry has dominated our thoughts, alongside the health and safety of all New Zealanders.
We’ve also been thinking seriously about what the Film Festival might look like this winter under such unprecedented conditions, and have been faced with some difficult decisions. Working to problem solve the complexities of mounting a nationwide event without the usual infrastructure or certainty has been the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as an organisation.
Today, we announce plans to present our programme in an online format for the very first time.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place and likely to continue for some months, cinemas and entertainment venues around the country are closed or will remain under stringent gathering and social distancing limitations. NZIFF is therefore unable to confidently present the 2020 programme as originally planned in cinemas across the country.
“This is an extraordinary situation and we need to adapt and find a creative solution for 2020,” says New Zealand Film Festival Trust Chair Catherine Fitzgerald. “The shared experience of cinema and the power of storytelling to bring communities together has always been our driving force. With the current, and evolving situation, we believe in the value and importance of cinema now more than ever.
“We cannot do without the Film Festival in July and so we are excited to be able to upgrade our online platform to ensure we can bring the best of new cinema to our audiences with new ways to share the experience and interact with the filmmakers and fellow audience members.”
The New Zealand International Film Festival At Home — Online will take place from 24 July to 2 August with a world-class curated programme of world and New Zealand premiere films for audiences to screen at home.
Film premieres and film festivals around the world are being severely impacted by the global pandemic with the cancellation and postponement of festivals including Cannes, New York’s TribeCa and Sydney among many others, but new NZIFF Director Marten Rabarts has assurance from key film distributors in Australia, New Zealand and around the world that they are committed to making this online edition work well.
“After the initial realisation and heartbreak of not being able to provide our Film Festival whānau an in-cinema experience this year we’ve worked quickly, while leaning on our strong relationships with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents, to ensure we are able to confidently adapt the way in which we’ll present their films to our dedicated audience across the country.”
Rabarts said “NZIFF At Home — Online will be a true film festival experience featuring world and New Zealand premieres of films each night, and including virtual red-carpet and filmmaker Q&As, and we can potentially invite more international guests to present their films to our festival audiences than ever before using virtual means. Some films will be screened as special ‘one-off’ events, and many of the films presented will be exclusive to NZIFF and won’t have other New Zealand screenings.”
Key to the success of the online edition is the upgrade of the existing video on demand (VOD) portal and the necessary technology and integration to present the festival experience. “We are working with our On Demand provider Shift72 on the technology to deliver a ‘bells and whistles’ digital screening room, coupled with live streaming events possibilities on our own website.”
Rabarts added that NZIFF is also looking to the near-future when COVID-19 gathering restrictions will once again allow a return to an in-cinema programme. “In January 2021 we hope to be celebrating that return with a special summer programme of films in our flagship venues in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin,” he affirms.
“We are fully committed to a return to cinemas in 2021 and we understand our audiences cherish the experience of sharing the festival films with others as much as we do, but until that’s possible you’ll find us no further away than the NZIFF website or app when we launch our At Home — Online programme in June.”
Full information on the programme and details on viewing films via the online platform will be announced on Monday 22 June.
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