Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival Director Marten Rabarts Steps Down

Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival Director Marten Rabarts Steps Down

Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival officially ends its Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin seasons on Sunday and with it, announces the departure of Festival Director Marten Rabarts.

Rabarts (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi) was appointed Director in 2019 following the retirement of long-time director Bill Gosden due to ill health. Marten has directed the last two festivals and his decision to leave the role was made some months ago, but he was fully committed to seeing the 2021 festival delivered to its loyal audiences.

NZFFT Chair, Catherine Fitzgerald, said Marten was appointed with a vision to bring new and exciting developments to the festival, however with the emergence of the global Covid-19 pandemic, these became impossible and simply delivering the 2020 and 2021 festivals was an all-encompassing challenge.

“We thank Marten for his energy, drive and tenacity which ensured that in 2020 we were able to deliver a hybrid festival for audiences, and that this year, despite having to cancel the Auckland and Hamilton legs, we have been able to present a festival – with an outstanding programme – in 11 centres around the country under Alert Level 2 restrictions.

“It has been a very challenging time and we acknowledge that this hasn’t been conducive to fulfilling the vision of a more international and industry-engaged festival that Marten brought to NZIFF. We’re very sorry to lose him but respect and understand his decision.”

Fitzgerald said Marten had worked to increase the festival’s international visibility, bringing in renowned international curators, and had developed further relationships for the festival on a global scale, including the inclusion of NZIFF in Fantastic 7 at Cannes Marché du Film. Marten also drove the rebranding of the festival to Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival, reflecting the cultural diversity of contemporary Aotearoa and increased the engagement of Māori and Pasifika filmmakers in the festival.

Rabarts (60) said with travel restrictions now easing he is moving on to develop a key role in a new film and arts project in Europe while also stepping up to play a more active role with his whānau business interests in Coromandel after “a bit of a sabbatical which I’ve been talking about taking since 2010.

“It’s been a wild ride taking on the role of Festival Director just as the pandemic descended. Relocating from Europe as a new director with a skillset and reputation for evolution, growth and change; this had to be set aside for NZIFF just to survive. Having steered the festival through what we hope is the worst of the storm, it’s time for a Director who will consolidate and future-proof the festival.

“I’d like to acknowledge the incredible team at NZIFF who have worked under extraordinary circumstances to present two festivals under the ever-changing conditions of a global pandemic. I’ll remain a vocal advocate and ambassador for this fantastic festival and the filmmakers and devoted audiences it serves so well.”

Rabarts finishes his role with NZIFF on Sunday. Fitzgerald said the festival remained in good hands with Head of Programming Michael McDonnell marking 20 years with NZIFF, Paris-based Senior Programmer Sandra Reid clocking up 27 years with NZIFF, and General Manager Sally Woodfield driving deeper engagement with Government funders and stakeholders to secure the festival’s future. “We will now be looking to shape the structure of the festival for 2022 and the years ahead.”

The 2021 festival continues until 5 December with encore screenings in Wellington next week and screenings continuing in Tauranga, Hawke’s Bay, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Masterton and Nelson.

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