As 2012 draws to a close we are thrilled to be mentioned on Graeme Tuckett's list of favourite films and to be featured on The Best Films of the Year in the NZ Herald today!
This quote from Graeme really resonates with what we set out to create:
'The word harrowing doesn't really apply. It's not a harrowing documentary at all. It's an extraordinarily uplifting documentary that will show you just the absolute best and the absolute worst of human nature....I've watched it maybe 3 or 4 times now. It never fails to move me to tears.' - Graeme Tuckett, Favourites of 2012, Nine to Noon on Radio NZ
If you're in NZ and looking for a last minute Christmas gift please do get in touch with us as Rob can arrange last minute postage.
In some ways signalling the completion of a chapter, Brother Number One had its premiere screenings in Phnom Penh in late October. Rob attended all the screenings to intro the film and it was such a privilage to have all three screenings of the film.
Thanks so much to Clair Duffy at the Open Society Foundation and to Mark Servian and Michael Miller for the photos. Read about us in the Phnom Penh Post here.
The audience at the Meta House
Rob introduces the film at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center
The wonderful Kulikar and her mother who lost a father/husband and whose story is told in the film.
BNO's broadcast is coming up this Thursday on TV3, which is exciting. Once again, we've had some great reviews so thanks to the Herald, the Listener and of course to TV3. The film has done well in festivals and in its theatrical release, but it is great to reach bigger, and sometimes random, audiences through the "box" (free to air at least). And cheers, too, to TV3 for having BNO kick off Inside New Zealand, and for retaining a primetime documentary strand for Kiwi filmmakers.
Apart from these occasional brightspots, the broadcasting outlook is bleak for local makers. I for one, miss TVNZ7 as do my friends and family. The Government’s logic that we have more “choice” and “digitalization” so we don’t need TVNZ7 is pretty flawed. Media Studies 101 classes point out the more “choice” some of us have (the half of us that can afford Sky), the more New Zealand content, particularly public broadcasting, is drowned out by international imports. TVNZ7 had a tiny budget compared to some of the consultancy fees currently being doled out and the producers and creatives did a fine job.
The broadcast version of Brother Number One airing Thursday is half the length of the original film given it needed to conform to a television hour. Content is always hard to lose, as filmmakers will testify, but we see it as a different film and think/hope it works. Much pacier and more focused around Rob's story.
Once the broadcast is over, we are releasing a DVD of the feature version which will be available on our website, brothernumberone.co.nz (an English version AND a Khmer version). And for those involved in education or who are just interested (in the history of war crimes tribunals since Nuremberg, the Cold War, Vietnam and Cambodia, textual analyses of documentary, exploring differing viewing contexts (cinema vs TV) etc.), there are a lot more clips and information in our two study guides online (with an answer booklet forthcoming). They conform to NCEA specs but are also suitable for university students and adults and have lots of additional clips and outtakes.
As someone who straddles the worlds of film and television (and university for that matter), I’m sad to see the demise of the film awards and congrats to the Director’s Guild who helped managed them so adeptly for many years. They were expensive and demanding to run (and all the Guilds have faced cutbacks), and yes, there was a tension between the high profile commercial and competitive prerogatives of broadcasters and the more varied palate that film culture engages with. In the “old days” in fact, there had been separate film and television awards . . so maybe, again, we will be reinventing the wheel.
Anyway, I hope you all tune in on Thursday night, TV3 – and be great to get your feedback on Facebook. All good on the international front with our fabulous sales agent Cargo Film and Releasing getting great distributors on board.
- Annie Goldson
It’s nearly a year now since Brother Number One was finished, and it has been quite a journey since then, a fulfilling and busy one. We’ve had some great audiences here in Aotearoa and around the world – Rob and I have traveled to various festivals in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Biarritz, Adelaide, London, and on our way to New York too. What has been moving is meeting Cambodians in most of the places we visit, many of them still having to deal with the memories of the past and the challenges of living in diaspora.
Speaking of that, I had a rewarding evening last week speaking at an exhibition In Spite of Ourselves: Approaching Documentary at the St Paul Gallery in Auckland which included Vandy Rattana and his series Bomb Ponds, images of the Cambodian landscape marred by American bombs during the Vietnam War. To me, their tranquility today still evokes the violence of the past.
Image / Vandy Rattana
The theatrical release of Brother Number One went well in Aotearoa. We launched the film in early March and only winding up over the last fortnight. A two-month run is not bad given the very commercial environment that rules cinema distribution. Many cinemas, including the Rialto and the Bridgeway were generous and very helpful. Our trick was to keep the P and A distribution costs really low. Some generous sponsors helped us with the essential costs, the reviewers were generous and we worked hard creating two study guides, one for English and Media Studies and the other for History and Social Studies, which extended our audience to secondary schools.
Our next international screening is coming up New York, where we will be screening the film as part of the Human Rights Watch film festival at the Lincoln Centre no less. New York is one of my old hometowns – I lived there from 1981 to 1993 although the city has changed, although probably not as much as I have from my days as a young punkish rocker.
The Human Rights Watch Fest have been really supportive, always have great venues and they’re including BNO in their travelling festival visiting something like 25 cities in Canada and the US,showing in cinemas and universities.
The broadcast of Brother Number One is most likely to happen early July, soon after we return from NYC – it is shorter than the feature version, but has its charms and the beauty of TV of course is reaching such a big audience. And following the TV3 screening, we’ll release the DVD, planning both a premium education pack (with an answer booklet to the guides), and a Khmer version that our colleague Chakara Lim translated and subtitled.
David Piperni from Cargo Film and Releasing, our distributor, took Brother Number One to MIPDOC, which I think is the biggest documentary market in the world. It was one of about 20 or so “must see” titles recommended by Realscreen, which is pretty good, given I think there are about 6000 all up. Hopefully, this will all translate to distribution and help Brother Number One continue to reach audiences everywhere.
- Annie Goldson
Annie and Rob were nominated for the Human Rights Defender Award which was presented in May 2012 in Auckland. Congratulations to the very deserving award winner Keith Locke. It was an honour to be in the company of such inspiring nominees.
Thanks to John Biaggi and Andrea Holley and all the HRW team - great festival!
We had a fantastic premiere screening at the Curzon in Soho with a big audience of 150+. Quite a lot of ex-pats by the sound of the Q and A. They've also made some lovely posters for each of the films that form a little exhibition at the Curzon.
We sold out at The Ritzy for the last screening. It was great to have Alain Werner, one of the lawyers in the film, able to attend this screening and update us all on the case. Here's the before, during and after:
Lovely for me to meet other filmmakers and I'm staying in a lovely hotel right in historic Kensington, on a 4th floor which once must have been a maid's room.
Elizabeth Becker was one of only two Western journalists allowed to visit Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. In 2011 she donated digital copies of the color photographs and recorded interviews she made on the rare 1978 reporting trip to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge to the Bophana Center in Phnom Penh.
Last month the Bophana Centre held an Exhibition of her work which she attended:
The open-air gallery was packed. Cambodians lingered over the photographs of the empty city of Phnom Penh under the Khmer Rouge, of Pol Pot and other leaders, of rural scenes, of an empty Angkor Wat and of soldiers preparing for battle on the eastern front. They pulled on headphones to hear the voices of Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith on my recorded interviews.
Surprisingly, I saw Cambodians taking each other’s photographs in front of my large portrait of Pol Pot. When I asked one young woman why, she answered that she had never seen a photograph of Pol Pot before and that some of the young people questioned whether he existed. I couldn’t have been happier to see my thirty year old photographs and recordings boost interest in discovering the history of that unspeakable time.
- Excerpt from Elizabeth's guest blog on New Mandala
Brother Number One is now fully entrenched in the festival circuit – Rob and I made it to Melbourne, and the to IDFA in Amsterdam of course, and then before the jetlag was even over, off he went to Biarritz to FIPA, which required us (at pretty short notice) to produce a French subtitled version as it was in competition. I wrestled with Google Translate and my schoolgirl French until the wonderful Deborah Walker, translator extraordinaire, rescued me. In the meantime, Chakara is doing a Khmer version, which looks beautiful with such graphic text.
I’m off to Adelaide (not Biarritz I know) to AIDC where I’m going to be something called an F4 master, and then Rob and will be off the London for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (for those in the UK, log onto http://ff.hrw.org/london, showing at the Curzon Soho and the Ritzy Cinema, both of which sound very London-esque and non-multiplex. Has a great lineup of films and I know they work hard to bring filmmakers together so that will be a blast – and it will be great to catch up with John Dewhirst’s family too who will come down from the Lake Districts to the screening.
We have now signed with a distributor too, Cargo Releasing who are supportive and organized . . so many of my summer days have been spent in editing rooms, subtitling and editing down broadcast versions. Just as well we had a lousy summer.
More news too, we have written two study guides, with most of the writing by Amy West, a PhD graduate from the University of Auckland. One is for English and Media Studies, and the other History and Social Studies. Brother Number One does seem to address such a range of issues and we had such a rich bank of archives, it seemed a no-brainer really to try to reach out to schools and universities. Kate Stevenson has been wonderful as always, managing her partners highly successful gaming site and working hard to organize the guides online, contact the teachers and all. Lots of clips online if you click on the website.
And the other big thing is we are going into a theatrical run here in New Zealand, pretty much nationwide we think. Whereas this is no blockbuster perhaps, we think it has widespread appeal and the critics have been uniformly very positive. Our P and A (publicity and advertising) budget is pretty modest, so word of mouth will be important, so any help from you all would be fantastic.
Lovely Amsterdam, so different as a city to Auckland. Canals and trams and bicycles and historic buildings, cheese and chocolate. A different sense of history for sure. IDFA’s signs are everywhere, from its tent, to Docs for Sale and the Forum through to the various cinemas. Rob arrived and the man that ate fried tarantulas in Cambodia headed for the handmade chocolate shop in Amsterdam. Always prepared to sample local delicacies.
I have been incredibly busy with meetings. My strategy right or wrong was to pre-arrange meetings with distributors and sales agents, meet with them, then follow up to see who is interested and what the best “fit” would be. So I plunged jet lag and all, mostly meeting at Docs for Sale, a digitized bank of docs, including BNO – most buyers if they are not attending the pitch forum listening to, and hopefully investing in, new projects are skimming their way through the documentary bank.
Our screenings have gone well: one daytime one, and one tonight at 10.15 pm and then another Saturday at 4.15 which is a good time given the chill in the air. People here are hugely multi-lingual and the lingua franca is English rather than Dutch, which is convenient and they all pick up on the nuances within the film. The audiences here are moved as elsewhere and the questions pretty much follow similar lines as they have in New Zealand and in Australia.
There are strong Kiwi connections here – the volunteer who picked us up has a mother from Palmerston North and Rob and I will be talking on a radio show called English Breakfast, subscribed to by the large Kea community here. The journalist was born in New Zealand to Dutch parents.
With the film screenings having gone well so far I am now, finally, getting a chance to look at some of the films myself. Making “engaged” creative documentaries may be harder these days as broadcasters head towards popular factual but clearly look at the range and depth of works here, there are still many filmmakers sufficiently passionate and/or crazy to keep it up.
Here is a video of one of the Q&As: