From Gloriavale to documentary glory
A film about a religious community living on New Zealand's West Coast made by a former Kapiti College student has won Best Documentary at the 2012 Chicago CineYouth International Student Film Festival.
The win will see Cody Packer's film Gloriavale shown at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival's "CineYouth Best of the Fest" section in October.
Packer, 20, said he was stunned to find out his documentary had won in late May, and had to wait until June 2 to tell his friends and family.
"It was an email actually. I got it really late one night when I was out having a few drinks, and when I read it I was like, 'what, that's awesome', and I had to actually re-read it the next day to really believe it.
"Yeah, it was a good night after that. It definitely boosted my spirits and made it a night to remember."
The documentary was shot as his final project while at broadcasting school in Christchurch, and he spent three days at Gloriavale, fully immersed in the religious community.
With the help of journalism student Shani Annand-Baron and Nathan Joe on sound, Packer made the nearly nine- minute documentary to take an unbiased look at the controversial community.
He said spending time at Gloriavale is like "going to a completely different planet", the way the 320 residents interact with each other and live their lives.
"I'd seen heaps of old Channel 3 sort of small news items on it, and they labelled it as a cult, you know, they were doing really weird things there . . . so I thought I'd try and make a documentary on them," he said.
"We stayed there and really got to know them, but it was really weird. It was probably one of the weirdest experiences of my life."
Packer entered the documentary in the CineYouth festival, being a student when the film was shot, and said it was shown at the festival over the weekend.
Winning the Best Documentary section, against about 20 other documentaries, means Packer's film will screen at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival, which he will attend in October.
"It's not a huge [festival] like your Torontos or Cannes, but it is a pretty big one and they launch some pretty big films there."
He had decided to travel to Chicago and watch his film on the big screen after being encouraged by his boss and former tutor.
"They said you'd be stupid not to go because it is a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity. I'm really looking forward to it."
Until then he's at a production company in Grey Lynn, Auckland, where he has helped to complete a programme on Sir Murray Halberg's 1960 Olympic Gold Medal for TVNZ. He is now working on a crime show project with the company for TV3.
Packer also hopes to get funding from New Zealand On Air to make a short film he has started writing.
To watch Gloriavale, see below.