NZ Architecture and Design Film Festival returns

First Run Features

Altina Schinasi was the creator of cats-eye glasses.

Aiming to present the documentaries on the subject from the around the glove, the annual Resene Architecture & Design Film Festival is back for a fifth year.


Ahead of its debut in Auckland on Thursday night, James Croot caught up with the festival's co-curators, Clearly & Co's Clare Buchanan and Tracey Lee.

Screening as part of the Resene Design and Architecture Film Festival, AKA Norman Parkinson looks at the life and work ...

Screening as part of the Resene Design and Architecture Film Festival, AKA Norman Parkinson looks at the life and work of the pioneering photographer and eccentric English gentleman.

READ MORE: 10 films to see at this year's Documentary Edge Film Festival

How do you go about choosing the films for the festival?

We search the globe for striking, thought-provoking films with a brilliant story and a lot of soul. We look to international festivals we respect, the global architecture, design and sustainability network and film-makers we have come to know and follow.


John Lautner created some of the most sensual, startling and ravishing architecture of the 20th Century.

The largest festival is the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam (AFFR), which features over 100 documentaries, feature films and short films. There is often some artful sleuthing involved in tracking down the film-makers.

And finally, we settle down and watch 100s of hours of films to select the 19 exceptional films to bring to New Zealand audiences.

What themes have come through this year? Which issues raised are most relevant to New Zealanders?

We're recognising an interest in telling sustainability stories – whether that be an encouraging, positive take on how sustainability can impact a community, or a bold foreboding for the destruction and decay people are having on a planet.  

Ila Beka Louise Lemoine

Barbanica is a month-long immersion in the life of London's Barbican Arts Centre

Each have their place and we think both sides of the storytelling are important for New Zealanders as our population grows at unprecedented levels and we recognise our once pure resources are (or could become) threatened.

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How has the festival grown over the past few years and where would you like to see it in another five?

The festival began as an Auckland festival and over the past five years we have grown to include Wellington, Dunedin and last year Christchurch. 

In another five years, we would love to extend the festival to include a speaker series, tours and – importantly – help kickstart films capturing New Zealand's architectural stories. 

What is it about design and architecture that makes it such a fascinating and suitable topic for documentaries?

Quite possibly because they are such a labour of love. 

They are made by film-makers who are passionate about their subject; about architects and designers who are committed, bold and visionary and for whom the journey is seldom easy.  The stories are at once personal and impact everyone.  

Finally, how does New Zealand fare? How could we grow our filmmaking on the subject and what do you think are the barriers to this happening?

In the past, we have screened Geoffrey Hawthorn's Architect of Dreams and Sam Neill's Architect Athfield, two beautiful films on the late Ian Athfield.

This year, we have some wonderful NZIA shorts on Pip Cheshire and Stuart Gardyne, as well as Rowena Baines' short film Akau. New Zealand has so many fascinating stories.

Funding and return is the biggest issue for film-makers in a small market. We'd love to see a New Zealand "patron saint" set up the equivalent of Design On-screen to help capture our design history!  We can certainly provide a screening platform.

The fifth Resene Architecture & Design Film Festival will screen in Auckland (May 5 to 18), Wellington (May 26 to June 12), Dunedin (June 16 to 26) and Christchurch (June 30 to July 13). For more information, see


 - Stuff


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