Southland-based movie premiers

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013

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The producer of The Weight of Elephants says the Southland-based film had a sold-out audience for its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival this month.

The Weight of Elephants is the first feature film co-production between New Zealand and Denmark. The date of its New Zealand release is not yet known.

Leanne Saunders, of Severe Features, said the 87-minute movie - the debut feature film for Dunedin director Daniel Borgman - was likely to premiere in Denmark first, possibly in June, before premiering in New Zealand.

The Berlin audience had been impressed with Southland on the big screen, she said.

"People were very moved by the performances and by the story . . . there was a certain amount of nostalgia in the film, with a lot of contemporary issues running through. A lot of local children were in the film and really captivated the audience."

Almost 800 pupils from Invercargill primary schools had auditioned for the core cast of about 20, with eight selected to play "significant supporting roles".

Much of the filming had been done in and around an Otautau house in the late summer of 2012. Ms Saunders said there were no regrets about choosing Southland to capture the beauty and hardships of childhood in a rural town.

"It was during that endless, endless summer in Southland with really amazing light. It was very beautiful. I'm very happy with our decision to be in Southland."

She was also happy with the reviews that had come in so far.

Screen Daily reviewer Lee Marshall described The Weight of Elephants as a "good-looking widescreen arthouse package".

He also described it as a film in which the director "seems so intent on his poetic vision (which is, to give him credit, captivatingly poetic) that he sometimes gets between us and the characters".

Hollywood Reporter reviewer David Rooney wrote that although "the sound and visual elements often are quite beautiful", Borgman was "over-reliant on lyrical slow-motion sequences . . . [that] contributes to the film's nagging preciousness, which is worsened by the tendency to stuff the thoughts of an adult screenwriter into the mouths of children".

Ms Saunders said the reviews were typical for a first-time feature film and were directed towards the film trade, rather than the audiences.

"Word of mouth" reviews from the Berlin audience were very good, she said.

The Weight of Elephants is based on the book Of a Boy, by Australian novelist Sonya Hartnett, about a sensitive 9-year-old boy struggling with his fears and anxieties after the disappearance of three children from his small town. The film adaptation is carrying great expectations after Borgman's 2010 short film Berik won the Grand Prix at the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes.

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About $50,000 of Southland funding went into the film.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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