World stage for pigs

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 15:25 25/01/2013

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The story of the Auckland Island pigs, Mayor Tim Shadbolt and the groundbreaking treatment of Type 1 diabetes had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah yesterday.

The Cleanest Pig, written and directed by Wellington filmmaker David White, briefly documents the plight of the pigs, and their brush with extermination, Mr Shadbolt's intervention, and their eventual use by Living Cell Technologies (LCT) to trial a cure for Type I diabetes - all in 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

White, speaking from the Los Angeles Airport departure lounge today said he was one of 30 filmmakers from around the world selected by film company Focus Forward to premiere at the festival, which was ''a buzz''.

The films - all based on the theme of innovation - collectively had about 11 million views, White said.

Film Otago Southland executive manager KJ Jennings said the documentary was included in a high calibre pool of filmmakers at the international festival - 19 of the short films had Oscar-nominated directors attached to them.

White was an up and coming director out of Wellington, Mr Jennings said.

Mr Shadbolt said White contacted him last year and filming was done - in full mayoral robes - about three months ago.

Considering the crew spent about half a day filming him, he was surprised at how short the film actually turned out to be.

''When they said 'short film' I was expecting it to be 20 minutes...I guess people don't have the time now to watch blockbuster after blockbuster.''

He was delighted it had been produced in a ''big movie'' way. Though it was an entertaining version of the issue he believed it would be ''good for the cause'' and would stimulate interest in the pig cell research.

In December, LCT signed an agreement with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory,  to co-develop a treatment for Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders.

Mr Shadbolt said it was satisfying to see the story - which has been told in two television documentaries and a ''glossy magazine'' piece - make it to the big screen, after the initial public backlash when he contributed money out of the Mayoral Contingency Fund.

Venture Southland's enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said the doco was part of a new wave of filmmaking, where ''quirky'' short films were compressed to make them accessible on iPhones and Android apps and could be easily shared.

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