Christchurch mockumentary wins Grand Prize

23:20, Aug 08 2013
Eugene Chang
Eugene Chang

Christchurch mockumentary Propaganda has won the Grand Prize for Best Film award at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan, an invite-only annual film festival co-founded and curated by Oscar-winning director, Michael Moore.

A scathing critique of American excess which has been described as "1984 meets The Blair Witch Project, the film faced controversy earlier this year as a supposedly North Korean anti-Western propaganda movie, but was co-created and directed by Christchurch film-makers Slavko Martinov and Mike Kelland over nine years.

Initially released via YouTube, the mockumentary claimed that the world is controlled by corporates who use consumerism, religion and pop culture to prevent people rising up against their corrupt rulers with North Korea the exception to this rule.

In February, Christchurch engineer Eugene Chang, who narrated and acted in the film, was shunned by his South Korean community and accused of being a North Korean sympathiser and spy.

From Chicago, Martinov said yesterday the award win was a "great help" for Chang and could lead to greater things for the Christchurch production crew, Sabineprogram.

"It is a great help for Eugene, this award, because everyone here knows how he's been treated and stand by him in a big way," Martinov said.

"The festival is invite-only and they choose films that they want to Academy qualify. Their track record in the last three years for choosing winners that go on to the Oscars is airtight. I didn't even know about any of this before I got there."

Sold out weeks in advance, the film was screened three times at the festival, including at the State Theatre, rated by the Motion Picture Academy recently as the number one film theatre in the world.

"Just being invited was unbelievable and then I found out I was speaking on two panels with Moore. The people either side of me were Oscar and Golden Globe winners."

Martinov said when the film was announced by Moore as having won the big prize, he put "Anna Paquin to shame".

"Luckily I found my voice and the rest was a blur of activity with Hollywood types telling me my life's changed and I'd better get used to it but all I could think about is how cold it is in Christchurch, sitting in my study, wrapped up in a blanket writing funding applications for films that will never get support back home, while here, everyone can't wait to see your next films and wants to help you make them."

He said it was a great feeling to put a small Christchurch production company on the radar of such influential American movie-makers.

"The Christchurch production team at Sabineprogram were acknowledged at the highest level for their work and that is extremely satisfying. People like Eugene, Mike, Ben Edwards from Lyttelton, who mixed the sound, Jody Lloyd who provided the original soundtrack, Nick White who did the design and graphics and Susannah Kenton who did the voice overs. It's a team victory."

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The Press