Moko doco top tale

Labour of love:  Film-maker and marine biologist Amy Taylor, whose documentary about Moko will screen in Hamilton on Saturday.
Labour of love: Film-maker and marine biologist Amy Taylor, whose documentary about Moko will screen in Hamilton on Saturday.

Amy Taylor never imagined her independently made feature-length documentary about Moko the dolphin would gain international recognition from some of the world's elite wildlife and natural history film-makers.

The story of the wayward, extroverted dolphin and his unique and playful relationship with people has already started making a big splash.

Following its premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival, Soul in the Sea will compete alongside internationally acclaimed directors and film-makers from the BBC Natural History Unit and National Geographic Television in the prestigious Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

The announcement has left Taylor "delighted and stunned".

"Soul in the Sea was self-funded and made with a fraction of the budget that most documentaries have - I did everything from producing and directing to shooting and editing - so it's even more of a surprise that it's been selected as one of three finalists for the best people and nature category."

This year's entries included 540 films competing for just 23 special awards. More than 100 international judges screened more than 2500 hours of films in order to select the finalists. The festival coincides with an international film industry conference that attracts over 600 international experts within the science, conservation, broadcasting and film-making industry.

"I've been able to see the impact Moko's story has on the audience and that makes all the hard work worth it," Taylor said. "Having spent much of the last three years making this film, it means a lot to me now it's going to be shared around the world."

Soul in the Sea is screening in Hamilton on Saturday at 1pm at the Lido Cinema, as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

The film explores the impact Moko had on the Eastern Bay of Plenty community he frequented in the six months up to his death in July 2010.

Foremost among Moko's human companions was Kirsty Carrington, whose concern he would fall prey to the same sad fate as earlier lone dolphins brought her into conflict with staff at the Department of Conservation, who discourage human intervention in the affairs of marine mammals.

Meanwhile, Moko-mania proved disruptive for fishermen in Whakatane, and small tourism operators got into scraps over how best to ferry tourists to Moko's location.

Moko was named after Mokotahi, a headland on Mahia Peninsula, where he resided from 2007 to September 2009 and became a major attraction.

In January 2010 he moved to Whakatane for five months, before following a fishing boat to Tauranga in early June. He was found dead on a beach at Matakana Island near Tauranga on July 7.

Taylor completed a postgraduate diploma in natural history film-making at the University of Otago in association with Natural History New Zealand. Her student documentary about Hector's dolphins, Beyond the Kelp, was broadcast on Maori TV. She has since worked on various documentaries, short films, commercials and music videos as a producer, director, cinematographer and editor.