The Lumière Reader presents its third "essay film", Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Film free online from today. Directed by Lumière editor Tim Wong, narrated by Eleanor Catton and funded by NZ On Air, it stretches from the pre-history of New Zealand film through to films as recent as What We Do in the Shadows.
The film is embedded for viewing below. Tim Wong has also written the following introduction for Public Address readers:
Since its premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July, Out of the Mist has been largely discussed in terms of its advocacy for New Zealand films and filmmakers forgotten or ignored. That’s certainly the original impetus behind its creation, and while I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of our film heritage, it’s been a pleasure rescuing a personal masterpiece like George Rose’s Time is a Spider – virtually unseen since the late 90s – or championing a truly great New Zealand film like Alison Maclean’s Crush, which to me has always (unfairly) existed on the periphery of the popular canon.
On the other hand, what has been rightly acknowledged by some critics – but not necessarily vocalised by audiences who saw the film the first time around – is the implicit challenge Out of the Mist presents to established ways of imagining, producing, and critiquing movies made in and about this country.
With the online release, this perspective will hopefully come into sharp relief – or will at least allow the film’s ideas to be more closely scrutinised and debated. As a first-time filmmaker, I’m acutely aware of the flaws that will likely come out in the wash through this extra exposure.
But I’m also curious to see how the many open questions the film puts forward – in lieu of well-argued statements, which are straightforward to make on ‘paper’ yet more complicated when adapted for the screen – are extrapolated in relation to the film industry, wider creative community, and issues of national and artistic identity, such as the unresolved flag referendum.
Writing and directing this film has also given me a greater empathy for the artist and the creative process. Because making a film is hard (not to mention expensive), and it’s even harder for those prepared to go against the grain. Whatever the outcome, those artists are to be admired and ought to be supported. I for one couldn’t have made this film without NZ On Air, whose backing of innovative digital content deserves praise.
One final note: Out of the Mist is a “found footage” production with extensive use of film excerpts, some of which have been cleared under the Fair Dealing copyright exemption of the law. As I’m unaware of other local filmmakers and content creators working exclusively within the same space, this film has been developed as something of a test case. Provided I’ve dotted my I’s and crossed my T’s, it will be the first in a series of film essays about cinema and other art forms.