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Two feature length New Zealand films and a short film, which include the input of Massey University staff, screen at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Wellington this week.
Words and music comprise most of Persuading the Baby to Float, a music documentary that records the artistic collaboration between composer Norman Meehan from the New Zealand School of Music and poet Bill Manhire. The School is jointly run by Massey University and Victoria University, and the movie was filmed during the rehearsal and concert of the School’s first Hunter concert of 2011.
Meanwhile, futuristic film Existence includes an otherworldly dialect devised by linguists from the School of Humanities.
Actors Matthew Sunderland and Aaron Jackson speak the dialect. They received coaching by Martin Paviour-Smith, with advice from his colleague Dr Peter Petrucci, who are both from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“Not being a natural-born New Zealander myself, we decided that Martin be the one to manipulate the dialect to what a New Zealander might sound like in the future,’ Dr Petrucci says.
The dialect was devised envisaging certain changes in consonants and vowels along with some interesting new words.
Dr Petrucci says some characters in the film have been isolated from the main population for some generations, making the emergence of a new dialect completely plausible.
“It’s fair to say, New Zealand’s geographical isolation over time has been partly responsible for the development of the spoken language that New Zealanders use today.”
Dr Petrucci, whose research work looks at sociolinguistic aspects of cinema discourse, or how movies show variations in the way people speak, was approached by the film’s director Juliet Bergh to devise “ a distinct dialect for the character but with limited dialogue.”
It was critical to get uniformity in the pronunciation before the shoot, she says. “It was wonderful to hear the language come to life as they worked with the actors. We filmed in some very windy conditions and the short clipped language worked well in this environment.”
The movie was funded by the New Zealand Film Commission’s low budget Escalator initiative.
The music documentary, in which songs are performed in front of a live audience, prompted one reviewer to comment that the collaboration between Manhire and Meehan, with vocalist Hannah Griffin, led to “exceptional new artworks’ arising.”
Completing the trio of movies involving Massey staff is 43,000 Feet. With a screenplay written by School of English and Media Studies tutor Dr Matt Harris, in which a man reflects on his life as he falls through the sky, the movie’s one of the short films submitted for New Zealand’s Best 2012 competition that is running as part of the festival.
43,000 Feet is screened at the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday August 1 at 7pm and Thursday August 2 at 11.30am.
Persuading the Baby to Float is being screened at Te Papa, Soundings Theatre at 1pm and 6pm on Tuesday July 31.
Existence premieres at the Paramount Theatre at 7pm on Friday August 3 and re-screened at 1.45pm on Monday August 6.