International film producer is a Canberra boy at heart

admin | 杭州桑拿
5 Feb 2019

Talented: Former Canberran and film-maker Matthew Metcalfe’s latest film “The Dead Lands” will be screening as part of the Canberra International Film Festival. Photo: Melissa AdamsHe grew up in Canberra and planned to join the navy after finishing university, but Matthew Metcalfe found himself sidetracked by a long-time love of movies.

Today, the New Zealand-born producer has nine feature films, 10 television features and several music videos under his belt, and spends half his time flying to meetings all over the world.

But he says he’s never forgotten his formative years in Canberra, which is why he chose the capital for the Australian premiere of his new feature film, The Dead Lands.

Set in pre-colonial New Zealand, the film is shot entirely in te reo Maori and is the first feature film to showcase the ancient Maori martial art mau rakau.

“It’s a great action thriller, it’s that classic hero’s journey – the unwitting hero who gets sucked into events beyond his control and who has the choice to either wither away and die or to become strong and face their adversaries down,” he told Fairfax Media this week.

He had been handed the script by writer Glen Standring, optioned it straight away and then sat on it for a couple years.

“I often do that with the films I make, I think about them and wait until I feel right, and then what I did is I took it to a long-time collaborator of mine, Toa Fraser, who directed it, and who I’ve done two previous films with, and he loved it as well. So we decided together that we were going to make the film, and we both felt strongly that we would keep it in te reo, which is the Maori language, for authenticity’s sake.”

Modelled on the ’80s action thrillers he and director Fraser grew up watching, he said it was in many ways a traditional story but one that showed New Zealand history in a new light.

“I’m very proud to say that we had our opening weekend in New Zealand just this weekend gone, and it hands down beat Fury, the Brad Pitt film – we were the number one film in the New Zealand box office,” he said.

“Everyone’s really delighted about such a strong opening and such a strong response. And I think that’s just because it’s a good ride, an off-the-bat, straight-up-and-down action thriller with traditional elements, great action, great fights and a lot of heart.”

Mr Metcalfe said he had fond memories of growing up in the northern suburb of Spence, and studying at Dickson College.

“Canberra is where I went to school, it’s where I grew up, it’s where I learnt to ride a motorbike, where I learnt to drive, where I used to go out to Belconnen Mall on a Friday night,” he said.

“It’s a really nostalgic place for me that I really enjoy and have really fond memories of. People love to hassle Canberra but I really like it.”

He studied at the University of Auckland as a foreign student, and had planned to return to Australia and join the navy.

But  while he was waiting for the course to begin he discovered a mutual love of film with a friend – he had worked part-time as an usher throughout his studies – and started making films, postponing the course before giving it up completely.

The Dead Lands is due for official worldwide release early next year, but Canberrans will get the chance to see it this week as part of the Canberra International Film Festival.

“When this came up, I said absolutely, I’m a Canberra boy and I’d love to take this to Canberra, and I won’t say who but some other festivals lost out because Canberra got it first,” he said.

The Dead Lands screens at Dendy Cinemas on Thursday November 6 at 6.30pm, and on Saturday November 8 at 4pm, and producer Matthew Metcalfe will be introducing both screenings. For a full CIFF program, visit canberrafilmfestival杭州龙凤论坛

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