When Covid struck New Zealand way back in 2020, the organisers of the NZ Mountain Film & Book Festival did just the same as everyone else: started operating online. It’s proved to be a game changer, with the festival now being watched by a much wider audience throughout New Zealand and Australia.
The technology involved in running the festival has changed quite considerably since the first iteration of this well-loved event back in 2002, when it started out as the ‘Wānaka Mountain Slide Festival’. When one of the speakers flying in from Wellington was delayed by fog, Wānaka-based mountaineer Guy Cotter kindly lent a DVD to be played instead. The audience loved it and this became the inspiration for New Zealand’s first, and still only, adventure filmmakers’ competition.
In the early days, films were played on VHS tape, with festival founder and director, Mark Sedon, introducing each session before ducking behind the curtain to press play on the machine. Things have come a long way since then but, until Covid forced his hand, Sedon, admits he had been somewhat reluctant to take the festival online.
“The festival is not just about films and speakers, it’s about meeting and sharing adventures, planning new ones and feeding off the amp after films and talks that makes us want to go do something fun!” he explains.
However, since offering the festival as an online event, in addition to the in-person events held in Wānaka and Queenstown, Sedon has not looked back and has been pleased to see the festival films reaching a much wider audience as a result.
“First and foremost, we love bringing people together for our festival, it’s really fun and social and you can’t beat the buzz of a live event, so it’s important to do that if we can,” says Sedon. “We introduced the online festival in 2020 thinking that we probably wouldn’t be able to go ahead with the live events but in the end, we were lucky and have been able to hold the festival in between lockdowns. However, knowing that we still have an option to run the festival online, if nothing else, is really reassuring.
“We also realise that not everyone can make it to Wānaka or Queenstown to attend the events, or sometimes it’s just hard to find the time, so we’re really pleased that with the online festival, people from all over New Zealand as well as Australia can now enjoy these great films.”
The NZ Mountain Film Festival is a competitive event and a member of the International Alliance of Mountain Film. The international adventure filmmaking competition receives submissions from filmmakers from all over the world and the finalists make up the festival programme. While the competition could still have been held, even in the event of another Covid lockdown, being able to run the festival gives filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work, which Sedon says is another important aspect of the event.
Promoting NZ arts, culture, literature and film is one of the guiding mātāpono/principles outlined in the NZ Mountain Film Festival Charitable Trust, which was established in 2012.
Sedon has been particularly pleased to see Kiwi creatives shining through at this year’s event. 21-year-old filmmaker Maddy Whittaker has claimed the $2500 Hiddleston/MacQueen Award for the Best-NZ Made Film, with New Zealand directors also winning the Epic Edit, Best Cinematography, and Spirit of Adventure awards. The Wanaka, Queenstown and online programmes also include the popular Pure NZ session which celebrates the Kiwi love of adventure and the talented filmmakers behind the camera.
Sedon says that one of the main aims of the festival is to inspire more people to get into the outdoors and to take on their own adventures, and in particular young people.
“We’re all about inspiring the next generation of adventurers and explorers but we also realise that the traditional format of our festival doesn’t necessarily appeal to younger people. They don’t tend to go the movies so much, they’re more about picking and choosing what they want to watch, and where and when they watch it. The online festival caters much better for that.”
With an Online Festival Pass, viewers can watch festival sessions at their leisure between June 24 and July 24. Sessions go live 15 minutes after the live start time in the Wānaka festival programme. The online festival includes all of the films apart from sessions 12 and 13 which are part of the Vicennial Celebrations and feature some of the favourite entries from the past 20 years. Speaker sessions and book events are not included in the online festival.
More information about the NZ Mountain Film & Book Festival available here: https://mountainfilm.nz/
Find out more at mountainfilm.nz