Selecting films with care and asking filmmakers to create and enter short films on the topic of stillness into a competition, our intention as Co-Directors was to encourage people to bring greater stillness into their lives, to be more mindful, awakening to the results that their intentions and their actions are having on others, the planet and all beings on it.
The festival was consciously and deliberately scheduled to run the week after Mental Health Awareness Week. In previous years, the Film Archive (as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was formerly known) has run mental health themed programming at this time and Stillness, & The Moving Image was an extension of this; aimed also at people with an interest in mindfulness, meditation and a secular approach to Buddhism and other religious practices.
What resulted was the successful engagement with a wide ranging audience, many of whom were first time visitors to the venue and most of whom were not known to us. Feedback was very positive and the total audience for the eight screenings was 360, giving an average audience of 45. In the context of the average attendance in Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s 100-seat cinema, the festival’s 35–65 attendees per screening is in the top third for the year.
Seeking partnerships, we pulled in support from:
- the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
- Secular Buddhism Aotearoa New Zealand
- Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust
- Mindfulness Works
- Recollective Awareness Mediation Australia
- Tennent & Brown Architects
- Wellington Buddhist Centre
- Wellington Insight Meditation Community
- and a number of individuals
Festival Co-Director Ramsey Margolis circulated information about the festival to a range of blogs and websites and fellow Co-Director Mark Sweeney was interviewed by Radio Active. Word of mouth publicity proved highly effective, leading to a small and repeated audience from the Department of Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, among others.
The short film competition run in the months leading up the festival challenged filmmakers to create a film between 30 seconds and two minutes long on the topic of ‘stillness’. The winner received $300 and a copy of Wallace Chapman’s book Don't Just Do Something, Sit There. The competition attracted more than 30 entries, with filmmakers from Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Spain, UK and USA submitting entries. Most entries were on theme and within the timeframe.
Competition judges were actor Loren Taylor, director and producer Robin Greenberg and festival Co-Director Mark Sweeney. The winning entry and five official selections screened on the opening night, and Kuesti Fraun, the German filmmaker of the winning entry, greeted the opening night audience on Skype. His film drama, Bonjour Liberté, was selected as the winner because of the intriguing way the story unfolded, its gritty black and white tones and character, and the end twist in which the anticipated air travel did not take place. Instead, the protagonist sets up a deckchair at the end of the runway and discovers his personal stillness. The competition brought a participatory dimension to the festival and it was pleasing to connect internationally.
For Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, a first for this festival was the creation of an independent website which gave the festival its own identity and the ability to promote itself outside of the noise of the regular events, screenings and content. It would not have been possible to run the short film competition without it, as this ran for several months prior to the screenings. The festival offered online ticketing through Eventbrite, something Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision has yet to set up. This blog provided background to the theme of the festival, information on the films and updates.
The festival contained a mix of international and New Zealand content and its curation achieved its intended purpose of capturing the theme both in individual films and, strongly, when viewed as an eclectic whole. Considering all the feature content had screened previously, and some of it was available online, the turnout and feedback proved proof of concept. It showed that even in a media-saturated world, in a calendar crowded with film festivals, there is still room for the collective experience of cinema with thought provoking and spiritually nourishing content.
As Co-directors, we wish to thank all the organisations and individuals who partnered the festival, the staff at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision for their hard work, Sue Hobbs for designing the flyer and, of course, the filmmakers and the audience.
Mark Sweeney and Ramsey Margolis, Co-Directors