Issue date: 
Thursday, 2 September 2021

Acclaimed New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog will have its world premiere in Venice on Thursday and has just been announced to premiere at Telluride Film Festival which runs 2 to 6 September.

The much-anticipated film has already been selected to premiere in Toronto and as the Centrepiece Selection of the New York Film Festival at the end of the month.

An official New Zealand/Australian co-production, The Power of the Dog, is made with funding from Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), Netflix, BBC Film, and the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Grant.

The film was adapted by Campion from the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Peter Carroll, Adam Beach alongside rising New Zealand star Thomasin McKenzie.

The film was shot on locations across New Zealand - including the city of Dunedin, Lindis Valley, Oamaru and Queenstown - as well as in studios in Auckland.

“While The Power of the Dog is set in Montana, North America, Jane Campion chose to film in New Zealand, highlighting once again that New Zealand’s diverse and dramatic scenery can stand in for many countries,” said David Strong, CEO of the NZFC.

Speaking from Venice, ahead of the film’s world premiere, Campion said, “It was an enormous pleasure to be working in my homeland with so many extraordinary Kiwi colleagues and particularly heart warming to hear my lead actors comment that they had never seen sets so well made or dressed with such incredible detail.  Working with the enthusiasm and love of this crew and cast and Thomas Savage’s masterful novel was a lifetime thrill and I’m very grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission and the country for their support. I also want to give a shout out to Jacinda and her government for handling the COVID pandemic so swiftly and well because it enabled us to get back up after the lockdown and complete our film with safety and confidence unknown in the rest of the world.”

A predominantly New Zealand crew were headed by experienced and award-winning Kiwis such as Production Designer Grant Major (An Angel at my Table, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Costume Designer Kirsty Cameron (Slow West, Whale Rider) and Hair and Makeup Designer Noriko Watanabe (The Piano, Top of the Lake: China Girl). Cinematography was by Ari Wegner (Lady Macbeth, Stray, Gardening with Soul).

The Power of the Dog is a See-Saw Films, Bad Girl Creek and Max Films production in association with Brightstar, Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga the New Zealand Film Commission, Cross City Films and BBC Film. The film is produced by Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier. The film was developed with BBC Film.

Following the film’s international premieres, New Zealanders will be the first in the world to see The Power of the Dog in theatrical release. Transmission Films will release the film theatrically in New Zealand on 11 November followed by a 12 November release in Australia.

Jane Campion said she was “delighted that the film has been invited to screen at so many of the
International Festivals but most excited to share it on the big screen (COVID allowing) in New Zealand and around the world.”

The film will debut on Netflix on December 1 following theatrical release in cinemas around the world.

Severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank is brutally beguiling. All of Phil’s romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past and in the land: He can castrate a bull calf with two swift slashes of his knife; he swims naked in the river, smearing his body with mud. He is a cowboy as raw as his hides. 

The year is 1925. The Burbank brothers are wealthy ranchers in Montana. At the Red Mill restaurant on their way to market, the brothers meet Rose, the widowed proprietress, and her impressionable son Peter. Phil behaves so cruelly he drives them both to tears, revelling in their hurt and rousing his fellow cowhands to laughter – all except his brother George, who comforts Rose then returns to marry her.

As Phil swings between fury and cunning, his taunting of Rose takes an eerie form – he hovers at the edges of her vision, whistling a tune she can no longer play.  His mockery of her son is more overt, amplified by the cheering of Phil’s cowhand disciples. Then Phil appears to take the boy under his wing. Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or a plot twisting further into menace?

Last updated: 
Thursday, 2 September 2021