Issue date: 
Monday, 11 March 2024

A feature documentary project focussed on Jacinda Ardern has been in development for several years. In early 2023, funding of $5,000 was awarded including the Producer International Travel Fund and Boost business development funding. In February 2024, feature film funding of $800,000 was conditionally approved, to an amount equal to around 25% of the film’s total production budget of $3.2m. 

The producer is Emma Slade of Firefly Films and the Writer/Directors are award winning filmmakers Pietra Brettkelly and Justin Pemberton.

There is significant investment from both local and international partners, which indicates market confidence that there is an audience for this film in New Zealand and overseas. Box office is one important measure of success, however international sales are also important. NZFC looks for film festival support along with video on demand and TV audiences. Sales estimates for this film are strong, which is evidenced by the level of third-party investment.

It is important to note this is not a biopic. Rather, the documentary explores the rise of violent extremism and online hate in New Zealand, following Jacinda Ardern’s leadership trajectory as an example of how these forces played out through one of the most tumultuous periods in modern times. The documentary records a period of New Zealand’s history.

The documentary proposal described it as “a social excavation of the rise and fall of the young female leader, Jacinda Ardern, exploring how the mania that propelled her rise later collided with a backlash of hate, told through a bold mash-up of media and peer archive”.

The documentary is not authorised nor endorsed by Jacinda Ardern, and she has no editorial involvement. Pietra Brettkelly and Justin Pemberton are among New Zealand’s most experienced documentary makers and this project was in NZFC’s slate presented at Cannes Film Festival in May 2023 to potential international partners (it was published in our brochure as ‘Jacindamania’). All NZFC funded films require a distributor to invest and contribute their market expertise. There is significant foreign investment and international interest in the documentary which is evidence of its likely audience appeal.

This project followed the standard NZFC assessment process for production investment. NZFC staff provide recommendations and the NZFC board signs off funding at this level. All assessors are required to adhere to conflict of interest procedures, and potential conflicts are noted where applicable. In this case, our Chair recused himself from the decision making on this project. All assessors are also required to adhere to our policy on political neutrality.

The application was checked for eligibility in line with NZFC Production Financing guidelines, Te Rautaki Māori and the Terms of Trade. It substantially met requirements and was eligible for the funding round.

The documentary goes into production later this year for an estimated release in August 2025.

New Zealand Film Commission operates with a funding cap of $2 million per project, which is a recoupable equity investment (not a grant). The average NZFC contribution so far this financial year has been $1.5m for scripted features, and $863,000 for documentaries. It is worth noting that at 25% of the total budget, NZFC’s proportional contribution to this film is substantially less than usual for documentaries due to the level of third party investment.

Last updated: 
Monday, 11 March 2024