Two-time Academy Award nominee Ra Vincent (Jojo Rabbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is this year’s recipient of Te Tumu Whakaata New Zealand Film Commission’s Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Award announced at the Māoriland Film Festival this afternoon.
The award includes a grant of $50,000 and was presented by New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) CEO Annabelle Sheehan and Pou Whakahaere Te O Kahurangi Waaka. Vincent, who is overseas, accepted the award via a pre-recorded message to presentation attendees.
Ra Vincent’s (Te Atiawa) visual flair as a production designer has brought to life iconic stories such as Jojo Rabbit, The Hobbit and What We Do In the Shadows. His artistry and ability to create unique worlds has led to a career supporting directors including Taika Waititi, Sir Peter Jackson, Jemaine Clement and Christian Rivers. Widely recognised for his mastery of visual language, he is also admired for his leadership style and his support for local productions in early development.
Vincent was nominated for Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Award by producer Carthew Neal with letters of support from Taika Waititi and Sir Peter Jackson.
“He is any director’s best secret weapon and a true artist,” Waititi wrote. “His ability to bring a page to life right in front of your eyes is unparalleled and though Ra is a truly excellent production designer, I am most in awe of how he brings out excellence in those around him.”
“I cannot imagine a more worthy recipient of this recognition than Ra,” wrote Jackson. “I admire not only his artistic talent, his leadership skills, but also his personal integrity and decency.”
In addition to the main award, Puti Puti Rā Simich-Pene and Julian Arahanga, were recognised for their contributions to the sector and will each receive $10,000 grants.
Puti Puti Rā Simich-Pene (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hāua, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto) has worked in film and television for over 15 years. She is a managing director of production company Roses and Stone Ltd which has the goal of bringing great films to the screen through championing great Māori film technicians, bringing teams together to wrap around Māori writers and directors and assisting filmmakers in achieving their storytelling ambitions. Her recent credits include her role as 1st AD on Power Rangers, 800 Words and the Brokenwood Mysteries.
Julian Arahanga (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Raukawa) is the director of Awa Films, a production company grounded in Māori protocols and ideology. He has 30 years’ industry experience working on a range of productions with some of the world’s most influential filmmakers including Lee Tamahori, Gregor Nicholas,and The Wachowskis. He was named SPADA Independent Producer of the Year in 2020 and has, in the last five years, produced five short films directed by women. He is generous with his expertise and technical knowledge which has supported and raised Māori productions and new film makers to levels of excellence.
Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Awards have been given annually since 2018 to recognise members of the Māori screen community who have displayed a high-level contribution or achievement as recognised by peers. Previous recipients are writer/director Michael Bennett, cinematographer Fred Renata, writer Kath Akuhata-Brown, Wairoa Film Festival director Leo Koziol, and the eight writers and directors behind anthology feature film Waru - Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Renae Maihi, Chelsea Cohen and Paula Jones, director Awanui Simich-Pene and writer Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu.