Issue date: 
Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Tribeca Film Festival has today announced that New Zealand feature film Stylebender, by director Zoe McIntosh (Dark Tourist, The World in Your Window) will have its world premiere In Competition at the prestigious film festival in New York City in June.

The announcement coincides with the release of a first look image from Stylebender, which provides an intimate window inside the world of Israel Adesanya, the Nigerian born New Zealand based MMA fighter who just two weeks ago reclaimed the UFC world middleweight champion title with a second round KO against longtime rival Alex Pereira.

Going beyond the octagon, Stylebender offers an up-close and personal look into the life of Adesanya, exploring themes of masculinity, bullying, mental health and the healing power of dance. This documentary is a poignant examination of the complex, exciting and sometimes controversial figure known as 'The Last Stylebender.' 

“My goal was always to get under the gloss and hype to unlock the poetry, emotion and contradictions inherent in Israel” says director Zoe McIntosh. “I wanted to make a film that spoke not only to MMA fans, but to a wider audience who would connect with Israel’s authenticity and the importance of being your own ‘freaky’ self.”

Producer Fraser Brown added, “We started making this film almost five years ago, when Israel was barely known outside the MMA world. He’s literally become a global superstar in front of Zoe’s lens and his honesty and vulnerability has been extraordinary." 

Stylebender is one of the 19 feature films (or 68%) of the 28 strong competition line-up directed by women. Zoe McIntosh will attend the festival with the support of the New Zealand Film Commission. 

Stylebender is a FluroBlack production, with filmmakers Fraser Brown (McLaren, Dawn Raid) Leela Menon (Dawn Raid, Mothers of the Revolution) and Tom Blackwell (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%!) at the helm, and with funding from the New Zealand Film Commission, the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Grant, and completed with funding from the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Recovery Fund. 

Ahi will distribute the film in New Zealand and Australia with Mister Smith selling the ROW. 


Last updated: 
Wednesday, 19 April 2023