Issue date: 
Monday, 9 November 2020

Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) is mourning the loss of an industry stalwart, long-time New Zealand International Film Festival director, Bill Gosden, and pleased to confirm on behalf of his whānau that Bill’s memorial service will be held at the Public Trust Hall, 131–135 Lambton Quay, Wellington, on Monday 16 November, at 2.00pm. A memorial page is also being created for Bill, and you are invited to email your messages to tribute@rememberingbillgosden.nz

For forty years, until his retirement early in 2019 due to ill health, Bill Gosden helmed the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF), curating challenging and exciting programmes of films for New Zealand audiences. Each year he and his team watched hundreds of films to select the right mix of classics, short films, foreign language titles, documentaries and animation to enthral and delight cinephiles across the country.

Bill was a tireless champion of New Zealand film and filmmakers. His programming was instrumental in launching the careers of numerous local filmmakers including Dame Gaylene Preston, Vincent Ward, Dame Jane Campion, Tusi Tamasese, Florian Habicht, Sima Urale, Pietra Brettkelly, Heperi Mita, Sir Peter Jackson, Taika Waititi and many more.

Bill understood that seeing New Zealand films well represented in a festival is beneficial to local audiences, and that hearing our voices and seeing our stories on screen is key to forging and maintaining a cultural identity that remains strong and unique in an increasingly homogenised world.  Bill’s careful, considered curation of the New Zealand films programmed allowed us to learn about ourselves and the many facets of the country we call home

As well as providing a fantastic platform for New Zealand filmmakers, Bill’s NZIFF programming provided opportunities for New Zealanders to see high calibre international films that may not otherwise have been seen in local cinemas. Films that offered insights into cultures and ideas that may be very different to our own.

NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan said, “For New Zealand filmmakers Bill was a beacon who shone light on their work.  He created a space for their films to be seen and celebrated and championed their careers.  He will be sorely missed by those who worked with him, alongside him and by the audiences who eagerly awaited the launch of each NZIFF programme for a glimpse of the cinematic treats Bill had chosen to gift them with that year.”

Bill created a truly national film festival accessible to audiences across the country.  Individual film festivals in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin were brought together to run under a single umbrella organisation led by Bill.  Over the years, other centres and regional areas were added, each with their own bespoke programme of films, carefully selected to fit the interests of audiences in those areas.

To keep New Zealand cinema audiences satisfied during the period between festivals, Bill also programmed the Autumn Events season and its predecessor, the World Cinema Showcase which ran for fourteen years until 2012.

As well as these two festivals, Bill oversaw the operations of the New Zealand Federation of Film Societies for many years, ensuring Film Societies across New Zealand had year-long programmes that would interest, engage and challenge their members. At a time when art-house cinema barely existed in this country, the role of Film Societies was an important one, and their screenings were often the only place audiences could see foreign language films, feature documentaries and classics. 

Many filmmakers begin their careers making short films, and Bill supported this important career pathway by programming short films, both in curated programmes of shorts — including the competitive New Zealand’s Best — and by placing short films ahead of certain features. 

No other film festival in New Zealand has an audience as large as the NZIFF’s, and this is thanks to Bill’s careful curation of the programme and his deep understanding of the diverse audiences across the country.

His was a life devoted to film.  While New Zealanders enjoyed sunshine and beach holidays over the summer months, for many years Bill travelled to the wintery Northern Hemisphere to attend significant festivals there to select films for the NZIFF, and advocate for New Zealand Films to his international colleagues.

During his tenure as Director of the NZIFF, Bill built the festival into an event with a world-wide reputation for excellence. The high regard in which he is viewed by colleagues, filmmakers, distributors, fellow festival directors and the general public is justly deserved.  His passion for film and his dedication to the NZIFF gave New Zealand cinemagoers something to eagerly anticipate every winter.

Last updated: 
Monday, 9 November 2020