Heperi Mita reflects on the contribution of New Zealand International Film Festival Director Bill Gosden, following the announcement that he will retire in March 2019.
During my research for my documentary on my mother, Merata Mita, I came across the QEII Arts Council’s documentation on their decision to fund her film PATU! on the 1981 Springbok Tour. Bill was one of the consultants brought in to assess the application and he gave it the strongest possible recommendation. This was a very controversial decision back then, and the funding of PATU! was scrutinised within The Chamber of Parliament. Former MP Norm Jones went as far as to say that the Arts Council needed a few ‘backwoodsmen’ to sort out those issuing these ‘silly grants’. And while PATU! was banned in some regions of the country, and distributors recoiled from exhibiting the film out of fear that their theatres would be vandalised by angry patrons, Bill pushed to host the premiere.
The subsequent celebration of the historic importance of PATU! has since justified those risks.
35 years later Bill would invite me to premiere my own documentary, MERATA: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, at the 2018 NZIFF illustrating the cross-generational impact of his influence.
And I would be remiss to omit the support he gave to my father, Geoff Murphy – a highlight being the 2013 world premiere of Utu Redux. If it wasn’t for Utu I would have never been born, and looking back on it all, I realise the immense personal impact the Festival has had over the years for me and my whānau.
So while Bill’s tenure with NZIFF will mostly be remembered for the excellence of his work, I’ll always remember it for facilitating some of my happiest memories.
Ka nui te mihi ki te rangatira e Bill! Kāore te kumara e kōrero ana mō tōna ake reka, but you truly are an unsung hero of the New Zealand film industry.