Kiwi film scores Sundance Film Festival coup

By Rebecca Barry Hill

New Zealand-Fijian writer and director Toa Fraser could not have asked for a better launch for No. 2, his first film. A day after it premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Utah, it was accepted to compete at the Berlin Film Festival, one of Europe's most significant.

Speaking from Sundance shortly after No. 2's third sell-out screening, Fraser said there was a buzz about the film before he arrived.

"Even on the plane from LA people were talking about it, I guess partly because everybody at this festival remembers Whale Rider and everyone's excited about the idea of going to see a New Zealand film.

"Many people came up to me after this screening literally about half an hour ago and said it was the best film they'd seen at the festival.

"But I'm coming home tomorrow because it's most important to me that it does well at home. It's a love letter to my family."

The film's star, veteran African-American actress Ruby Dee, received a standing ovation from two audiences, including one screening at Salt Lake City attended mostly by locals.

Most of the 100-plus films screening at Sundance are American but No. 2 is one of 16 foreign films competing for the World Cinema Prize. The results will be announced on Sunday (US time).

NZ Film's Kathleen Drumm also plans to announce the first official sale of No. 2 to a "major European country" at Berlin next month.

"To get into a festival like this is just so difficult and it's the best possible result we could hope for," said Drumm.

"We're cautiously optimistic but excited about the early response."

The film is an adaptation of Fraser's award-winning play about an elderly Fijian matriarch (Dee) who demands that her grandchildren throw her a party at which she will name her successor.

It opens in New Zealand on February 16.

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