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Posted on Thursday 21/06/2012 June, 2012 by Francesca Rudkin
The New Zealand International Film Festival has announced ten New Zealand documentaries will premiere at the 2012 Festival, which kicks off in Auckland on July 19th.

The New Zealand International Film Festival has announced ten New Zealand documentaries will premiere at the 2012 Festival, which kicks off in Auckland on July 19th.  

The list includes the Gaylene Preston produced Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka, which follows Parihaka children as they retrace the journey of their male ancestors who were taken South and imprisoned after the Taranaki land confiscations of the 1860s. Also featuring is director and nature cameraman Peter Young’s The Last Ocean. A key figure in the movement to end fishing in the Ross Sea, Young takes us on a remarkable journey into the Antarctic as he makes the conservationist’s case for preserving the last intact marine eco-system on earth.

The highlight of this impressive list of documentaries though must be the NZ premiere of director Costa Botes’ The Last Dogs of Winter. It captures Canadian Brian Ladoon’s struggle to maintain the rarest registered dog breed in the world, the Qummiq or Canadian Eskimo dog, in a place called Churchill, Manitoba in the far north of Canada.

Last year, while he completing editing The Last Dogs of Winter, Botes explained to Rialto Channel why this story appealed to him.

“Ladoon is the last remaining substantial breeder but the really interesting thing is that he keeps the dogs outside in all weather in the most inhospitable place you could imagine. It’s a way of keeping the breed tough, and for two months of the year the place where he keeps them is visited by itinerant polar beers. You get this incredible interaction that happens nowhere else in the world. It’s just a very small area, but you get one species that’s endangered routinely interacting with another endangered species and they are not the kind of interacts you expect”  

Botes also had to endure this inhospitable environment, claiming on his website (www.costabotes.com) this was, “the toughest shoot I’ve ever done, with the most restrictive shooting conditions.” Wind, snow, ice and fogged up viewfinders made shooting a challenge, as did working with polar bears.

“You’ve got to have a healthy respect for them, and I was always very careful except for once when I got out of the car and my wife who went along as my driver (she held the shotgun quite often) was screaming at me to get back in the car,” says Botes. “I think I said something like “What bear, I don’t see any blasted bear”, and she said, “what about that one?” And there he was, he’d snuck up behind me. So I got back in the car and didn’t get out again.”

The Last Dogs of Winter may have taken Cotes out of his comfort zone, but Ladoon is the perfect character for a Costa Botes documentary. “All my films feature obsessives, they all feature people whose passions go a long way and last a long time, that’s just a common thing,” Botes says. “I’m the accidental auteur here, I didn’t realise I was doing it and then I started to think, oh, there’s a pattern here,” he jokes.

The film had its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (Official Selection) and held its European premiere at the IDFA – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2011. Now you too can enjoy it up on the big screen where it belongs, at the NZIFF (www.nzff.co.nz).  

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