Testing an inadvertently generated award-winning film in a kayak
Wanaka filmmaker Richard Sidey kayaked on a trip around Stewart Island last September. Photo / Christophe Thompson
It was a bit quiet in Wanaka after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted last year, so filmmaker Richard Sidey and photographer Chris Thompson decided to set off on an adventure to New Zealand’s third largest island. , Stewart Island.
Although they had visited Stewart Island before, they had no idea what to expect on their first visit to the uninhabited southern end of Rakiura National Park.
Their destination, a hut south of Port Pegasus, is just in the path of the famous west-to-east gale force drafts, the Roaring Forties.
There were times when the men fought to stay in their little boats or to stand upright on the peaks of Gog and Magog. But there were also moments of sudden calm, wonder and magic.
Fortunately, the men had a lot of rain gear.
Unsurprisingly for people who look at life through a lens, they’ve also carried over 20kg of high-quality photo equipment with them, in case they see anything that catches their eye.
Although they have no plans to make a film, the result of their art, In the Theater of the Gogs, was announced this month as the winner of the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival Hiddleston / MacQueen Award. of $ 2,500, for the best New Zealand film movie.
Sidey also won the award last year, with his film The KFC, which followed five New Zealand paragliders on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The 19-minute film premieres in Wanaka and Queenstown from June 25 to July 3.
“There wasn’t much going on and we wanted to go for a while to a place we hadn’t been to before. We decided to take our gear and go kayaking in the southern part of Rakiura and see what’s going on. It’s the good thing about having an affair, not having a full plan, ”Sidey said.
It was September when the waves were big and storms were raging, so the men got all the wilderness they wanted.
“I guess a lot of people don’t realize how big the island is and the further south you go the wilder it gets.
“We didn’t come down to make the film. We went there for an adventure. But being artists and photographers, obviously our equipment is with us. Our arrival was dramatic to say the least. There were 60- to 70-winds. strong and high seas, ”said Thompson.
The men and their equipment had been dropped off by a charter boat at Port Pegasus,
From there they had what some might expect to be a short, simple paddle of about 2 miles to the hut.
Once out of the shelter of the peninsula and facing the wind, things got a bit tricky.
“We didn’t fall but we were extremely tired. We backed up sometimes. If we had fallen there would have been nothing to stop us before Patagonia,” said Sidey.
They spent 10 days at the refuge, hiking, kayaking and exploring.
“It was stormy pretty much the entire time. But it’s two minutes there. It’s hailing and the next minute it’s a beautiful sun,” said Thompson.
As men surged through bushes, paddled and climbed mountains, Sidey came up with the idea of making a film about Thompson photographing the scenery.
“I obstructed his camera too much,” said Thompson.
“It happened organically. Chris didn’t know it at the time, but I collected a lot of footage of what he was doing … it’s more about the adventure behind a piece of art. . take a picture, “Sidey said.
Sidey gave Thompson the footage after they got home and he then wrote down notes, which he used to recount the movie.
The film rises in crescendo and during the last evening, the men received a clubbing on the tops of the “Gogs”.
“It blew up in this incredible cinematic experience,” said Thompson.
Sidey felt that the film almost wrote itself and he had a rare opportunity to tell a story in sequence of shots, “something filmmakers avoid on purpose.”
“But that’s how it went. There was a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t think I’ve ever made a movie in this streak before,” he said.
Rakiura was wild and uplifting, but not Sidey’s most difficult experience yet.
It was five years ago, when he spent five days sitting still in one place to take a photo of a spiritual bear (a rare black white bear) in the Canadian rainforest.
It has also been challenged by hostile environments in Antarctica and in subantarctic locations.
“Stewart Island was in that sense,” Sidey said.
Full details on the New Zealand Film and Book Festival are available on its website.