Vincent Ward (director)

Vincent Ward ONZM (born 16 February 1956) is a New Zealand film director, screenwriter and artist, who was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 for his contribution to film making. His films have received international recognition at both the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival and they are acclaimed for their strong, iconic imagery. The Boston Globe called him "one of film's great image makers", while Roger Ebert, one of America's foremost film critics, hailed him as "a true visionary."

Vincent Ward

Vincent Ward (cropped).jpg
Ward in 2018
Born (1956-02-16) 16 February 1956 (age 64)
Greytown, New Zealand
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1978–present

Life and careerEdit

Ward was born on 16 February 1956[1] in Greytown, New Zealand. He was educated at St Patrick's College, Silverstream and also trained at Ilam School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the age of 18, while still at art school, he began writing and directing.

Ward's films have earned critical acclaim and festival attention whilst reaching an international audience.[citation needed] Vigil, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) and Map of the Human Heart (1993) were the first films by a New Zealander to be officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between them they garnered close to 30 national and international awards (including the Grand Prix at festivals in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United States).

At the age of 21, in 1978, he shot A State of Siege, a medium-length film that adapted a novel by his countrywoman Janet Frame. Ward has described Siege as his first "public" film. At least five predated it. While working towards a Diploma in Fine Arts (with Honours) at Ilam in Christchurch, he'd found his interest drifting from painting and sculpture towards filmmaking and animation.

In 1978–81, he made the documentary In Spring One Plants Alone, which won the 1982 Grand Prix at Cinéma du Réel[2] (Paris), and a Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival. It tells the story of an old Māori woman named Puhi and her schizophrenic son Niki. Ward had stayed with them in and off while learning more about Māori traditions.

His debut feature-length movie, Vigil (1984), follows "a solitary child who imagines, fantasises and dreams". Partly inspired by Ward's partly rural upbringing in the Wairarapa, it was shot in the Taranaki after exhaustive searches for the right location, and the right person (Fiona Kay) to play the central girl. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey won major awards at both the Australian and New Zealand film industry awards and has a freshness, depth and vitality that keep them alive, well and attracting audiences today.

Ward's planned follow-up was The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988), which utilises "medieval" blue and orange tones to capture a group of 14th-century Cumbrian villagers after they tunnel through the earth, and find themselves in modern-day Auckland. Ward described the film to The Evening Post as "a muscular adventure story, a quest film"—and also as a collision, a "juxtaposition of two time periods which enables you to see your own time through fresh eyes".

In 1990, Ward and John Fasano wrote a script for Alien 3, a proposed sequel to the film Aliens. They were the fourth and fifth of ten different writers to tackle the Alien 3 project. Much of the plot and several of the characters from Ward's script were fused with the prison setting from David Twohy's proposed script to form the basis of Alien 3 as it was ultimately made. Ward's screenplay was written after Twohy's proposed script was rejected, and was followed by the first draft of what would become the final shooting script, written by Walter Hill and David Giler.

Map of the Human Heart (1993) charts the ebbs and flows of a relationship between an Inuit boy, a Métis girl and a visiting British cartographer. Screened as a work in progress at Cannes in 1992, it was later nominated for best film at the Australian Film Institute Awards. American critic Roger Ebert praised its unpredictability, sense of adventure—and "two of the most astonishing romantic scenes I've ever seen in a movie".

During seven years in and out of Hollywood, Ward developed multiple projects, and took some small acting roles. He signed on to direct What Dreams May Come (1998), after adding the plot idea that gives the film its unusual painterly look. Released in the United States on 2,600 screens, the tale of a man (Robin Williams) searching for his departed wife in heaven and hell scored mixed reviews and poor box office, but won a 1999 Academy Award for its special effects.

The 2003 epic, The Last Samurai was inspired by a project developed by Ward. The film was in development for nearly four years and after approaching several directors, including Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Weir, he became executive producer. In the end, the job of director went to Edward Zwick.

In 2005, he returned to New Zealand and made River Queen. The film won respectable audiences at home, but initial reviews crossed the gamut, and tales of the troubled winter shoot dominated the film's release.

Rain of the Children followed in 2008, wherein Ward retells the story of Puhi, the elderly Māori woman who was the subject of his earlier documentary In Spring One Plants Alone. Chosen by the audience from among 250 feature films, Rain of the Children won the Grand Prix at Era New Horizons Film Festival. The film was nominated for best director and won best composer at the Qantas Film and TV Awards in New Zealand. Vincent Ward was also nominated for best director at the Australian Directors Guild Awards.[3]

Painting and photographyEdit

In 2010 he published Vincent Ward: The Past Awaits, part mid-career chronicle and part large-format film photo book.[4] The book collects together poignant images from all of his feature films, including Vigil, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, Map of the Human Heart, What Dreams May Come, River Queen and Rain of the Children, as well as earlier films and others developed but never made. Interwoven with the images in The Past Awaits is also a fascinating part-memoir in which he explains why these films were made, and examines the themes that interest and motivate him. "This book is about the search to stay whole through making films, of being inspired by the people I have worked with and made films about, and how by seeing these lives it is perhaps easier to see more clearly into my own." German filmmaker Wim Wenders said:

Magnificent… I don't know if ever a book of pictures and stories moved me so much like Vincent Ward's The Past Awaits. It will go into my suitcase for that lonesome island.

While his fellow New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson said:

To read The Past Awaits is to take a journey, not just into the imagination of Vincent Ward, but into his heart and soul. These images have a power and strength that goes way beyond the context of the film they belong to. They present the spirit of New Zealand.

Ward is actively developing new feature film projects whilst also focusing on public gallery art projects. In an 8-month period he had three solo exhibitions of large-scale painting, print, photographic and cinematic installation work. In 2011 he presented Breath an exhibition of paintings, photographs and cinematic installations at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.[5] This was followed by the 2012 Auckland twin solo exhibitions Inhale and Exhale at the Gus Fisher Gallery and TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, respectively.[6] He launched a third book, Inhale | Exhale, to coincide with his twin Auckland shows (Ron Sang Publishing). His art work is featured throughout its 180 large-format pages. Ward has been invited to the 9th Shanghai Biennale 2012. He was New Zealand's first entrant to the Biennale with one of the very few solo pavilion shows, Auckland Station: Destinies Lost and Found, held in an historic former church[7] on The Bund.[8]

Like his films, Ward's gallery works have a visceral sensibility, relying more on psychic or transcendent states than narrative and dialogue. They often focus on the body in precarious situations (submerged, floating, flying, falling) or transformational moments, which evoke a heightened sense of existence and human vulnerability. These passing moments suggest an intensity of life that is shared by all creatures; as direct, fleeting or fragile as breath.

Cinematic style and themesEdit

Vincent Ward has earned international acclaim as an accomplished filmmaker with a reputation for crafting films with strong performances and a unique visual style. His work with its distinctive visual style, ability to replicate a range of cinematic styles and with its strong performances is considered brand making. His cinema is very immediate, without any artificiality or stageyness, capturing something that's happening at the moment, like the cinéma vérité films that started in the nineteen sixties. His films have a highly selective style which in fact is totally uncharacteristic of cinéma vérité, with its wide-angle lenses and hand-held camera-work which tries to pick things up as they happen.

Landscape features strongly in Ward's work. He likes to film in unlikely locations like caves or cliff faces. His films have regularly won praise overseas for their originality, atmosphere and imagery. He creates these haunting images of characters alone in wild landscapes using an almost documentary filming style, with hand-held camera work, minimalistic music and often uses colour schemes to express emotions. Some of the themes of Vincent Ward's films are: childhood, miscegenation, the problematic family relationship, nature and symbol, curse, isolation, betrayal, the idea of travel, the enunciation of history, tradition against the innovation or intense emotions through colors.

Vincent Ward established himself as a filmmaker of great individuality, intensity, and creativity. His narrative technique is centered on the fundamental importance of the image; he has a painter's eye for capturing arresting, eye-popping visuals. However, all of his films are united not only by their imagery. While he resists categorising himself and his work, Ward did admit in an interview with this writer that "I like to make films that say something about people." Ward's characters are linked in that they consistently are isolated, trapped by the barren, desolate rural environments in which they have come of age. Ward is most interested in examining the manner in which they relate to their surroundings and, even more importantly, how they are touched by the outside world. Clearly, this theme is tied into the filmmaker's own roots in New Zealand, a mostly rural country located at the very bottom of the world.

Ward's work is characterised by innovation, an adventurous approach and a seemingly fearless drive to explore, discover and undertake creative risks to make good films. His films have received international recognition at both the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival and they are acclaimed for their strong, iconic imagery. The Boston Globe called him "one of film's great image makers", while Roger Ebert, one of America's foremost film critics, hailed him as "a true visionary."

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1978 A State of Siege Yes Yes No Short film
1981 In Spring One Plants Alone Yes Yes Yes
1984 Vigil Yes Yes No
1988 The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey Yes Yes No
1992 Alien 3 No story No
1993 Map of the Human Heart Yes Yes Yes
1998 What Dreams May Come Yes No No
2005 River Queen Yes Yes No
2008 Rain of the Children Yes Yes Yes

Executive producer

BibliographyEdit

By Vincent WardEdit

  • The Navigator, A Medieval Odyssey. Screenplay (Faber and Faber: 1989).
  • Edge of the Earth: Stories and Images from the Antipodes (Auckland: Heinemann Reed, 1990).
  • The Past Awaits, people, images, film. Large-format, full-colour photographic book of images and stories (published in New Zealand by Craig Potton Publishing, 2010).
  • Inhale | Exhale. Large format. Full color reproductions of Vincent Wards artwork from his 2011–2012 exhibitions (Breath Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Inhale | Exhale Gus Fisher Gallery and Pah Homestead, Auckland Station Shanghai Biennale) (Ron Sang Publications, 2012).

About Vincent WardEdit

  • Making the Transformational Moment in Film: Unleashing the Power of the Image (with the Films of Vincent Ward), by Dan Fleming, (Michael Wiese Productions, 2011).

Awards and honoursEdit

His films have earned critical acclaimed and festival attention.

  • In Spring One Plants Alone won the 1982 Grand Prix at Cinema du Reel (Paris), and a Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival.
  • Vigil, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey and Map of the Human Heart were the first films by a New Zealander to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival. These films earned close to 30 national and international awards (including the Grand Prix at festivals in Italy, Spain, France and the United States). All three films have compelling and powerful performances by child actors.
  • The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey won major awards at both the Australian and New Zealand film industry awards.
  • What Dreams May Come was nominated for two Academy Awards and won the Oscar for best visual effects in 1999.
  • "Rain of the Children won the Grand Prix at Era New Horizons Film Festival. The film was nominated for awards and won at the Qantas Film and TV Awards in New Zealand. Vincent Ward was also nominated for best director at the Australian Directors Guild Awards for "Rain of the Children."

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Vincent Ward – Films as director and screenwriter:, Other films:
  2. ^ Les Palmares depuis 1979 – Cinéma du réel Archived 17 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ ADG – Australian Directors Guild
  4. ^ Vincent Ward interviewTVNZ's Good Morning
  5. ^ Byrt, Anthony (7 January 2012). "Vincent Ward: Breath – The Fleeting Intensity of Life review". New Zealand Listener. APN Holdings NZ Ltd. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Vincent Ward exhibitions". Scoop Independent News – Culture. Scoop Media. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  7. ^ "Art". Vincent Ward. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Solo Exhibition at the Shanghai Biennale". Vincent Ward. 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2014.

External linksEdit