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O Extravaganza! The Great Extrav Reunion Weekend & Capping Revue Revival [1993]

Campion Champion at Cannes

page 5

Campion Champion at Cannes

Jane Campion with her husband Colin Englet

Jane Campion with her husband Colin Englet

Jane Campion scored several firsts when her film The Piano shared the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival.

It was the first Australasian film to take the top prize at the world's premier film festival, the first directed by a woman, and the first shot in New Zealand. It was also the first winner directed by a Vic graduate; Jane Campion graduated from Victoria with a BA in anthropology.

Lecturer Phil Mann remembers her well from her time in ENG221: Drama in 1974. "She was very quick and very perceptive, and she always asked very very sharp questions," he said. "Of course she comes from a very distinguished theatrical family; Richard and Edith Campion have been very well known since the days of the New Zealand Players."

Around her time at Vic, Jane Campion had a small part in Pacific Films' Energy, and played the poetess in Michael Wilson's production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.

New Zealand Film

The Piano is being claimed by Australia and France, as it was produced by an Australian company with French finance. However Campion, who lives in Sydney, and star Sam Neill (another Vic graduate) insist that it is a New Zealand film.

The Piano also stars Americans Holly Hunter, who won the best actress award at Cannes, and Harvey Keitel; most of the rest of the cast are New Zealanders, including many Maori.

Jane Campion should be familiar with Cannes by now. In 1986 her nine-minute film Peel won the Golden Palm for short films; her shorts Passionless Moment and Girl's Own Story, the TV movie Two Priends, and her feature film Sweetie have also been shown there.

Campion wrote the original screenplay for The Piano, and says she saw it as a sort of transposed Wuthering Heights. "I'm interested in outsiders and non-communicators," she said.

Shot in Taranaki, the film tells the story of a mute Scottish woman (Holly Hunter) who comes to New Zealand for an arranged marriage with a land speculator (Sam Neill). The piano is her means of communication with the outside world. Russell Campbell of Vic's Theatre and Film Department said the success of The Piano made it clear that the quality of New Zealand's crews and actors was as high as anywhere in the world. "That was known already, but the award reinforces it," he said.

Of Jane Campion's earlier work, Dr Campbell was particularly struck by An Angel at My Table, the television/film version of Janet Frame's autobiography. "It's an astounding transformation of a strong literary text into an equally powerful visual and dramatic text."