Wānaka production wins main Mountain Film Festival prize

May 21, 2024

The International Adventure Film Competition attracted a record 241 entries (up from 177 entries in 2023) and of the 64 films that have made the final programme, 20 are NZ-made. New Zealand filmmakers also feature strongly amongst the award winners, collecting seven of the 14 top prizes, with two others earning runner-up awards and a further two receiving special jury awards.

As New Zealand's only adventure film competition, the NZMFF is proud to be providing a platform for Kiwi creatives to showcase their talents.

Finlay Woods (Wānaka) is the winner of the prestigious Hiddleston/ MacQueen Award and $2500 prize money for the Best NZ-made Film for his film Terra Incognito.  

The film follows a crew of world-class skiers led by Freeride World Tour competitor Craig Murray as they attempt to ski new lines in the Southern Alps and experiment with pack horses to access ski touring, with mixed results. Although their high-flying objectives don’t always go to plan, the film explores the process and realities of pushing into some of the most remote places in Aotearoa and the triumphs and tribulations of those endeavours.

 “We are honoured to win this award amongst other exceptional films,” says Murray. “For us the goal of Terra Incognita (terrain unknown) was to explore new places in the Southern Alps. We were grateful to have support from sponsors, it allowed us to map out a few ambitious objectives, and focus on capturing them in a certain way.

He continues, “Overall, it was a transformative and educational process, usually there are forced changes and challenges during a project, and filming specific freeskiing in NZ is no exception. We experienced a range of places, weather and conditions as well as sharing a ride of emotions with many great people. In some ways I think our motivation and positivity created our own luck. More than once, when a plan completely fell through, another unexpected opportunity would arise.

“Finlay and I would like to extend a massive thank you to everyone that brought this project to life. We couldn’t have done it without the selfless input of guides, athletes, pilots, friends and many other characters. It truly was a team effort. Lastly, thanks to the NZMFF for all their efforts and for sharing stories from Aotearoa NZ. I believe the festival is a cornerstone for culture and community in New Zealand, we are very lucky to have it.”  

Woods adds, “It feels great to receive this recognition for the film after all of the work put in by so many people. And for it to be from the NZMFF is really special, I spent so many of my younger years going and being inspired by the films in the festival. As Craig said we are lucky to have the festival and it has so many positive effects in the community.”  


 The film competition Grand Prize was awarded to French director Hugo Clouzeau for his film,  Nuptse: Touching the Intangible The film follows climbers Hélias Millerioux, Frédéric Degoulet and Benjamin Guigonnet who are dreaming of opening a new extreme route on the legendary south face of Nuptse, a wall approaching 8000m in the heart of the Himalayas.

 A former television editor, Clouzeau specialises in making adventure documentaries as a member of the expedition, recounting his own experience without the cumbersomeness of a film crew or the sometimes overly rhetorical vision of a director.

 The full list of award winners is as follows: 

Grand Prize  

Nuptse: Touching the Intangible, Director: Hugo Clouzeau, France

Best Short Film Award  

To Be Frank, Director: Anna Wilder Burns, USA.  A cultural journey into the surf culture of California.

 Best Mountain Culture Award    

Sadpara, Director: Gabriele Canu, Italy Experience the lives of the high-altitude porters of the Baltoro region.

 Award for the Best Film on the Environment

Deep Rising, Director: Matthieu Rytz, USA. Why would we ruin Earth’s last untouched wilderness to build electric cars when there is a much more environmentally friendly way staring us in the face?

Best Climbing Film

Soundscape, Director: Timmy O’Neill, USA. Climbing a massive rock wall is hard enough, but what if you are blind?

 Best Snow Sports Film  

Chronoception, Directors: Guillaume Broust, France. The French know how to push extreme skiing, and this film is no exception.

 Best Film on Adventurous Sports & Lifestyles

Via Sedna Director Ramona Waldner. An all-female team sail from France through the rough Arctic Sea to Greenland and attempt the first ascent of a big wall. 

NZ Award Winners: 

Hiddleston/MacQueen Award for Best NZ-Made Film 

Terra Incognito, Director: Finlay Woods. World-class skiing right here in Aotearoa.

Spirit of Adventure Award    

Polheim, Directors:  Simon Waterhouse and Liddy Whiteman. A group of explorers set off to walk to the South Pole.

Grass Roots Award  

Kahurangi: A South to North Traverse, Director: Louie Burger.  Inspirational youth take on a big thru-hike.

 (Not) Making an Impact Award  

Up the Cass, No Gas, Director: Anna Frances Pearson. Skiing up the Cass Valley but getting there only by renewable and human power.

 Best Documentary Award 

The Adventure of Racing, Director: Ben Wallbank. Follow the journey of female-led adventure racing team Rab Wāhine as they take on the Adventure Racing World Championships in Fiordland.

Solo Award

Solo, Director: Scott Worthington. A solo kayak and trek mission to remote East Greenland, negotiating glaciers, icebergs and polar bears.

Best Self-Filmed Film Award

Inshallah, Directors: Georgia Merton and Isobel Ewing. Two Kiwi women bike through the mountains of northern Pakistan, meeting friendly locals along the way.

Runner Up – Mountain Culture Award

The Wāhine Job, Director: Deanna Gerlach. A story about the sense of purpose and belonging you get when you throw a bunch of wāhine into a restoration project in the wild.

Runner Up – Best Film on the Environment

Underbirds: The Fight to Save the Southern NZ Dotterel, Directors: Brady Clarke, Abi Liddell & Isabella Lewis. Birds and people, a heartwarming and heart-wrenching story of survival, passion and dedication.

Special Jury Awards

The Greensteam, Director: Chris Chase. A local bike adventure from Wānaka to Treble Cone Ski Field.

Ladies Behind The Lens, Producer: Hannah Marshall. Follow the journey of five determined women delving into the world of adventure filmmaking for the first time.

Find the full festival programme and buy tickets at mountainfilm.nz

Programmes will also be available at Paper Plus in Wanaka or The North Face Store at 38 Shotover Street in Queenstown. The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival will run in Wānaka from 21 – 25 June and in Queenstown from 27 – 28 June. The festival films will also be available to watch online in New Zealand and Australia from 1 - 31 July.

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