Wao bring their film festival to Queenstown

4 minutes read
Posted 29 May, 2024
Wao Film Festival Day 1 15 copy v3

The Wao Queenstown Film Festival will come to Te Atamira next week. It will feature award-winning films and documentaries with the aim to inspire a deep connection with the natural world. It will also showcase a series of Queenstown-based short films dedicated to local sustainable business efforts.

Wao – pronounced wow – is a non-profit dedicated to a regenerative future. They run a number of programmes and events focused on mainstreaming sustainability and fostering diversity. One of their events is a bi-monthly Green Drinks where they discuss different topics – the last one was all about B Corp Certification and the next one will be on affordable housing. They also have the Harvest Festival in March each year looking at food resiliency, and their key annual event, the Summit, a six-day festival all around sustainability. It’s in its seventh year and will take place at the end of October.

Aaron Thule is the programme manager at Wao and got on board in February 2023. He has been spearheading bringing together this year’s film festival, which was previously held in Wanaka.

“Wao really has a lot of different action streams. Our goal in general is helping to transition the community to a more sustainable future,” Thule says. We do this through all different types of action streams – we look at food resiliency, I work very closely with the Better Building Working Group, and we have the film festival, which is one way we look at behaviour change.”

The Film Festival idea came about after a film brought the two founders of Wao together, Monique Kelly and Arna Craig. The film that inspired the pair was The Third Industrial Revolution and it was the messaging behind this that helped to form Wao and all they focus on.

“I think the idea was to really say ‘hey, let’s hone in on this mode of inspiration and really gear it towards the public. Last year was our first annual film festival, even though we’ve had films throughout different events. It was at Lake Wānaka Centre – we had over 600 attendees, amazing films, and we had some great speakers come and talk to some of the films.

“This year, round two, we did again, which is awesome. I think we got some really great traction and Queenstown has picked up on it, so we’ve decided to roll with that, which is great. It’s great to see it coming over the hill because we really want to view ourselves not only as what we can do nationally, but specifically for our region.”

There are four main feature films this year in addition to six short films that are based on regenerative business practices in Queenstown. One of the local businesses featured is Canyon Brewing. The main films are Common Ground, which reveals how unjust practices forged the current farm system in which farmers of all colours are literally dying to feed us. Ocean Seen From The Heart looks at the impact our actions have made to the biodiversity and temperature of the ocean, and Imprint is a full-length documentary that seeks to challenge the notion that the actions of individuals or small groups doesn’t really matter. Finally there’s Living The Change, which is a New Zealand documentary that explores solutions to the global crises we face today.

If you’re unable to make the film festival, or would like to experience something different in the space, you can always pop by to Wao’s Green Drinks. It’s always a popular event and harbours a lot of community involvement.

“One of the Green Drinks that I ran last year – with me being in the building side of things – we did a green energy one. We brough in H W Richardson, who are one of the biggest transport companies in New Zealand and have just brought in their new hydrogen trucks. The Green Drinks is a bit smaller for our events, but typically we sell out and they’re well attended, and something to just change it up. We always have it during the week after work – usually a Tuesday or Wednesday at about five o’clock – so people will have a talk and we try to encourage questions and answers,” Thule says.

The next Wao Green Drinks will be on Wednesday 5 June at b.effect in Wānaka and Wao Film Festival Queenstown will run on Friday 7 and  Saturday 8 June at Te Atamira. There will be two sessions running daily with each showing different films – you can grab a full festival pass if you’d like to see everything. Head to wao.co.nz to get tickets, read more about the films and look at the upcoming event calendar at Wao.


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