A documentary by New Zealand filmmaker William Watson is set to screen during the Cannes Film Festival after winning a world peace award.
Watson’s Haka and Guitars, which centres around the bloody 10-year civil war in Bougainville, was named best world peace documentary in the Artisan Festival International World Peace Initiative, organised by United Nations-supported NGO New Generation in Action.
The documentary will screen on Sunday, the fifth day of the prestigious 11-day festival.
“It’s every director’s dream to be able to play their movie at Cannes and I’m really excited that mine will play at the Palais,” Watson said.
Twelve years in the making, the low-budget documentary focuses on how a New Zealand peacekeeping mission led by now-retired brigadier Roger Mortlock achieved peace through cultural understanding.
Watson, originally from Havelock North and now based in Auckland, said it is an inspirational tale of how the peacekeepers used used guitars instead of guns to connect with the Bougainvilleans and shared the haka with them.
Their mission was a surprise success as other countries had already made failed attempts to end the civil war – the largest conflict in Oceania since World War II with some 20,000 casualties.
The NGO will use the documentary to help them in their mission to promote peace through the arts.
Despite being Watson’s first feature documentary, Haka and Guitars has already picked up a string of international awards. It was judged the best film from New Zealand and Australia in Canada’s 2017 World International Film Festival and was named best documentary at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival Melbourne and Auckland International Film Festival.
It was also a finalist in the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards’ foreign documentary category and the Miami Beach Film Festival’s documentary section.
Watson is now working to secure funding to complete a documentary called A Cultural Soldier.