Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

Red carpet

Just popping my head above the parapet to let you know about a short film you must see during the upcoming film festivals, even as the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Dead Letters, directed by Paolo Rotondo and produced by Fraser Brown and my lovely sister Gemma, is a funny, heartbreaking, and surprising WW2 love story, set in Wellington's central post office. You might say it puts the "phwoar" into "please forward if necessary."

I'm busting with excitement because it is adapted from a short story I wrote. A very very short story, in fact; but everything I crammed into those 500 words made it into the film, including some steamy dialogue in a projection booth, the honest-to-goodness Pyramids, and a naughty donkey (OK, it was a camel in the original, but New Zealand is short on trained dromedaries, so some improvisation was necessary).

It's inspired by two true stories: one about my Uncle Jim, and one about some amazing postal technology developed during the war. I won't say any more about the plot, as I don't want to ruin it for you.

Aucklanders might have already seen it as part of the MIC Homegrown: Works on Film programme. It's also screening with Wah Wah, Richard E. Grant's intriguing semi-autobiographical film, on Friday July 21 at 6.30 pm at the Civic.

Wellingtonians get several cracks. It’s showing at the Paramount on Saturday July 22 at 7.00 pm, and Monday July 24 at 2.00 pm, in Homegrown: Works on Film. Or you can see it at the beautiful Embassy Theatre, with Wah Wah, on Friday July 28 at 6.30 pm or Monday July 31 11.00 a.m.

You’ll have to be quick in Dunedin: just the one screening at the Rialto, on Saturday July 29 at 6.00pm in Homegrown: Works on Film.

And in Christchurch, also at the Rialto, you can see it with Homegrown: Works on Film, on Thursday August 3 at 6.30pm, and Saturday August 5 at 4.00pm.

(It's playing in other centres too - you can look it up on the website under title = Homegrown: Works on Film or director = Rotondo.)

Do see it on the big screen if you can: it may be only fourteen minutes long, but what with the gorgeous period details, the perfectly recreated locations, and the huge cast, it's a mini-epic. Yvette Reid and Gareth Reeves are just perfect in their roles. The movie also stars a whole lot of spunky extras in 40s get-up, and the city of Wellington, which has never looked lovelier.

I've seen an almost-finished print and it looks and sounds glorious, thanks to art direction by Grant Major, who must be one of the most unassuming geniuses I’ve ever met, and music by the delicious Gareth Farr.

More info in the current issue of OnFilm magazine. That's our "Gerald" on the cover, doing something sexy with some film equipment.

Huge congratulations to the Quarter Acre Pictures triumvirate, who have done themselves proud with this first project. Watch out for Fraser's cameo as a GI with an eye for the ladies, and Gemma's there in the sorting room with the girls. Paolo's on the soundtrack rather than on screen but it’s his baby in a big way, starting with the perfect screenplay he hammered out after Gemma showed him my story. Between the three of them, they won over the Film Commission and got the film made.

Yes, it's a little wee film, but it's our little wee film, and it's bloody huge, and I'm so proud I might cry!


Coming soon, I promise: your excellent thoughts on how to raise a "far-flung whanau."