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Animated film selected for international festival has EIT IDEAschool design lecturer as co-producer and designer

October 11, 2022

The premier of Ako For Niños – King Tupac was held at the Hollywood Avondale in Auckland on Friday, 07 October 2022. At the opening was the short film’s James Smith (co-producer, designer), Sebastian Vidal Bustamante (director), and David van Vliet (stop motion set designer)

EIT IDEAschool design lecturer James Smith is celebrating because an animated short film that he is co-producer and designer of is showing at the 2022 ‘Show Me Shorts’ international short film festival.

The film Ako For Niños – King Tupac is screening at Show Me Shorts, which is Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading international short film event. It is a competitive Academy Awards-accredited festival that screens in more than 30 cinemas nationwide annually.

James says this film is part of a wider project that he has been involved in as designer and producer.

“The aim of Ako For Niños was to create three separate children’s animations based upon tikanga Māori values, with the intended audience being the migrant and refugee communities. In this case, we were focusing on the Latin American migrant and refugee community in Aotearoa.”

“We developed it with the community. We made a social media post with a list of Tikanga Māori values with explanations and prompted the Latin American community to enter in a story writing competition to come up with an original narrative for children which responded to one of the Tikanga. When we received the stories, we created three different animations, one of which King Tupac, has been accepted into the Show Me Shorts Film Festival.”

The director of the film is Sebastian Vidal Bustamante, while the co-producers for this project are ALACINC (Aotearoa Latin American Community Inc), Foundation North, and Jordana Guerra.

Director Seb says: “It is a pleasure for us to participate in ‘The Show me Shorts’ film festival and to have our project screened across the country.”

“We are very proud that a project made by the community has been selected for a film festival. This is a motivation for us to keep creating content that incorporates Māori values and create links between Tangata Whenua and migrant communities that are part of the cosmopolitan dynamic of Aotearoa.”

James says since meeting Seb in 2019, they have become close friends and close collaborators on various different projects.“

“My relationship with Seb started when I began volunteering for the Aotearoa Latin American Community Inc (ALAC INC) and he was the digital media producer at the organisation. ALAC INC helps refugees and migrants from Latin America settle in New Zealand. Seb came up with the concept for Ako For Niños, and he wanted me to be involved as a project manager, producer and designer to help the running and the organisation of the Kaupapa and create a visual identity for the project.

“King Tupac is an animated short for children and whānau which tells the fabled legend of how the kumara (sweet potato) first arrived in the Pacific from the far off lands of the Inca Empire which is now Perú in South America.”

“The animation is part of a wider project which  aims to help integrate Latin American Tauiwi (refugee and migrant) communities settled in Aotearoa New Zealand through the introduction of some key principles of Tikanga Māori (Māori principles and values). This episode highlights the Tikanga Māori value of Manaakitanga (mana-enhancing relationships/hospitality and kindness).”

For James, this project continues his relationship with the Latin American community, one that started before he was born.

“My grandparents were involved with Amnesty International in the ’70s and ’80s, and they helped a lot of Latin American groups settle in Aotearoa. That’s my initial connection, and growing up, we always had a lot of Latin American family friends. Also, my supervisor for my Master’s was Chilean (Dr Claudio Aguayo, AUT University) and I ended up living in Chile for five months in 2019 on a scholarship to work at a university over there.”

When he returned, James volunteered at ALAC INC.

The premier of Ako For Niños – King Tupac was held at the Hollywood Avondale in Auckland on Friday, 07 October 2022. It is also being screened in Whanganui, Wellington, South Island, Nelson, Tākaka, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Hamilton, as well as a number of other centres in the North Island as well. Hawke’s Bay is not included in this list.

To buy tickets: https://www.showmeshorts.co.nz/book-tickets-now.

Cherie Freeman, the acting Head of IDEAschool, says: “EIT is so proud of what James and Seb have achieved.  James is multi-talented and has managed to combine his design skills to produce a beautifully animated short film.  We are looking forward to many more short films in the coming years.”