Iconic New Zealand filmmaker honoured with a Damehood — 31.12.15

Celebrated New Zealand screenwriter, producer, director and Arts Foundation Laureate Jane Campion has been appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Celebrated New Zealand screenwriter, producer, director and Arts Foundation Laureate Jane Campion has been appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Campion received the honour for services to film in the Queen’s 2016 New Year Honours. She says of receiving the award, “it was just nice for me to be seen as a New Zealander.”

Born in Wellington in 1954, Campion received international and critical acclaim for her illustrious and much-awarded 35 year career in the film industry. Her first short film Peel (1982) won the Short Film Palm d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, and she went on to direct many more award-winning shorts and features. Perhaps her most notable work, The Piano (1993), which she wrote and directed, received more than 30 international awards including the Palme d'Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, and nine Academy Award nominations, winning three awards including Best Screenplay.

Campion has also been instrumental in raising the profile of women in the film industry. She is the first female director in history to win a Palm d’Or and the second of four women ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, she was head of the jury for the main competition section. In 2015, Campion played an essential role in establishing an annual scholarship programme for female directors through the New Zealand Film Commission. Her tireless work has benefitted female filmmakers as well as the profile of New Zealand filmmaking internationally.

Campion originally studied Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington before moving to London to study painting at Chelsea Art School in London. After falling in love with film at the age of 25, she studied at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, graduating in 1984.

"I fell in love with filmmaking when I was 25 years old. Quickly it became my whole life, I worked 18 hours a day, I gave it my everything. It was the first time I felt free. Over the 30 years that I have spent in film I have learnt to listen carefully to feedback, let my imagination come to me, try not to force anything."

The filmmaker received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2013, and is currently working on the second season of her critically acclaimed, award-winning mini-series Top of the Lake.

She is hoping to shift back to New Zealand from Sydney in the near future.