2021 Arts Foundation Laureate receiving Dame Gaylene Preston Documentary Filmmaker Award
"Whether his subjects are intimate and local or celebrated and international, he approaches them with unflagging enthusiasm, curiosity, and empathy. He is an inventor of genre." - 2021 Selection Panel
Florian Habicht is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most distinctive documentarians. Born in Berlin, he moved to New Zealand at the age of eight, attending high school in Kerikeri. He studied filmmaking at the Elam School of Fine Arts and Binger Filmlab, Amsterdam.
His debut feature was Liebesträume - The Absurd Dreams of Killer Ray (2000), inspired by cult entertainer 'Killer Ray' (aka Raymond Ronald Edmundson). Like a number of Habicht's films to come, it blurred documentary with fiction. As his career progressed, Habicht continued making films his own way, using small crews, experimenting, and collaborating with close friends.
In 2003 he made his breakthrough with the B&W fairytale Woodenhead, which screened at a number of international festivals and was released theatrically in NYC by Olive Films. Incredibly, all of the dialogue and location sound for Woodenhead was completed first and the images shot to fit – a crazed reversal of accepted practice. Habicht says when he decided to shoot the film that way, he was “acting on explicit instructions from Milli Vanilli, who visited him in a dream.”
In 2004, Habicht was named the SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year. His next film, Kaikohe Demolition (2004), won Best Digital Feature at the New Zealand Screen Awards in the year it was released.
Not long after he made Rubbings From a Live Man (2008), A documentary performed entirely by the film’s subject, and the only time Warwick Broadhead let someone document his performances.
After returning to Northland with Land of the Long White Cloud (2009) Habicht was the inaugural 2009 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Harriet Friedlander New York Residency recipient. His stay in New York in 2009 and 2010 resulted in the production of the acclaimed film Love Story (2011), which opened the NZ International Film Festival in Auckland and went on to be awarded Best Director, Best Editor and Best Feature Film at the 2011 Aotearoa Film & Television Awards – a self-described ‘game-changing’ work.
His next work, Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets (2014) won the Audience Award at In-Edit Barcelona, and received an Honorable Jury Mention at the Athens International Film Festival. Pulp was distributed in 18 countries and in 2015 the film won best Music Film at the NME Awards in London. Pulp was followed by the documentary Spookers (2017), that toured international film festivals, but failed to find a theatrical audience in Aotearoa.
In 2017, Habicht's dramatic project 'Under a Full Moon' was accepted into the Three Rivers Filmmaker Writers Residency in Italy, one of only four projects selected from around the world. His latest documentary, James & Isey (2021) has cemented Habicht as an inventor of genre, and a unique and distinctive voice in New Zealand film.