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Sima Urale

Sim Urale, 2019 Arts Foundation Laureate receiving the Burr/Tatham Trust Award

Sima Urale’s Biography

Last Updated:
5/08/2022, 2:42 pm
Actor, writer, filmmaker
Arts Foundation Laureate 2019
Arts Foundation Laureate receiving the Burr/Tatham Trust Award

Sima Urale is a filmmaker and actor. Born in Samoa in 1967, she moved with her family to Wellington when she was seven years old. She cites her experience as an actor and her occasional practice as a painter as crucial to her directorial aesthetic.

Aged 19 she applied for a place at drama school Toi Whakaari. After graduating in 1989 she worked for two years as an actor in TV productions Skitz, The Semesis, Swimming Lessons and in theatre productions, Taming of the Shrew, A Pack of Girls, Think of a Garden and Frangipani Perfume. She then studied filmmaking at Melbourne's Victorian College of the Arts Film and Television, winning the VCA Encouragement Student Award, and graduating in 1994 with a degree in arts, film and television.

Her debut film was O Tamaiti (1996), which won best short at the Venice Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and the NZ Film & TV Awards, as well as a Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival.

Other films include Velvet Dreams (1997) which screened at the NZ and Hawaii film festivals and won Best Documentary Award at Canada's Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, and Still Life (2001) which became the first New Zealand short to take the top award at the Montreal World Film Festival. She then directed Coffee and Allah (2007) and her first feature film Apron Strings (2008), both written by Shuchi Kothari.

Her work as director also includes a music video for Sub-Cranium Feeling (1998) by her brother King Kapisi, a collaboration with her sister Makerita Urale, who is also a filmmaker on arts show The Living Room (2002), and a documentary Hip Hop New Zealand (2003). She has also directed advertising commercials, and has spent time in Samoa and Fiji, mentoring Pacific Islanders in making commercials.

In 2004 she was awarded the first Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers' Residency at the University of Hawaii. In 2010 she began lecturing at Unitech Film and Television School and in mid-2012 became head tutor at Wellington's NZ Film and Television School.