Oscars invite for filmmaker Briar Grace-Smith

By Will Trafford

Photo / Ebony Lamb (EL Studios)

Award-winning playwright and filmmaker Briar Grace-Smith (ONZM) has received the latest in a series of accolades for her work, having been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The academy is the organisation behind the Oscars film awards; membership is determined by existing members, titans of film and TV in their own right.

The filmmaker is one of six high-profile indigenous nominees to be invited into the fold in 2022.

Grace-Smith (Ngāti Wai, Ngā Puhi) was acknowledged for her directorial role in the 2021 drama ‘Cousins’ and her 2017 film ‘Waru’, but her credits span more than two decades, across stage and screen.

Nga Pou Wahine, her first play, earned her the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award in 1995.

Later plays Purapurawhetu and When Sun and Moon Collide went on to be televised as feature-length televisual productions, starring TV and film heavyweights like Rawiri Paratene and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Grace-Smith co-wrote Billy, a renowned tele-feature about the life of comedian Billy T James; she has also won awards for her short stories and poetry.

She was appointed an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), for services to theatre, film and television in 2018.

In a social media post Grace-Smith thanked her supporters, saying she only heard of her nomination from a friend, as she is in preproduction for her latest film, scheduled to begin filming Saturday.

‘Thank you to everyone who has supported me’ she wrote in the post.

‘It’s frigging cool xx’.

The five other indigenous filmmakers invited to the academy include Chad Burris (Chickasaw Nation), Amanda Kernell (Sámi), Blackhorse Lowe (Diné), Anne Lajla Utsi (Sámi) and Michael Greyeyes (Muskeg Lake First Nation Cree).

The director, screenwriter and playwright joins other filmmaking institutions including Taika Waititi and Cliff Curtis, who were invited to join the academy in 2016.