Today's documentarians may dream of making epic Frederick Wiseman-style films, but online audiences aren't usually so patient. Three hours? You'll be lucky to hold someone's attention for three minutes.
That's the time limit for the documentaries featured in Loading Docs, an annual project that provides funding and support to New Zealand filmmakers. The project offers a cash injection of 4,000 New Zealand dollars plus post-production support to budding documentary makers, on the condition that they raise NZ$2,000 first via the crowdfunding website Boosted. One of the 10 films selected this year managed to exceed this goal by a significant margin. Amber Easby and Henry Oliver raised more than NZ$7,000 to support "Kusuda," their documentary about a Japanese winemaker who runs a vineyard in New Zealand.
Former lawyer and diplomat Hiro Kusuda ditched a lucrative career in 1996 to study viticulture at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in Germany, before moving to New Zealand in 2001. Since then, he has steadily cultivated a reputation as one of the country's most fastidious winemakers, earning the praise of influential critics including Jancis Robinson and Matt Kramer. Kusuda has experienced numerous setbacks in the course of his career, and the documentary finds him facing another: a cyclone that threatens to devastate his entire crop, just before it's due to be harvested. "Everything is so fragile," he observes, with the serenity of a Buddhist sage.
Easby and Oliver have plans to produce a feature-length film about Kusuda, and this thoughtful, elegant short acts as a tantalizing taster. View it online from July 9 at loadingdocs.net.