THE man credited with inventing the New Zealand film industry, Ballarat-born Roger Donaldson has been awarded one of that nation’s top honours.
Dr Donaldson, has been named as an ‘Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit’ for his lifetime of work in the New Zealand film industry as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours list which was celebrated in that country on June 4.
The 72-year-old is best known internationally for directing Hollywood hits including The Bounty with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, Cocktail starring Tom Cruise, Dante’s Peak with Pierce Brosnan and Thirteen Days which told the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s and starred Kevin Costner.
But in New Zealand he is arguably best known for his debut feature Sleeping Dogs which launched the career of Sam Neill.
The political thriller is notable as it understood to be the first feature-length 35mm film produced entirely in New Zealand.
Dr Donaldson spent the first 20 years of his life in Ballarat going to school Macarthur Street Primary School and Ballarat High School before migrating to New Zealand in 1965. He retains family connections in Ballarat.
In May 2011, Dr Donaldson was given an honourary doctorate by Federation University.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern described Dr Donaldson as an “esteemed writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and photographer.”
“His name is synonymous with many of our celebrated movies including Smash Palace and The World’s Fastest Indian,” she said.
His most recent work is a critically acclaimed documentary on New Zealand racing legend Bruce McLaren who the McLaren Formula One racing team is named after.