Vincent Ward - Director

Nationality: New Zealander. Born: Greytown, New Zealand, 16 February 1956. Education: Attended the Ilam School of Art, Christchurch, New Zealand, where he intended to study painting but took up filmmaking instead. Career: Directed and co-wrote first films at age twenty-one, 1977–1978; directed first feature, Vigil , 1984; came to the United States to work on Alien3 , 1992; currently based in Australia and the United States. Awards: Silver Hugo Award, Chicago Festival, 1978, for A State of Siege; Silver Hugo Award, Chicago Festival, 1980, for In Spring One Plants Alone; Grand Prix Award, Prades Festival, Grand Prix Award, Madrid Festival, and Best Film, Imag Fic Festival, all 1984, all for Vigil; Australian Film Awards, Best Picture and Best Director, 1988, for The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey. Agent: CAA, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A. Address: P.O. Box 423, Kings Cross, NSW 2011, Australia.

Films as Director and Screenwriter:


Ma Olsen (short)


A State of Siege (short)


In Spring One Plants Alone (short)




The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey


Map of the Human Heart (+ pr)


What Dreams May Come (+pr)

Other Films:


Alien3 (story)


Leaving Las Vegas (ro of Businessman 1)


The Shot (ro of Smith)


One Night Stand (ro of Nathan)


By WARD: article—

"Ward's Way," interview with Larry Buttrose in Interview (New York), March 1989.

Interview with Jeff Laffel, in Films in Review (New York), May-June 1993.

Johnston, Trevor, "Eskimo Hell," in Time Out (London), 2 June 1993.

"Never Say Die," an interview with Kim Newman, in Sight and Sound (London), December 1998.

On WARD: articles—

Mitchell, Tony, "On the Edge," in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), September 1985.

Jackson, S., "New Zealand Film Bibliography," in Filmviews (Victoria, Australia), Winter 1987.

Nayman, M., " The Navigator —Vincent Ward's Past Dreams of the Future," in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), May 1988.

Lewis, B., " The Navigator ," in Films & Filming (London), March 1989.

Griffin, N., "Vincent Ward," in Premiere (New York), April 1989.

Insdorf, Annette, "His Vision Charted the Course of The Navigator ," in New York Times , 16 July 1989.

Williamson, Lyn, "Vincent Charts Course for Cannes," in Onfilm (Auckland), April 1992.

Wilmington, Michael, "Firestorm and Dry Ice: The Cinema of Vincent Ward," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1993.

* * *

After completing just three feature films, Vincent Ward has established himself as a filmmaker of great individuality, intensity, and creativity. His narrative technique is centered on the fundamental importance of the image; he has a painter's eye for capturing arresting, eye-popping visuals. However, all of his films are united not only by their imagery. While he resists categorizing himself and his work, Ward did admit in an interview with this writer that "I like to make films that say something about people."

Ward's characters are linked in that they consistently are isolated, trapped by the barren, desolate rural environments in which they have come of age. Ward is most interested in examining the manner in which they relate to their surroundings and, even more importantly, how they are touched by the outside world. Clearly, this theme is tied into the filmmaker's own roots in New Zealand, a mostly rural country located at the very bottom of the world.

Vigil is a fine debut feature, the deeply personal story of a young farmgirl, on the cusp of adolescence, who is growing up in an isolated locale in backwoods New Zealand. The outside world comes to her in the person of a hunter, who arrives on the scene upon the death of her father and whose presence impacts on her and her family. Ward manages to get inside the mind of this child as he depicts the world around her in all of its realities and contradictions. That world is seen through her perceptions, fantasies, and lack of life experience. There is a raw energy present in Vigil , an energy created by a filmmaker who has total admiration for the art of cinema and the power of the moving image.

In Ward's follow-ups, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey and Map of the Human Heart , he expands his characters' horizons in that, near the beginning of each story, he has them leaving their homelands and entering the outside world. The Navigator is the stunningly visual account, set in the year 1348, of a group of townspeople in Cumbria who embark on the title journey in order to escape a plague. At the end of their trip, they come upon an ultra-modern, twentieth-century metropolis. Here, the film becomes a view of a contemporary, technological society as seen through the perceptions of medieval man. The special effects in The Navigator are especially impressive. Ward cleverly used small-scale cardboard and plywood miniatures to create his "futuristic" city; the film was shot on a modest budget, yet it has the look of a multi-million-dollar Hollywood epic.

Ward's third feature, Map of the Human Heart , is a heartrending drama, a thoughtful, emotionally involving film about clashing cultures and the corruption of innocence. Ward tells the story of Avik (Jason Scott Lee), an Eskimo who might easily be described as a child of fate. As a young boy in the early 1930s, Avik's encounter with an Arctic mapmaker (Patrick Bergin) leads him into "civilization," where he meets Albertine (Anne Parillaud), half-Indian and half-French Canadian, who is destined to be his true love. Also key to the story is Avik's becoming a combat pilot, and his participation in World War II. Especially in The Navigator and Map of the Human Heart , Ward's characters become convinced that by entering the outside world they can alter their lives and their fates. They share a faith in their futures, and it is this very faith that allows them—for better or for worse—to take action by moving out of their native environs and into the world at large.

To date, Ward's sole Hollywood credit is Alien3 , for which he authored the story upon which the screenplay was based. It is a shame that, entering mid-career, this daringly original and always-interesting filmmaker has only three feature films to his credit. "It's easy to get films made that are more generic," Ward states. "I want my films to be accessible, though I also want to do them on my own terms, and to be about my own concerns as a filmmaker."

—Rob Edelman

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