(Anthony McCarten, New Zealand, 1998) 90 minutes


Director: Anthony McCarten
Producer: Philippa Campbell
Screenplay: Anthony McCarten, Greg McGee.
based on the play by Anthony McCarten
Production Design: Clive Memmott
Cinematography: Simon Riera
Editor: John Gilbert
Music: David Bergeaud
Danielle Cormack (Chrissy/Carol)
Tim Balme (Ken)
Rima Te Wiata (Jen)
Karl Urban (Paul)
Jodie Dorday (Lyn)
Brian Sergent (Brian)
Donna Akersten (Joyce)

Reviews and notes

Kiwi Olympic swimmer Carol Dunn is poised for gold, so of course the rest of the Dunns are national property too. Bemused television host Brian Stanning and his crew prepare to capture the human drama scheduled to unfold when the family watch the final race and talk via satellite with the star. For Carol's identical twin sister Chrissy, this is one human drama that television can do without. As far as she's concerned, the rest of the family are fruitcakes, conclusive evidence that she and Carol were adopted. Chrissy's slacker truculence is in stark contrast to everyone else's hilariously flagrant eagerness to rise to the occasion.

Anthony McCarten's script (from his original stage comedy) sets up more deviously complicated strands of action than there's space here to describe, and carries them off with more aplomb than seems possible.

He is abetted by cracking ensemble work from some of the funniest men and women in New Zealand, all clearly flourishing in such excellent company. And there is the space to mention them all. Danielle Cormack has the unfunny glamour role(s): she makes an intriguing pair of twins. Brian Sergent makes a suspiciously jaded TV host (what's his vice?). Karl Urban is the cameraman who just happens to be Chrissy's much abused one-night-stand of the night before. Donna Akersten is Mum, resolutely nice under trying circumstances.

Tim Balme reveals comic mastery of the fumbled recovery as Ken, Chrissy's electrician brother-in-law, a chirpy no-hoper. Jodie Dorday is the cheerfully empty-headed hair-stylist sister, due at any moment to give birth to a baby of undisclosed paternity; and Rima Te Wiata, in the film's tour de force, is the ghastly Jen, Chrissy's pushy, pretentious older sister, tormenter of husband Ken, and the character most committed to putting on a good show for the television. With a comic refinement that's a joy to behold, Te Wiata makes every line zing. And the way she brings us round to Jen's side is what gives this essentially farcical view of suburban hell its surprising heart and soul.
- Bill Gosden, 27th Wellington Film Festival, 1998.

A fine ensemble of eccentric Kiwi characters - not caricatures - makes this tale of trans-global fraternal rivalry and miscommunication a hilarious and touching delight that treats suburban Kiwiana with considerable respect... Via Satellite comes as a breath of fresh air to audiences starved for local product. Without pretension to high art or pandering to a particular demographic, Via Satellite is proof that we can tell stories that are as funny, moving and as well-crafted as anything Hollywood or Britain can muster, and we can do it on a shoestring.
- Matthew Grainger, The Dominion, 16 October 1998.

When the film premiered at the Wellington Film Festival, the programme highlighted its 'cracking ensemble work from some of the funniest men and women in New Zealand'. Columbia Tristar was, therefore, disappointed when its New Zealand release attracted fewer than 37,000 people. It blamed lack of time, but I felt the company had underestimated the enormity of the task of launching a New Zealand film.

For distributors of Hollywood films, each title reached New Zealand with a ready-made identity, boosted by months of exposure in international magazines, television shows and music charts, and supported by the lavish attention given to American releases and their stars. Each New Zealand film, however, started from scratch. Its very existence had to be established. And far from having the resources of Hollywood-propelled coverage, it had only the local media, which was often more interested in giving space and time to imported films. This was one of the reasons producers often wanted to launch their films offshore: if a film were acclaimed internationally, it might have a head start locally.
- Lindsay Shelton, The Selling of New Zealand Movies, Awa Press, 2005.

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