Chelsea Winstanley is flying high. She recently made history as the first indigenous woman producer to score an Oscar nod for Best Picture, for “Jojo Rabbit.” Now she’s launched a new company, This Too Shall Pass, and its first project will be Winstanley’s feature directorial debut, per a press release. She is set to write and direct “The Appeal,” the story of Samoan lawyer Tiana Epati and her historic defense of Black Power member Mac Kapene.
With the Kapene case, Epati challenged New Zealand’s criminal justice system. “In a country where over 50% of the prison population are Māori, institutional racial bias against the indigenous people is prevalent. Epati defended Black Power member Mac Kapene in the Court of Appeal after she believed he was wrongly convicted as a result of receiving an unfair trial,” the press release details. According to Kapene, Epati told him she believed him and vowed “to fight this to the bitter end.”
Winstanley hopes “The Appeal” will heighten awareness of New Zealand’s discrimination against its Māori population and people of color and inspire reform in the criminal justice system.
This Too Shall Pass, which is based in Los Angeles and New Zealand, is focused on telling authentic stories and depicting cultural perspectives that are too often ignored. Via the new company, Winstanley is producing two other features, “Thief of Sleep” and “Arezou.” Both projects explore Persian culture and are expected to film in early 2020.
Directed by Sophia Kiapos, “Arezou” sees a 12-year-old girl joining an illegal, underground ballet group in post-Revolution Tehran. “Thief of Sleep” centers on a young gay man who, facing persecution in his native Iran, goes to Scotland. But his new home and new relationship are threatened when he is rejected for asylum.
“The authenticity of the projects and commitment to depicting Iranian culture, history, and language in such a truthful way is what attracted me to these films,” Winstanley explained. “As I move into this new decade of my career I am also dedicated to giving myself a voice as a writer and director with the goal to giving cinema an opportunity to showcase stories that have not been told before.”
“Jojo Rabbit” and its producers — Winstanley, Taika Waititi, and Carthew Neal — are up for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Winstanley’s other producing credits include “Merata: How Mom Decolonized the Screen” and “What We Do in the Shadows.” She previously directed shorts “Forgive Me,” “Little King,” “Waru,” and “Sech’el.”
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