Bill Gosden

In Memoriam

11 Nov 1953 — 6 Nov 2020

An industry icon, a much loved son, brother and uncle, and a remarkable friend, whose legacy changed the path — and expanded the minds — of countless filmmakers, arts professionals, and cinema lovers in Aotearoa and beyond.

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Over the decades I’m sure Bill Gosden heard the phrase “Well there’s more to life than movies” more than a few times. Usually from friends or colleagues trying to comfort him over missing out on the latest film from some major filmmaker.

But for a true cinephile and cultural curator like Bill, cinema was life and such off-hand comments were probably seen as condescension. Though he’d never state it out loud, a wry smile and an arched brow were enough visual cues to respond to any such flippancy.

For those of us blessed (inflicted) with cinephilia, our existence has always revolved around the movies. From wide-eyed childhood to discerning adulthood, we prefer to escape our day to day drudgery through the magic of the movies. And we’re usually happiest when immersed and spellbound by whatever tale is being projected.

All the pivotal moments in our lives have been portrayed far more dramatically in cinema. And all of our real-world memories over time have become blended with their fictitious simulacrums from the silver screen. Which is a long way of saying that my friendship and working relationship with Bill Gosden will always be treasured and remembered as something larger than life.

Like many great cinematic narratives, Bill and I began as rivals. Though that term puts us on equal footing, the reality was Bill and his festival (and it really was his festival) were cultural giants on the New Zealand landscape. Before there was throwing shade, I was practically blocking the sun with my non-stop jabs and taunting of Bill and his festival in the early 90s. I called it an antiquated fuddy-duddy affair for art lobsters and snobs. It wasn’t true but it didn’t stop me taking to the streets with a loud haler screeching about the one true film festival. Mine. Smash cut to Bill with arched brow and wry smile back in his office.

When I finally made my first short film Crab Boy, I didn’t programme it in my own film festival — I instead went, tail between legs, to the only show in town — Bill’s New Zealand International Film Festival. Bill not only selected my short, he programmed it to play in front of Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral throughout New Zealand. I never told him at the time, but Bill’s appreciation and support of my short was ‘the’ revelatory validation for me as a filmmaker. I should have always known we were more alike than I initially felt and his condemnation of the banning of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer should’ve sealed it.

Over the following decades, I got to see Bill at various events and festivals overseas. His industry street cred was second to none. He was always familiar but it was in these quiet moments away from the hometown fest shenanigans that I got a more rounded picture of the man. Once the professional demeanour was dropped, he was rather cheeky with a wicked sense of humour. We loved talking about certain beloved films nearly as much as we did bitching about certain assholes in the biz. Like I said. Cheeky. Possessed with an elephantine memory of those who had been unsportsmanlike, it was a rare treat to hear him eviscerate some nogoodnik.

He also seemed to know everyone and managed to massage and navigate all the complex egos and personalities to maintain the festival back home as one of the best in the world. Bill kindly connected many industry dots for me and was an open book with his deep-dive knowledge of the scene.

Eventually in 2004 we joined forces — or as history will more accurately record — Bill did me another solid. When I’d hit the wall running my own festival, he was gracious enough to let me continue to curate my own programming strand within the larger event. Things escalated quickly in terms of my relationships with international filmmakers and festival directors from that point on thanks to Bill.

The positive (up for debate by some) spin-offs from my relationship with Bill are just one minor part of the overall impact he had on the New Zealand creative landscape. The profound impact and influence Bill had on so many lives and careers over four decades will always be underestimated but it shouldn’t be, nor the cumulative trickle-down effect that will be felt in New Zealand for decades to come.

Ant Timpson

Director, festival curator and friend

Vale my beautiful friend, mentor and peer Bill Gosden. On our last day out together in Venice, August 2019, we attended the magnificent Sean Scully show at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore, appropriately titled ‘Human’ (of which dear Bill was the very best kind). When we said goodbye — an incredibly difficult parting — we knew it was likely to be the last of many wonderful adventures together. I will forever be grateful that I had the opportunity to pay tribute to Bill — and his impact on my life — out loud and in his presence. Below is the speech that I made at his retirement dinner and it feels appropriate to reprise it here.

My sincere condolences to his family, friends and our many mutual colleagues, as well as enormous gratitude to his beloved friends who cared for him in these last, difficult months.

Tribute to Bill, NZIFF Retirement Dinner, 29 March 2019:

Tonight I honour my dear friend Bill Gosden who handed in his keys today, retiring after 40 years at the New Zealand International Film Festival, most of them at the helm.

I consider myself to be an alumna of the school of Bill Gosden. Bill opened many doors for me, generous actions that will always be part of our story, the story of a friendship that started before we met each other. Bill advocated my writing to someone who was angry about something I’d written. To their credit (and also only after they gave me a dressing down in my favourite restaurant of the time), that person went on to give me a job that elevated my career. Bill had intervened, without knowing me, and created an amazing opportunity.

It was Bill who introduced me to colleagues at New York, Rotterdam and Toronto film festivals. He made the world of film programming seem like a very real option to a bolshy and opinionated young woman from small-town Australia. In observing Bill at work in that international context, I learned the importance of wit, charm and intelligence in building and sustaining great networks. I also learned the value of fierce, quiet determination in negotiating with sales and distribution companies, exhibitors, producers and partners of all kinds. (Though I must admit, I never quite mastered ‘quiet’!).

We have had many adventures Bill and I, those New York opening night parties at Tavern on the Green (meeting Lauren Bacall, dancing with Björk); watching films together at festivals around the world; recommending films to each other for selection in our respective programmes; and as two non-drivers, a rather wonderful planes, trains, ferries and mail bus navigation of New Zealand’s South Island on a holiday itinerary partially devised by the über Dame Gaylene Preston.

I also had the privilege of seeing Bill — the showman — in action at festivals in Wellington and Auckland. Bill in his element introducing glorious new restorations with meticulously performed live scores; indulging Florian Habicht on his impulse to ride a mountain bike down the SkyCity Theatre stairs (though even tonight Bill swears he never knew that was going to happen); sneaking me on stage for a personal introduction to the appliqué flamingos on the curtains at The Civic in Auckland. Whatever it was, all the detail of film festival life was embraced with warmth, insight and more than occasionally, a spicy or scathingly funny observation.

At this time of communal grieving in New Zealand [15 March 2019], Bill’s beloved country has also set the global bar in its powerful expression of acceptance, diversity and inclusion. It is in that frame that I reflect on my friend Bill’s civic commitment to standing up for all those values, as both a cultural leader and a wonderful human being.

Love, respect, gratitude and admiration to you Billy G.

Clare Stewart

Festival director, friend (London)

I first met Bill in-person in the 1980s, when I was lugging 35mm prints of Australian movies on a tour of New Zealand. Bill blew me away with his kindness and generosity, introducing me to the right people to make the tour a success (and to the work of Len Lye.) After I moved to New York, Bill would make an annual visit in September, timed to the New York Film Festival, and we would spend long nights chatting about movies and life, a glass of white wine in his hand and a sparkle in his eye. Bill had impeccable taste, and was a true champion of talented filmmakers. The last time I saw Bill was on a beautiful spring morning last year, when we had breakfast on the Upper West Side. I love you and will miss you, sweet Bill.

Jennifer Stott

VP Publicity at Focus Features (New York City)

If the mid-winter New Zealand International Film Festival is like Christmas — and for me it is — then Bill Gosden is Santa. When I think of the exquisite breadth and splendour of cinematic gifts that Bill showered upon us year upon year, it brings tears to my eyes.

I’d see him at cine-Christmas-time often by himself, standing by the doors, or walking from one venue to another. He would smile at me kindly, but shyly. I’d say hi, but got the feeling he was uncomfortable with small talk. In 2005, I was only a few years out of film school when I submitted a self-made documentary, Banana in a Nutshell, to the festival. Bill programmed my film, in his words “at the eleventh hour.” We sold out scheduled screenings and had to add more. He stood by me for the Q&A of every single screening, fielding comments and questions. He may not have liked small talk, but when he ran a lively Q&A, he was a master. To have the director of a huge, nationwide film festival support an emerging local filmmaker in this way, was astounding to me.

The last time I spoke to Bill, it was by the B stalls door of The Civic. Bill was standing where I expected to find him, quietly attentive in the shadow of the door. “Hi Bill, how are you?”, I said. “Good to see you,” he replied. “Bill, I want to say thank you,” I should’ve said. “For the magic you magpied, the cinema we might never have seen, that shaped who we are and changed how we see the world. Thank you for your taste, your toil, your generosity. You brought joy to so many, and you changed the course of my career.” But I never would’ve said that because Bill loves movies, not awkward conversation. The tears will come and be wiped away, and what’s left will be the enduring legacy of an incorrigible cinephile. Bye Bill. How lucky we were to have you in our lives. Thank you for the movies.

Roseanne Liang

Director, screenwriter

We are heartbroken by the loss of our friend Bill Gosden. Without Bill, our lives and our films would have been very different. He was a friend in the world of film when we had few others. Bill and the festival were a beacon of light at the end of an often long and arduous tunnel. For that, we are eternally grateful.

He was our champion, and we owe him so much love and gratitude for all his work. It was his unwavering support that provided a home and launchpad for our documentaries over all of these years. He not only helped us as filmmakers, but amplified the voices of all those who have been the subjects of our films. He will be missed.

Moe mai rā e hoa kua whetūrangitia. Haere atu rā e hoa ki te pō.

Errol Wright & Abi King-Jones

Filmmakers

Like anyone who knew him, I am deeply saddened to learn of Bill’s passing. Bill’s courage and perspective on his illness astounded me. But it also didn’t, as — and this is what stays with me more — he was always so calm and sage with any challenge thrown his way. And there were many as a festival director, don’t we know it!

Beyond being a brilliant mind and film programmer, Bill was always so generous to me when I was artistic director at Melbourne International Film Festival. We would have regular phone calls, comparing notes on films and companies and issues, and in all honesty his humour and calmness, not to mention advice, pulled me back from the brink many times. MIFF has Bill to thank for so much more than it can ever know! I really appreciated his friendship and looked forward to seeing him most years in Toronto and New York, our coinciding post-festival September trips always bringing a lot of laughter and good times, as we were at our happiest and most relaxed that time of the calendar. 

I am going to miss Bill so much. The film community feels slighter already without his being around. I hope he knew how much he was loved and respected, in New Zealand, in Australia and internationally. I still often think, “what would Bill do?” in stressful times.

My condolences to his family, NZIFF colleagues and close friends at this time. 

Michelle Carey

Programmer, ex-Artistic Director, Melbourne International Film Festival (Berlin)

I can’t remember when we first met but I remember how charmed I was. I was a little dazzled truth be told, a bit shy.

We talked about film (of course) and your love embraced all genres. You were so always so knowledgeable and generous with those of us who weren’t.

Andy and I relished the late night catch up’s during Festival and the arch and insightful conversations in between. We will miss your mischief and intelligence.

Dim the lights our friend, the film is about to begin. Nui te aroha.

Adrienne & Andy x

Adrienne Bonell

New Zealand Film Festival Trust board member

Bill Gosden believed in me at a time when that acknowledgement meant more than anything else… at the beginning. By programming my first feature documentary Haunting Douglas at the festival and facilitating a wonderful premiere, he gave me the confidence to call myself a ‘Filmmaker’. Over the years he has supported me in ways too numerous to list and I will miss him terribly. Thank you Bill, thank you for everything. With love and respect,

Leanne Pooley

Filmmaker

I first met Bill in 1996, when I was a student journalist for Critic at Otago University, and helped him with advance publicity for that year's film festival. As a proud Dunedin boy, Bill always insisted on bringing as many films south as possible, believing that the provinces deserved to see cutting-edge film just as much as those bloody Aucklanders. It was remarkable getting to watch him at work: that cool calm exterior, unflappable even in the face of poor audiences and financial disaster; how easily he charmed advertisers and sponsors with his wit and that sonorous voice; how gracious he was to the filmmakers he mentored and hosted; and how wickedly, savagely funny he could be in his off-duty moments. Bill had extraordinary eyes — a pale watery blue-grey that seemed to notice everything. Being stared at by him was a thrilling, slightly alarming experience. Above all, I was struck by how passionate he was about film, and how much he loved his job, even though (as he told me many times) it wouldn't make him rich or pay for a comfortable retirement.

When I moved to Wellington, he offered me proofreading work in the festival office, hidden in a Dickensian attic space in the Embassy Theatre. It was a wonderful job, reading reviews of films that no one else had seen, and getting the inside scoop on the year’s must-sees, in exchange for free tickets. Bill was an extraordinary writer and editor, with a lawyer’s forensic eye for detail. Effusive praise was never his thing, but it was clear he’d read and remembered every piece of journalism I’d written, and was quietly encouraging of my moving away from law and into the arts.

Like many gay men who grew up in pre-law reform New Zealand, Bill was a guarded and sometimes prickly character, never fully at ease in the brash new world of gay liberation and identity politics. That said, he did more culturally for my generation of LGBT folk than any other New Zealander I can think of. It’s because of Bill that I discovered the films of Todd Haynes, Derek Jarman, Terence Davies, Claire Denis, Pedro Almodovar and Wong Kar-wai, and got to see same-sex desire on the big screen, long before I experienced it myself. Bill opened up worlds of creative and erotic possibility that would have been impossible to imagine otherwise. I have so much to thank him for. I'm so very sorry that he’s gone, but it’s comforting to know that we are still living in the film lovers’ world that he created. My deepest condolences to his family and friends, and to the circle of carers who looked after him in his final days.

John Forde

Bill was soft-spoken, disguising a Herculean determination to build the New Zealand International Film Festival as an audience-grabbing showcase for the very best cinema from New Zealand and around the world. He achieved his dream, God bless him!

As a connoisseur of the most provocative and challenging cinema, Bill secured amazing films in multiple languages and diverse genres that New Zealand audiences would otherwise never have had the chance to see. For nearly 40 years, Bill introduced, through his festival, directors from around the globe — emerging and established — whose works created new perspectives for New Zealand audiences to explore. He championed New Zealand directors of features and short films within NZIFF and to other festival directors overseas.

I first encountered Bill’s selections in 1989 as the new New Zealand Film Commission head and was bowled over. I was seriously tempted to go AWOL for the festival’s duration to immerse myself. As that was not possible, I instead phoned Bill to ask if he could point me to the foreign films I absolutely had to see. Of course, he promptly answered: “all of them.” However, he relented and directed me to titles of note also screening after work or on weekends. Tickets for any ‘after work’ titles on days where I was stuck in our Allen St office were given to other staff. The ones I did see lived up to Bill’s recommendation!

Over the years at NZFC, and at festivals like Toronto, Cannes and in Australia during my time at the South Australian Film Corporation, I was able to get to know Bill. I remember running into him at the Bay Street Suites many years ago during TIFF and, after being suddenly contacted by festival staff, rushing to visit him in the Wellesley Hospital when he fell seriously ill. Pre-email days, I rang NZFC speaking to either Mladen or Lindsay so they could contact his family and office. Thankfully, Bill recovered. Email became universal, while both the hospital and the suites disappeared, replaced by condos! Even TIFF moved further south in the city.

Bill was and will remain a national treasure. His enormous contribution to New Zealand’s screen culture has been recognised with two New Zealand Orders of Merit — MNZM in 2001 and ONZM in 2019. His family and legions of grateful admirers in Aotearoa and around the world including me morn his loss.

Arohanui Bill!

Judith McCann

Former New Zealand Film Commission CEO (1989–1994)

You were a beacon for the industry, Bill, and your light will be missed.

Rest easy.

Helene Wong

Writer, filmmaker, critic

Farewell Bill,

You were a champion of the silver screen.

You brought us the best from all around the world, showing us insights, ideas, people, places and stories which excited and moved us.

And you exposed us to the very best of the world’s filmmakers, giving all of us something to learn from, and aspire to.

And you absolutely delighted in promoting our talent, our stories, our people, our places.

You encouraged local filmmakers and gave them a platform for audiences to access them.

And your support for our local industry gave credibility to the content and the creators, and encouraged other festivals in other territories to schedule them, and help build the reputation of our industry, both at home and around the globe.

Thank You Bill.

John Barnett

Producer

Ka tangi te titi
Ka tangi te kaka
Kua rere tetehi manu tioriori e! Kua wheturangitia ia Haere atu ra!

Bill, travel well in your next journey as this one is well and truly a wrap.

You moved quietly but your deeds spoke volumes in the crowded film world.

You were our New Zealand film champion; year after year you sought out our films, short, long and everything digital, challenging us always to rise to the NZIFF deadline; finish our films, get our screenings in New Zealand before we left home! What a mammoth feat that was! A legion of Aotearoa filmmakers regard you as our godfather.
Heaps I always meant to ask you, like:
How the hell did you, Sandra and the team consistently pick the winning Cannes films to get and show each year at home? What a legend!
How come NZIFF was able to year after year increase its audiences??
Why did you and Gaylene always like that same table for your brunches???
I’ve still got a beautiful letter you wrote for me, it helped get me funding for my film.

You fought a good fight in this life, travel easy,

Haere atu ra!
Arohanui

Whetu Fala

Producer, director, writer

I’ve known a few film festival directors in my time, but none as quietly spoken as Bill was. But each word was worth listening carefully for.

Always a pleasure to spend time with, his brilliant eye applied in all facets of — not just the cinema, where he had no equals. Often times when marketing a film, I’d be struggling to find the sweet descriptive spot. I’d check here and there and find that the perfect note appeared: In the New Zealand International Film Festival programme. It was a treat to receive the programme each year in the mail. You knew the films would be curated brilliantly, but I also just enjoyed sitting back and reading Bill’s takes. And that’s perhaps the most one could ask for.

That twinkle in the eye! He nearly had a trademark in the art of quietly humorous and reassuring looks. He communicated so much in moments of reflection. I have many memorable moments with Bill which are not for remembrances, but I think the moments I treasure most are the ones when I’d be sitting in a cafe in Auckland or Wellington, and I’d overhear regular festival-goers excitedly lining up their screening schedules. They referred to Bill as a friend as much as a programmer, and spoke of him so warmly. These moments, and there have been several, underscored to me what he meant to the people in New Zealand. It awed me to hear then, and it always will.

Go well you lovely man, there’ll always be room for you at the discussion tables all over the world of cinema.

Simon Killen

Film distributor (Melbourne)

Requiescat in pace William Gosden,

William’s radiance illuminated The Civic.

My world is now a little darker now that he no longer illuminates it.

Not only was he the sun of the festival but he was also a wonderful friend.

Lux Aeterna William

(He allowed me to call him William rather than Bill)

Eric Kearney

Long-time manager of the Civic Theatre for Amalgamated Theatres, then Hoyts (1977–2014)

I have many warm memories of Bill, but the most memorable are the shared moments we had around some of the wonderful films we helped birth to New Zealand audiences over many years in both our careers. When Bill fell in love with a film it was with a quiet urgency and intensity that was always infectious. His love of the audience responding to stories that he knew would transport and transform them was, I think, where he drew his greatest sense of achievement. If there was one film and one moment that stood out for me, it was his absolute love and passion for Brad McGann’s stunning local film, In My Father’s Den. We were all proud of Brad’s mesmerising work, but Bill made sure it was the centerpiece of his festival line-up and spotlighted it as a local film that was equal to any of the acclaimed films from around the world that jostled for audience attention that year. He was like a proud father. Bill was a true film lover and a real gentleman.

Mark Gooder

Co-founder, Cornerstone Films (USA)

Kia ora Bill,

I owe you so much. As with many filmmakers in Aotearoa New Zealand, your support of my films through the New Zealand International Film Festival was the single biggest factor in helping me to establish my (new) career. But, much more importantly, you established a culture of film appreciation that serves all New Zealand filmmakers and audiences. You are whole-heartedly missed with much aroha and gratitude.

Rebecca Tansley

Filmmaker

On his last visit to New York City, Bill took much pleasure in getting the best orchestra seats at the opera and buying a fancy orange jacket — things he might not ordinarily do. It felt as if he were packing experiences for a journey. Carefully folding all the truth and beauty into his mind's eye. We talked about living and dying. Such generosity that he could be so present and open. We ate Thai food and he picked things off my plate without asking, as was his habit.  Bill's visits to NYC over the 25 years that I knew him were always in autumn. Our final day together was spent in brilliant sunshine sitting by the water. He never lost his dry and slightly wicked sense of humor. And when Bill laughed, his eyes crinkled at the corners.

We'll continue to celebrate Kiwi appreciation in your honor, dear friend.  You won't be forgotten.

Sue Simon

Friend (New York City)

I will remember Bill Gosden both as a lovely man and as someone who made a major contribution to film culture in our country. In the 1970s and ‘80s he became one of the key people in the growth of that culture. During those years there was a great surge in film societies and film festivals, in film education, and in the establishment of a film archive and a new film industry. Like Jonathan Dennis and Lindsay Shelton, Bill understood that each of those developments was reinforcing the others in growing our film culture.

Bill did a great job of rescuing the Auckland International Film Festival. I had been one of the organisers of that event for its first ten years, but in 1979 the festival was hijacked by the local Festival of the Arts, who then tried to run it as a cash-cow to subsidise other kinds of art. Their attempt failed, and in 1984 Bill and his team came to the rescue of the Auckland Festival by merging it with the Wellington Film Festival, to establish the New Zealand International Film Festival. And he went on to run it over the decades as a world-class showcase for the art of film. He also did a great job in his battles with conservative film censorship.

NZIFF has been almost unique in the world in the extent to which it has had to depend on ticket sales, since local sponsorship has — with a few notable exceptions — been surprisingly hard to find. I understand that the festival has been able to sell around a quarter of a million tickets each year — that’s a lot of New Zealanders!

A great thing about Bill was his deep understanding of the need for good local as well as international films. With the help of the New Zealand Film Commission, he worked hard to give local filmmakers an important launching pad for their best work.

I am very sad to lose this thoughtful, lively, knowledgeable guy who made so many things happen for us.   

Roger Horrocks

Writer

Hovering at the back of film theatres, his small stature making him virtually invisible, Bill would slip unnoticed into countless screenings across the country.

It wasn't until he was reluctantly ushered to the front of the stage that his deep distinctive voice held you spellbound as he introduced screenings and shared his bottomless knowledge of film and filmmakers.

A giant friend to the world of cinema has been lost too soon.

Simon Henderson

I had always loved the New Zealand International Film Festival — the great films and the whole buzz of it! And there was the excitement of the opening night at The Civic with Bill doing the opening speech, always there in the foyer anxiously scanning the crowd and hoping the numbers were going to be good that year. Of course, they always were, and for me, Bill was synonymous with the festival.

As a director, my first dealings with Bill began in 2001 when I offered him my documentary Early Days Yet (about poet Allen Curnow). I had thought it would be a good idea to fly to Wellington and screen it for him personally at the NZIFF office, and he courteously agreed. I was very nervous, of course, because showing someone a film one has sweated over for a year is pretty nerve-racking, but Bill with his quiet manner and dry humour, always settled me down. This became a tradition and we were to repeat this over the years with many other documentaries, and I became very fond of him.

The last film I showed him was Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing (NZIFF19). He was already unwell and I was hesitant to ask him to see a film. However, in an email he told me that he had a new TV screen and a new sofa at home, and he would like to see a film if I had a new one. I felt uncomfortable at the end of the screening as the film spoke of Peryer’s death, which had happened before the edit was complete, and I knew that Bill was only too aware of his own mortality. But as always his comments were thoughtful and supportive.

I always visited him when I was in Wellington and the last time I saw him (with a coffee from the Deluxe Espresso Bar), I was very sad as I felt it was likely I wouldn’t see him again. He will be deeply missed.

Shirley Horrocks

Filmmaker

Thank you Bill for your passion behind the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Sarah K Watson

Screenwriter

It’s stunning how, in today’s digital and global world, one can be so shaped and influenced and moved by someone you’ve never met in person. Bill was such a man for me, and someone I told over and over again (almost embarrassingly so), how he had made New Zealand International Film Festival my favourite festival in the world… having done great business with many films there… even though I’ve never been there in the physical world. It is especially worth remembering that for me today, when we are all so isolated at home, that we can still impact and touch each other profoundly.

Jeffrey Winter

Independent film distributor (USA)

I got to know Bill in the 1980s, so have watched the Festival grow and develop over the decades — it’s an extraordinary achievement and the envy of many events not just the same size but much larger. I learned so much from Bill, his knowledge was vast. He was also extremely canny, and approached things strategically with an eye for the long term. Bill was a master at building relationships; his colleagues often became firm friends. I greatly appreciate his support and advice in the festivals I was involved with, and I was honoured that he trusted me enough to programme the 2007 festival so that he could take a very well-earned break. I feel lucky to have known him both as a friend and mentor. He left us in his prime, but wow, what a legacy.

Richard King

NZIFF guest programmer, 2007

Very sad to learn of the death of Bill, who I had a lot of respect for and looked forward to our annual catch up during the New Zealand International Film Festival at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin. Bill would tell me how his Dad would take him to the Regent to see films like The Music Man, which was a favourite of his. Bill loved the Regent and he used to have a smile a mile wide when we produced the audience, sometimes unexpectedly. Bill knew his audience and his films. Matching the two together was a skill that took time to learn and Bill had that.

I always looked forward to the chats that we would have over the years about the Regent and why some films worked and others didn't. Always interesting and lovely times to remember. The fact that in Bill's busy schedule he would have time to spend in a projection with both Nelson Miles and myself is something that I will always treasure.

Russell Campbell

Projectionist, Regent Theatre

Saddened to hear of the passing of legend Bill Gosden. An undeniable tour de force of film for New Zealand, a true champion of film indeed. Liam Reid and I had the absolute privilege of working in his last New Zealand International Film Festival in 2018, and I remember being in great awe at his sheer presence. He will be sorely missed, but the film world and community he created lives on, as does his enormous legacy.

Zoe Pattinson Fan

NZIFF Intern, 2018

Bill will be remembered with gratitude and affection by both film lovers and filmmakers in New Zealand; firstly, for his leadership and dedication to the New Zealand International Film Festival and film society culture, and secondly for his championing of local films, both long and short.

His contribution to New Zealand is unique and has helped make life in this country richer and fulfilling.

i roto i te maumahara aroha

Geoff Lealand

Wellington Film Society (1985–1991); current President, Hamilton Film Society

The sad loss of a very old friend. Besides all the films and the music, we will remember you for introducing us to Elizabeth David’s Penguin Edition of French Provincial Cooking. The book is now old and falling apart, but is still used often. Rest in peace Bill. We have such fond memories, especially of our time as neighbours in McFarlane Street.

Chris & Sue Prowse

I wanted to write and say how sad I was to hear the news of Bill‘s death. I worked for the New Zealand International Film Festival during the 2015 season and loved every minute of it. Bill left a lasting legacy for the New Zealand film community and NZIFF wouldn't be the same without him. Thanks for all the energy and enthusiasm you put into bringing the world stage to New Zealand. I'm sure wherever you are, you‘re getting comfy, waiting for the lights to go down, and the next screening to begin. All the best mate. 

Tom Ainge-Roy

Bill, there was no greater advocate for New Zealand film and New Zealand audiences than you. You were internationally respected and liked, and your name became synonymous with inspired and successful festival exhibition. The impact of your work is immeasurable. 

You will be missed.

Respectfully,

Jane Schoettle

Dear Bill,

I  always appreciated our friendship, which goes back more than 40 years. You did an amazing job fostering film appreciation in New Zealand. What a legacy. Keep in mind that we were born at a time when we were old enough to appreciate the cinema of Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti and the French New Wave. How lucky we were.

The golden age of cinema. Now it seems, as we all live out our final years, the worldwide pandemic has closed film theatres and even the future of cinema is in doubt. Will it all be online streaming from now on? I hope not. Farewell my friend.

Many happy memories.

Greg Stitt

Director (Sydney)

I have known Bill for more than 40 years. He took over the administration of the New Zealand International Film Festival in the year when I joined the executive of the Palmerston North Film Society. At all times his expert knowledge and concern for the development of film culture throughout New Zealand was an inspiration to those of us working to the same end. Bill was firm in his pursuit of perfection but generous to those of us who struck difficulties in implementing his dream, and wise when it came to seeking solutions for our local problems. His friendship will be greatly missed by myself and by Helen, my wife.

Christopher Allen Watson

Nelson, former President of the New Zealand Federation of Film Societies; former New Zealand Film Festival Trust board member

What a wonderful amazing life you had Bill. What an incredible legacy you left behind.

When we were young emerging filmmakers, you made us feel seen.

We will always remember the premieres and the parties.

Rest well knowing you were Fabulous!

What is enjoyed and loved is never forgotten.

Gillian Ashurst & Vanessa Sheldrick

Filmmakers

Bill Gosden, with his great wisdom and huge understanding, makes me believe film is a bridge that can cross cultures and different languages. Finding belonging within this ‘internationalism’ in films is the filmmaker’s lifelong journey. Bill Gosden, for many people, came to this city for films, and was the creator of this myth of film’s internationalism in Wellington. The light he brings, will never disappear in my heart. I believe you will settle in cinemas in paradise, Bill.

Li Tao

Filmmaker (Waves, NZIFF06)

Bill was one of my first and best students. When I returned from the US in 1971, Professor Alan Horsman put all the brightest Scholarship graduates into a welcome home tutorial for me. Bill, Catherine Fitzgerald, Jeremy Waldron, John Gibb and more. In ten minutes, they gobbled up everything I had prepared, and sat there expecting more. I nearly resigned on the spot.

Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bill in person from time to time, but mostly I’ve marvelled at his magnificent management of the New Zealand International Film Festival. What an achievement; what a gift to the nation and to the arts. Thank you dear Bill.

Jocelyn Harris

Professor emerita, Department of English & Linguistics, University of Otago

We are very sad to hear about Bill Gosden’s passing.

Bill was such a force for film and for the power of film to connect and inspire us all. His invitation to screen our feature documentary, From Scotland with Love, at the New Zealand International Film Festival, was instrumental in ensuring that our film toured the whole of New Zealand in 2015, playing to communities from Auckland to Dunedin, and many, many wonderful cinemas in between.

Bill was such a generous spirit, who through his passion for cinema, made us all more enlightened and engaged as global citizens, by bringing multiple visions and experiences of the world into our personal worlds.  Thank you, Bill.  You are fondly remembered and sadly missed.

Grant Keir & Virginia Heath

Filmmakers

Bill was the best kind of enthusiast. Deeply and vastly knowledgable, generous in all things, always warm, welcoming and encouraging. He championed our film This Way of Life (NZIFF09) from a very early cut. And his support never wavered. Much of the success of this film was down to Bill's early support.

Kua hinga te tōtara i Te Waonui-a-Tāne.

Barbara Sumner & Thomas Burstyn

Filmmakers

Watching cinema in picture houses is pure ecstasy. They are rooms of infinite possibilities and Bill, through his selection of films for both film festivals and film societies in New Zealand over so many years, explored all those possibilities in ways that helped broaden my understanding and knowledge of the world and human nature, as well as providing endless hours of pleasure.

I know Bill touched so many other lives in similar ways. He was a cultural treasure who will be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Bill, from labours that will be long remembered.

David Jenkinson

Vice President, Wellington Film Society

Bill, the consummate host. Such amazing meals came out of that tiny kitchen in Hawker Street. I remember some delightfully raucous evenings back in the early ’90s with amazing food inspired by Bill’s David Thompson cookbook, lots of beautiful wine, and ending with Bill playing whatever music he had recently discovered — and Elvis. And The Artist Formerly Known As. 

Bill, our Prince. Such a generous and gentle soul. When he shone his light on you, you felt spectacular.  Thank you for all the wonder you brought to our lives, through film or friendship. Missing you Mr Gosden. One in a million x

Emma Wilkinson

I remember Bill Gosden as a sweet, smart, savvy individual who understood the power of personal courtesy and social grace. He used his essential niceness of manner and goodness of character to achieve much within the various realms and spheres of screen culture that he occupied. His knowledge of cinema and his keen passion for both the past, present, and future of movies was remarkable. He had commendable people-skills and a wry sense of humour which informed his actions with perspective and style. An altogether impressive person but very much a nice guy, and a good guy. Ave atque Vale, Bill Gosden.

Peter H. Kemp

Retired Lecturer in Cinema Studies (RMIT University, Melbourne)

I was absolutely on the periphery of Bill Gosden’s world, as a repeat offender usher at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Wellington. An awkward conversation about Jodorowsky outside the Paramount, a volunteer’s apology for occupying the end of his desk whille I disassembled schedule boards — which he graciously and benevolently deflected as he went to meet his colleagues (friends).

But I was incredibly grateful to be involved with the film festival organisation, and to gain the experience that formed the foundation of my income ‘career’ work. Because it needs a kind, gracious, artistically sensitive, strong, and formidable character to create a space for artistic weirdos to participate — and congregate. It’s rare to be anywhere near an organisational culture that allows women to flourish — I believe this is attributable (if not entirely) to the character of the man at the top.

From the 16-year-old me, who pondered the dodgy videographics in the UK version of Lord of the Rings at the 1981 film festival... Thank you Bill Gosden — Arohanui.

Janet Gudmun

I walked down to school, here in Dunedin, with Bill in the early 60s. I lost touch with him when I went to high school but reconnected when I became film handler for the Dunedin Film Society in the ‘80s or ‘90s. Being a member of the Fim Society got me involved in the distribution of the New Zealand International Film Festival programmes from the 1980s.

Reopening of The Regent to film screenings with the NZIFF on the 31 July 1995, I spent the next 20 years dishing out the programmes, retiring in 2015, but still helping out if required.

Bill would come down to Dunedin during the last week of the festival and I would catch up with him in person.

I will always remember his passion for films and his unwavering support for both our gorgeous Regent Theatre and bringing the festival to Dunedin each year.

Norm Hewitt

Friend of The Regent, Dunedin Film Society supporter 1979–

I met Bill in 1989 at the Toronto International Film Festival. I was completely obsessed with the Flying Nun record label, thrilled to meet someone from New Zealand, and grilled him to learn which bands he liked and if he knew anyone of them personally. That was the first of many years of conversations about all kinds of things, of course: movies, film business gossip, news of friends, but always too about music. A group of us in New York religiously looked forward to his extended visits each year after the TIFF and before he went West to see another set of devoted friends. Somehow he made time for everyone.

I was able to visit Bill in Wellington in March of 2019 and cherish the time we were able to spend together.  After I returned home, Bill sent us the good news that he would be able to make a trip to the US. A group of us gathered to celebrate him – I am so grateful we were able to have that time together. Bill, thank you for your friendship. With love,

Sarah Eaton

Senior Director Marketing & Communications, Guggenheim Museum (New York City)

When Bill came to the Hokianga to view the edit of a documentary we were making, he gave the best feedback I have ever received in 50 years of working in the dark. After months of the zombie life in the editing room, it's easy to lose perspective. But Bill just waited until the light came on and then said quietly, “you needed it to structure the edit, but you can lose the architecture now. Your architecture is showing.”

Absolutely spot on. And then he asked me for a lift from Omapere to the junction of State Highway 1, where he was planning to hitch-hike back to Auckland. This was the director of our nation’s premiere film festival.

Quiet spoken, humble, thoughtful and fiercely intelligent. The last time I saw him he was standing in the shadows, watching The Civic explode with joy at the premiere of Poi E. When I lent to kiss him, his cheeks were wet with tears.

Moe mai ra, Moe mai ra, beautiful, humble soul.

Susy Pointon

Filmmaker

When I attended my first film festival 30 years ago in Auckland, I was a bright-eyed undergraduate, still unsure of the possibilities of cinema but hungry for films that weren't part of the Hollywood machine and narrative. Little did I know at the time that Bill Gosden was the programming force behind the festival and his programmes in my first few years attending the festival, nurtured and sustained my love for the cinema artfrom. 

Later I moved to Wellington and through my involvement with Wellington Film Society, I finally got to meet the man who was responsible for the festival. I was struck by his fierce intelligence and his absolute commitment to bringing great cinema to New Zealand audiences. I think I mentioned to him once my longtime cinema love affair with the great Catherine Deneuve (which began with a festival screening of La Reine Blanche) and after that, every time a film starring her appeared in the programme, I believed he was secretly programming it just for me (I know that’s not true but I still held onto that belief).

I owe Bill Gosden an enormous debt of gratitude, as do all cinephiles in Aotearoa for the world of possibilities he opened up, to see ourselves and humanity reflected up on the big screen. Ni sa moce Bill.

Chris Hormann

NZ Federation of Film Societies President, New Zealand Film Festival Trust board member

I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to Bill’s family. I worked with Bill at the New Zealand International Film Festival for a number of years. He was always a pleasure to work with and we had some really wonderful chats and lots of laughs over glasses of wine. I loved his iPod music collection as well as his wonderful selection of films. He will be missed xx

Karen Cartwright

Former Ticketing Manager, NZIFF

Like many people, I was hit by the news that Bill had died and kicked myself for failing to try to get in touch with him in the months before. There are solid reasons for that failure – mostly medical

The real impact came with Bill’s personal announcement of his demise. It was the way Bill had phrased his reflections on his old friends and colleagues (of which, I am very grateful to be one). The praise he heaped upon me (and many others I am sure) made me feel that the boot was on the wrong foot! From my perspective of Bill, it was he who was bestowing the friendship and guidance on me, not the other way around!

However, I was lucky enough to have known Bill for several decades starting from when he and Mark Galloway were working at New Zealand Film Services. They were both about a decade younger than me and I remember once in casual conversation about NZFS and its hosting of the 33 Club for our monthly gathering and film screening. I queried Bill about whether his arm was sore from much rewinding of 2,000 ft 35mm spools. "No, not at all," he replied, "I was seeing to the drinks and nibbles for you and your 33 Club cronies!"

I will always be grateful to Bill for whenever it came to submitting films for each year's Wellington Film Festival. (I have several Certificates to prove this, and I had been the producer, and sometimes director, on these films which virtually always ended up in the Wellington Film Festival, and later, the New Zealand International Film Festival.)

Bill was always attentive when it came to giving advice, and was instrumental in accepting the third cut of No Ordinary Sheila not only for the Wellington Film Festival cinemas, but also every other venue around the country that was featuring NZIFF.

Very few people are irreplaceable, Bill Gosden was one... and we will all miss him for a very long time.

Hugh Macdonald

Filmmaker

Dear Bill,

Heartfelt thanks for so many years of entertaining, enriching, deepening friendship, 

for the ever-expanding film horizons which I personally encountered via your programming – and I mean separate to your unbelievable contributions to New Zealand film culture more generally,

and for special thrill I always felt when one of my films was selected for the programme. The New Zealand International Film Festival was my first, my ‘original’ film festival – and, with that, all the fondness reserved for the favoured child. 

Yours were such huge, irreplaceable shoes.  You leave an extraordinary legacy… deep… wide… enduring.

With love,

Bridget Ikin

Film Producer

Thanks Bill for expanding the world of films for me, in Dunedin and in Wellington.

Things I would never have seen otherwise: Come and See, so shocking I saw it a second time a day or so later; Divorce Iranian Style, surprisingly, charming and fun, just to name two of more than 200+.

My most vivid memories of Bill are to do with food: his Sunday evening invites to ´pasta-pesto´, the pesto always and only ever ground in a mortar and pestle; or a Thai baked cod, bubbly as a welcome before settling down to a glass of white.

We spent a few days with Bill last summer in Zurich (July 2019). We took him down to the lake for a swim, where he was very happy floundering around in the water, past the point of fitness swimming, but still loving the water. We fed, watered and wined him, did a couple of exhibitions and a walk around the hills above Zurich, walking and talking. Fond memories.

My last interaction was after I sent him a cool Elvis postcard that he received in hospital in September. I got a reply, subject line: a message from Elvis.

Mick Cavanagh

Friend

I know I speak on behalf of so many people who are film enthusiasts, New Zealand film supporters and industry workers. The annual New Zealand International Film Festival was our two week long Christmas Day. Watching the latest films from our favourite directors and being introduced to unknowns who soon would be famous. Participating in the joy of watching our labour being shared to enthusiastic audiences. Not many know about the enormous input you had on roughcuts of many New Zealand films. Your feedback was honest, astute and knowledgeable, and always very, very helpful. Once the bruises healed, of course. You are sorely missed, but your memory will be celebrated by many of us at every film festival attendance. Thank you Bill, thank you so much for the education, artistry and joy you ensured us every year. Much love and condolences to your whānau and colleagues.

Cushla Dillon

Film Editor

Bill’s support for my work — including selecting it for the New Zealand International Film Festival — was a huge boost after what had seemed, at times, an interminable road. And not only did he magnanimously introduce screenings but he went out of his way to champion it to others, and to make connections, here and abroad. For a first-time feature director, this was special.

And over a coffee in the Deluxe, I learnt of his early engagement with Flying Nun music — The Renderers had composed much of the soundtrack for notes to eternity, and he talked of still being the proud owner of their first album.

Above all, Bill struck me as someone with razor-like discernment but also someone who knew intimately how to navigate and appreciate different artistic sensibilities with his wit, openness and deep understanding. He provided a platform that has definitely contributed to my having the chutzpah to continue my work as an independent. Thank you Bill.

Sarah Cordery

Filmmaker

A day we all knew was coming but the sadness and sense of loss for so many kiwi film lovers is acute.

Rest in peace Bill, your gentle yet deep unwavering passion for the art, the craft, the stories and the humanity of cinema was an inspiration to us all.

We will all dearly miss that inimitable Gosden lens through which we would see the world from the comfort of a dark festival cinema, and on a personal level, I will so miss sitting down with you, camera rolling, a freshly minted program in my hand, ready to hear and share all your favourite picks and faves of the fest.

E te Rangatira... moe mai rā.

Kate Rodger

Entertainment Reporter

Coming from the No Film School variety of filmmaker, Bill has been my challenging, eye-opening, film school education every year... one year, to films with only animals as their titles: Rams, Lamb, Project Nim. In amongst the throngs of the film festival, Bill always had time to stop and quietly ask “…and what did you think of it?” 

Since my first feature film Beauty Will Save the World, Bill always found a place under the stars and between the panthers, or past the blackjack tables, for all five of my films, never once doubting this crazy film path I’ve chosen.  And I’m thankful I was able to tell him this in person on the film festival stage when he and Gaylene made me an Arts Foundation Laureate of New Zealand. I will miss him, miss his unique eye, and the hidden film gem from Kazakhstan or Ethiopia that fed my imagination.

Thank you Bill, so so much.

Pietra Brettkelly

Filmmaker

Bill had such a lovely, determined way of making people interested in films, and in particular in our films.

He was kind, gentle and incisive.  We’ll miss him.

Fiona Copland

Producer

It’s so sad to lose this wonderful man. It was a privilege and joy to work with Bill on the live orchestra with cinema projects.

​He gifted a passion for this medium and made them a special feature of the festivals — always selecting great films with amazing scores.

​His introductions showed a fantastic insight and made the events an occasion not to be missed. I'll miss him.

Peter Scholes

Conductor

You’ve left such a massive legacy and I was privileged to play a small part in that, supplying films to the festival for over 35 years. It was hard to say no to you even when the studios I worked for were reluctant to supply such a small market. In the end your reputation was such that you got whatever you wanted!

Christine Massey

Former Sales Manager at Sony Pictures, New Zealand

I'm not sure where I first met Bill — maybe through our mutual friend Sarah Eaton at Toronto International Film Festival when I was working for Robert Altman.

Bill was kind, funny, snarky, adventurous and brilliant.  

I will miss our annual trips to a Broadway show more than I can say.

His passing was an even harder blow as my partner passed away from bowel cancer in October.

I am so glad Bill got to make a trip to New York last year to see all of us who loved him so much.

Celia Converse

Friend (New York City)

Goodbye darling. We had such a lovely friendship over 40 years. You were always so generous, kind, smart, funny and loving. Love and kisses, as always.

Pam Hansford

Friend (Sydney)

Thank you Bill for decades of culturally-rich, challenging, entertaining, thought-provoking film festivals. The growing scale of these made the programmes a thing of wonder that one person could not only view and carefully curate such a diverse array of films, but also write such crisp, elegant and witty notes. As I returned to New Zealand over the years the film festivals remained an annual highlight — each one seemingly better than before. And Bill’s supranatural calm but cheerful presence was a constant. Visiting The Civic in Auckland will forever bring Bill to mind.

Mattie Wall

Festival-goer

Bill Gosden’s love of cinema, his savvy, insightful curation of films was my Cinematic Education. I’d wag school and work as a teenager spending sunny days/weeks indoors lapping up films. Many of which were impossible to see any other way, and they were life-changing. These stories inspired me to travel the world and start my filmmaking journey. THANK YOU Bill.

Thank you for being such a delightful, wry, inspiring cinephile. I’ll miss our chats. And for programming my shorts and The Strength of Water. You are a generous star.

Armagan Ballantyne

Filmmaker

Bill’s role bringing eyes to filmmakers' work is a very powerful thing. He treated that position with grace and generosity and for this I will always be grateful.

I first started attending the New Zealand International Film Festival when I was a 19-year-old dance school student. For some reason the school got a special rate and us students were encouraged to go along. Sitting in the cinema, soaking up 20-films or so, I started to see a path beyond dance for the live stage. A way that my love of composition, theatrical magic and rhythm could combine with a curiosity to understand people.

A few years later my first dance film attempts screened in Bill's festival in the short dance-on-screen section. I felt encouraged and supported to continue.

Bill’s early feedback on my feature film The Red House, the way he looked at the roughly edited excerpts, helped me have courage to keep pursuing a rather difficult uphill process to complete the film. He advocated for the film on my behalf with funders. And when he programmed it and wrote about it in the film festival brochure he revealed to me what I’d made.

Bill's ability to give each film the spotlight has contributed hugely to my ability to endure in this fickle industry. With his office just round the corner from Deluxe cafe, it felt like his door was always open. Discussion and reflection was available no matter if the film was complete or only partly shot.

There are many moments that Bill has encouraged me over the last 20 years, either in person or by bringing films to my attention that have changed the way I look at life and the craft of filmmaking. So in this moment of his passing, I want to thank him.

Alyx Duncan

Filmmaker

Thank you so much for your support over the years, for a diverse bunch of projects and some great and interesting interactions! It is hard to imagine that your presence won’t be around as I conceive some new thing that might take your interest. But perhaps, somehow it will. I will miss you.

Colin Hodson

Filmmaker

Very sad to lose my friend Bill, who gave us all so much. What we see and hear changes how we think and understand, so, as an individual, Bill’s contribution to our shared thoughts and understanding was vast. He was generous, dependable, humble and caring — a lover of life’s good things. I will remember the many good times we shared over the years.

Warwick Burton

Friend

We remember Bill’s selfless devotion to artists and artistry, and his warm personality and unfailing friendship. He will be sadly missed.

John Ballard
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