Whānau Mārama: NZIFF announces Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog to open the 2021 festival

Made for Netflix with additional financial support from the New Zealand Film Commission and shot entirely at South Island locations in 2020, the film had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on Thursday 2nd September.

Adapted by Campion from the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee and features New Zealand talent on and off-screen including actress Thomasin McKenzie, and Oscar-winning production designer Grant Major among many others.

The Power of the Dog is a See-Saw Films, Bad Girl Creek and Max Films production in association with Brightstar, Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga – The New Zealand Film Commission, Cross City Films and BBC Films.

The film is produced by Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier. The film was developed with BBC Film.

“Opening our 2021 festival with Jane Campion’s extraordinary new film The Power of the Dog so soon after its rapturous reception on the world stage at Venice Film Festival is a dream come true.  Jane Campion is an incomparable storyteller and this landmark film sees her working at the height of her powers,” said NZIFF Director Marten Rabarts.

“It’s an honour to share Jane’s film with its complex characters so profoundly embedded and framed in the stark beauty of Aotearoa. The reflection of our own history in the rugged brutality of American frontier life depicted in the film will be inescapable to our Kiwi audiences.”

“It’s taken months of careful negotiation with the support of the NZFC, Dame Jane Campion herself and the kind agreement of Netflix and Transmission films to secure The Power of the Dog for our opening night. We know it will be the red-hot, must-have ticket when we go on sale in early October and we’re grateful to all who’ve helped make this happen.”

NZIFF 2021 will open with The Power of the Dog in Auckland on Thursday 28 October, followed by Christchurch on Friday 29 October, with Wellington and Dunedin following a week later concurrently on Friday 5 November.

Following its exclusive NZIFF premiere in the four main cities, Transmission Films will release the film theatrically across the country on 11 November, and globally on Netflix 1st December.


Severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank is brutally beguiling.

All of Phil’s romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past and in the land: He can castrate a bull calf with two swift slashes of his knife; he swims naked in the river, smearing his body with mud. He is a cowboy as raw as his hides. 

The year is 1925.

The Burbank brothers are wealthy ranchers in Montana.

At the Red Mill restaurant on their way to market, the brothers meet Rose, the widowed proprietress, and her impressionable son Peter.

Phil behaves so cruelly he drives them both to tears, revelling in their hurt and rousing his fellow cowhands to laughter – all except his brother George, who comforts Rose then returns to marry her.

As Phil swings between fury and cunning, his taunting of Rose takes an eerie form – he hovers at the edges of her vision, whistling a tune she can no longer play. 

His mockery of her son is more overt, amplified by the cheering of Phil’s cowhand disciples.

Then Phil appears to take the boy under his wing.

Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or a plot-twisting further into menace?

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