‘Jojo Rabbit’ Producer Chelsea Winstanley Launches Production Company, Sets Directorial Debut About Landmark NZ Court Case

Andreas Wiseman

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EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea Winstanley, producer of Oscar-nominated Jojo Rabbit and festival favourite What We Do In The Shadows, is launching production company This Too Shall Pass.

Based in Los Angeles and New Zealand, the new company will focus on telling “authentic stories with unique cultural perspectives” and will act as a vehicle for Winstanley’s own writing and directing projects.

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Prominent on the slate is Winstanley’s writing and directing feature debut The Appeal, about a landmark legal case in New Zealand. The feature tells the story of Samoan lawyer Tiana Epati who defended a former gang member in a leading case that challenged prejudices within the criminal justice system and highlighted racial bias against the country’s Māori population.

Winstanley sees parallels in the story to Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx starrer Just Mercy, and calls it the “‘Poly-Brockervich’ of today with a woman at the center of the story fighting for justice from within.”

Also on the company’s slate are features Thief Of Sleep and Arezou, both of which are slated to shoot in 2020. See star Mojean Aria will lead cast in the former, the story of a young gay man, who faces persecution in Iran, and flees to his distant family in Scotland. Thrown into a new culture, he falls in love but has his freedom and life threatened anew when his asylum case is rejected. Darwin Serink will direct.

Winstanley has just returned from Iran, the setting for Arezou, about a 12-year-old girl in post-Revolution Tehran who discovers the secret world of an illegal, underground ballet group.

“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,” said Winstanley. “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”, she added.

Winstanley has previously directed several shorts and a segment of the TIFF anthology movie Waru. Her producing credits also include Sundance 2019 doc Merata: How Mom Decolonized the Screen and Merata Mita’s domestic abuse doc Saving Grace, Te Whakarauora Tangata.

Satire Jojo Rabbit and cult breakout What We Do In The Shadows were both collaborations with Winstanley’s filmmaker spouse Taika Waititi. Carthew Neal also produced the former, the six-time Oscar nominee about a young boy in Hitler’s army who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. Cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie.

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