James Napier Robertson
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, James Napier Robertson (Writer, Director) began as an actor in theatre and television before writing and directing a number of short films in his early twenties, leading to his debut feature film, 2009’s I'm Not Harry Jenson. Garnering critical respect for his discerning direction of performance, mood and dialogue, I'm Not Harry Jenson premiered at the 2009 New Zealand International Film Festival, with The Dominion Post calling it "The first New Zealand-made thriller in years that's actually worthy of the name."
Napier Robertson's fascination with dysfunctional, outsider characters, social disorientation and personality disorders underpinned the dramatic tension of the film, a theme he continued to explore in his next film, The Dark Horse, based on the true life story of bipolar chess player Genesis Potini. An avid chess player himself, Napier Robertson spent a lot of time with Genesis, playing hundreds of games while discussing the man’s struggles with mental illness and working on the script.
Opening the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival before premiering at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, The Dark Horse was a commercial and critical hit, receiving 5 star reviews from all major critics and grossing over $2 million at the New Zealand Box Office. The Australian called it "outstanding…a work of the highest artistic excellence," while Variety stated it "exceptional…the most deserving cinematic export to emerge from New Zealand in years," and the National Radio Review declared it "one of the greatest New Zealand films ever made."
Napier Robertson won New Filmmaker of the Year at the 2014 Spada Awards, and The Dark Horse went on to win Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Score at the 2014 New Zealand Film Awards. In 2015, The Dark Horse continued to garner awards internationally, including accolades at Rotterdam, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, Dublin, Asia Pacific, Art Film and Palm Springs International Film Festivals.