Oscar-nominated Winstanley opens production company

With a focus on cultural authenticity, Oscar nominated Producer for Best Picture, Jojo Rabbit, Chelsea Winstanley announced the first project optioned under her newly formed company “This Too Shall Pass” entitled The Appeal. 

The Appeal is the powerful story of Samoan lawyer Tiana Epati who defended Forestry Contractor and Black Power member Mac Kapene in a leading case that challenged the criminal justice system in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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. Epati was the only lawyer willing to fight for Mac, and according to Mr Kapene she said “I believe you and we’re going to fight this to the bitter end.”

With mountains still to climb to reach equality, Winstanley hopes this story will highlight the injustice Māori and people of colour have endured in a highly racist system that is due for an overhaul.

Epati’s fierce loyalty in The Appeal is similar to the heroic characteristics of lawyer Brian Stevenson, portrayed in the recent dramatic version of his story, Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordon and Jamie Foxx. Winstanley likens The Appeal to the “Poly-Brockervich” of our time where a woman will be at the center of the story fighting for justice and change from within.

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The Appeal will be written and directed by Chelsea Winstanley.  The film will be Winstanley’s directorial debut, after directing several shorts and a segment of the critically acclaimed anthology TIFF’17 Discovery WARU. 

Based in Los Angeles and New Zealand, “This Too Shall Pass” is a platform for telling authentic stories with cultural perspectives not often seen on screen before. It was created out of a desire to combine Winstanley’s years of experience in the film and television industry and to combine her love for writing, directing and producing. 

Winstanley is currently in development with two features; Thief of Sleep directed by Darwin Serink, starring Mojean Aria and Arezou helmed by Sophia Kiapos starring Shohreh Aghadashloo and Maz Johbrani. Both projects are set to film in the first quarter of 2020 and are deeply rooted in the Persian culture. 

Fresh from a recent trip to Iran, Winstanley is committed to ensuring her producing style is founded in authenticity and truth. 

Arezou is a Persian tale set in Post-Revolution Tehran about a 12-year-old girl who discovers the secret world of an illegal, underground ballet group and rewrites her destiny. 

Thief of Sleep is the story of a young closeted gay man, facing persecution in Iran, who flees to his distant family in Scotland. Thrown into a new culture, he falls in love… only to have his freedom and life threatened anew when his asylum case is rejected.

“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, adding, “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.

Reel 360 wishes Chelsea great luck in her new venture.