Mulan production about to begin

Construction has begun in the Ahuriri Valley on what appears to be the set of Disney's film Mulan...
Construction has begun in the Ahuriri Valley on what appears to be the set of Disney's film Mulan. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
A cone of silence has dropped over the upper reaches of the Waitaki district as the production of a major movie begins.

Residents have signed confidentiality agreements or are unwilling to speak about the film.

Construction has begun on what could be a Chinese fortress in Birchwood Rd, in the Ahuriri Valley, on what is widely understood to be a set for Disney's live-action remake of the 1998 animated feature Mulan.

South Island production manager Jared Connon said the Otago Daily Times' request to speak to a publicist had been forwarded to the publicity department for consideration, and declined to comment on "all other matters".

Waitaki District Council planning manager Hamish Barrell confirmed a consent had been approved for the production company to film in the valley but could not offer any details.

Ahuriri River Lodge owner Carl Cleaver said he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the company and would not comment.

Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park confirmed construction workers were staying at the park, but for privacy reasons would not say more.

In June, Sierra Motel manager Sue Harvey, at Omarama, said the motel would be booked from the end of September to early November. Yesterday, the man who answered the phone said, while he had not signed a confidentiality agreement, it was "not in my interests" to comment.

John Hook, of Land Information New Zealand, said the production had decided not to film at Mt Hay, and Linz was waiting for "specific locations" for an application to film at the Tasman river bed.

The website IMDb lists 104 filmmakers and crew signed on to the movie, including a military adviser and horse master.

It says Mulan's budget of $290 million would make it the most expensive movie ever directed by a woman, New Zealand's Niki Caro.

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