Vincent Ward was awarded an Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007 for his contribution to film making. He was born in Greytown, New Zealand. He was educated at St Patrick's College, Silverstream and trained as an artist at the University of Canterbury. Ward began writing and directing films at 18. In 1978-81, he made the documentary In Spring One Plants Alone, which won the 1982 Grand Prix at Cinema du Reel (Paris), and a Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival. In Spring One Plants Alone provides the starting-point for his later feature Rain of the Children in 2008. His debut feature was Vigil (1984).
Ward’s films have earned critical acclaim and festival attention whilst achieving a wide audience. Vigil, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) and Map of the Human Heart (1993) were the first films by a New Zealander to be officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between them they garnered close to 30 national and international awards (including the Grand Prix at festivals in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United States).
The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey won major awards at both the Australian and New Zealand film industry awards. What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams, was nominated for two Academy Awards (best production design and best visual effects) and won the Oscar for best visual effects in 1999. It grossed more than US $200 million (all territories).
While in the United States, Ward wrote the story for Alien 3. He also developed the material that was the basis of The Last Samurai, selecting its director, and acting as executive producer on that project before writing and directing River Queen starring Kiefer Sutherland and Samantha Morton.
Voted by the audience from 250 feature films Rain of the Children won the Grand Prix at Era New Horizons Film Festival. The film was nominated for best director and won best composer at the Qantas Film and TV Awards in New Zealand. Vincent Ward was also nominated for best director at the Australian Directors Guild Awards for Rain of the Children.
Like his films, Ward’s gallery works have a visceral sensibility, relying more on psychic or transcendent states than narrative and dialogue. They often focus on the body in precarious situations (submerged, floating, flying, falling) or transformational moments, which evoke a heightened sense of existence and human vulnerability. These passing moments suggest an intensity of life that is shared by all creatures; as direct, fleeting or fragile as breath.
In 2010 he published Vincent Ward: The Past Awaits, a chronicle of his life in film.