Gladstone teen wins best actress gong at NZ film awards

SURPRISE GONG: Xzannjah Matsi was awarded Best Actress at the 2013 New Zealand Film Awards for her role as Matilda in Mr Pip, alongside Hugh Laurie.
SURPRISE GONG: Xzannjah Matsi was awarded Best Actress at the 2013 New Zealand Film Awards for her role as Matilda in Mr Pip, alongside Hugh Laurie. Luka Kauzlaric

STARRING alongside Hugh Laurie in a feature film is a dream for all of us, and a reality for just one Gladstone teenager.

Xzannjah Matsi was living in her native Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, when casting agents began the call out to fill the role of Matilda for the acclaimed film, Mr Pip.

The Gladstone State High School student has since embarked on a remarkable journey, culminating with the announcement she had won Best Actress at the 2013 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards.

"I was so lucky to work with some really nice and talented people on Mr Pip," she said.

"Hugh was a really nice man; he knew it was my first time acting so he helped me a lot. A very down-to-earth man with a great sense of humour."

Mr Pip was honoured at the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards, receiving four awards in total: Best Actor to Hugh Laurie for his role as the title character, Best Actress, awarded to Xzannjah for her role as Matilda, as well as Best Score and Best Costume Design.

Xzannjah says winning an award for her work on the film was the last thing she had expected.

"Considering the quality of fellow nominees, it was an absolute shock," she said.

SURPRISE GONG: Xzannjah Matsi was awarded Best Actress at the 2013 New Zealand Film Awards for her role as Matilda in Mr Pip, alongside Hugh Laurie.
SURPRISE GONG: Xzannjah Matsi was awarded Best Actress at the 2013 New Zealand Film Awards for her role as Matilda in Mr Pip, alongside Hugh Laurie. Luka Kauzlaric

Xzannjah's acting debut gets under way on the right footing

DIRECTED by New Zealand-born Andrew Adamson, famed for films such as Shrek and the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Batman Forever, Xzannjah's acting debut was indisputably the stuff of dreams.

"I was proud and very humbled to be involved in such an important film," she said.

"It meant the world to me to be in a movie that may make a difference to my country."

It was a great deal of responsibility and I did not take it lightly.

Xzannjah, who also starred alongside her mother in Mr Pip, is a courteous and modest young woman, who took the responsibility of her role in an earnest and solemn manner.

"I was very proud to be representing my people in the film," she said.

"It was a great deal of responsibility and I did not take it lightly."

While Xzannjah says although she was focusing on education as her main priority for the time being, acting was a pursuit she thoroughly enjoyed, and would love to continue in the future, provided the role was fitting.

The 17-year-old has high ambitions to do her best in her final years of secondary schooling, and is considering a career in petroleum engineering.


  • Originally a novel, Mr Pip was written by NZ author Lloyd Jones.
  • Mr Pip tells the story of Matilda and her endearing teacher Mr Watts, set in war-torn Bogainville.
  • The film holds close cultural ties for director Andrew Adamson, born in New Zealand before moving to Papua New Guinea when he was 11.
  • The character Matilda becomes enarmoured by the main character of the famous novel Great Expectations.

Topics:  acting cinema gladstone papua new guinea

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