There are no prizes for guessing which film has dominated the nominations in this year's New Zealand Film Awards. Whale Rider, which has grossed NZ$6.4m in New Zealand and NZ$60m around the world, is a finalist in 14 of the 15 categories.

But the same two films sit alongside Whale Rider in the three key categories of best film, best director and best screenplay. They are the low-budget Kombi Nation, which is currently having a modest release locally, and the NZ/UK/Canadian co-production Nemesis Game, which is due for release shortly.

Whale Rider was produced by Tim Sanders and John Barnett, and written and directed by Niki Caro. Kombi Nation was produced by Larry Parr, Ainsley Gardiner and its director Grant Lahood, who also got a writing credit alongside the actors Jason Whyte, Loren Horsley, Gentianne Lupi and Genevieve McClean.

Nemesis Game was produced by Matthew Metcalfe, and written and directed by Jesse Warn. It received nine nominations, giving it the second highest number, and The Maori Merchant Of Venice also did well with eight. There were seven features entered.

The nominations for best performances by a lead went to Jason Whyte (Kombi Nation), Waihoroi Shortland (The Maori Merchant Of Venice), Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider), Michelle Langstone (For Good), Kate Elliott (Toy Love) and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider).

The awards also have a digital feature category, which attracted six entries. The finalists are Christmas, Orphans And Angels and Woodenhead.

The Academy of Film and Television Arts, recently announced it would not be going ahead with the awards but a group of industry participants - led by the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise - committed financing to enable the event to proceed.

The presentation will be held in Auckland on December 8.