Monday, 25 June 2018

NZIFF 2018 - Talking the film festival with director Bill Gosden

NZIFF 2018 - Talking the film festival with director Bill Gosden


You've hit 50, how does that feel?
It’s the new 35.
NZIFF Festival Director Bill Gosden

Give me some recollections of your very first festival
My first involvement with the AIFF, as it was, was in 1979 and the first recollections are of a strained relationship. I was the administrator of the Wellington Film Festival, which sourced and supplied a substantial number of films every year to Auckland. Search the brochure of the 11th AIFF for any evidence of that contribution, and you won’t find it. That’s pretty much the way it was. After an impressive first decade guided by Wynne Colgan and a committee of cinephiles, the AIFF had dispensed with their services and become an adjunct of the Auckland Festival Society, primarily a live arts events (no relation to the current Auckland Festival). Ironically they still depended on a Film Society further south for much of the programme.
AIFF at that point enjoyed much better relationships with the theatre chains than we bolshie Wellingtonians, and Auckland festivalgoers were treated to the latest of studio-distributed auteur cinema, Days of Heaven, Diner,  great films by Robert Altman and Louis Malle, for example, that Wellingtonians would have to wait months to see. That rankled too.
Before censor Arthur Everard began passing explicit sex videos around 1985, there was money to be had from exhibiting highly restricted movies. In the early 1980s the AIFF was famous for doing just that.  Zeitgeisty films like Rosier the Riveter or My Dinner with André were relegated to weekday matinee sessions, while films carrying the RFF20 certificate – classified as fit only for festival sophisticates -  took headline slots. In AIFF publicity the Canadian anti-porn polemic, Not a Love Story sounded like the very thing it set out to abolish.
Such provocations did not always land well, and there was a mood for change, ushering the return of the Film Society to the fold from 1984.

What are you doing to mark 50 - many remember the celebration booklets, the wonderful poster work - will we get to see them again?
There will be a show of posters and other memorabilia at the ASB Waterfront.
We’ve received some great stories of Festivals past which you can find here. All contributions welcome at 50@nziff.co.nz.
https://www.nziff.co.nz/about/history/celebrating-50-years-in-auckland/
NZIFF 50 years on

What can we expect from your pre-film messaging boards this year - they've become quite the art form, telling people to shush?
We are working on it. Now that some of our best lines grace other cinema screens there’s a challenge to come up with new ones.

It seems like there have been some excellent catches this year from Cannes - you must be happy?
Totally. Shoplifters, Leto, Climax, Girl, 3 Faces, Border, Mirai, Woman at War, the utterly dazzling Cold War, the lovely Grand Bal, the nutso Diamantino… The 30 Cannes films this year have brought enormous variety. Most were secured in the two weeks before deadline. It was an exciting rush to the finish.
Lynyrd Skynyrd
What are the themes for this year's festival - has there been an upsurge in any kind of film-making / any reaction to what's going on in the world?
The themes come to us, we don’t go looking for them.
It’s a big year for Canine Cinema. Parenting is a recurrent theme.
There are more gay women on screen than ever before. Some of the strongest films engage with contemporary social injustice with disarming stealth and grace. It’s a bonanza year for music films, and dance animates every section of the programme, Incredibly Strange included.

The Retro selection which you've curated more than makes up for the lack of an Autumn Events this year - what's the one film which we should bust a gut to see and why?
There are compelling reasons in 2018 to see every one of these films, imho.
They are not ‘Best of’, but were chosen to reflect something of the range of experiences NZIFF has always offered. The flavours of the times that shaped these films remain sharp in each one of them. The world may have moved on but these films still speak their truth vividly and directly.
 Cria Cuervos and The General are two all-time favourites (and not just of mine), so I was especially delighted that both are newly available in superb restorations. Wim Wenders himself says that Wings of Desire looks better than ever in 4K, that the digital processing of B&W takes you much closer to master cinematographer Henri Alekan’s original vision than 1980s printing on 35mm colour film stock ever could.

I'm intrigued by Good Manners, Eldorado, and Custody - tell me more about these.
Good Manners really is one of those less-you-know deals. It slides craftily from genre to genre, incorporating social satire, romance and the Gothic compulsion of an Angela Carter novel. Eldorado struck me as the most informative of the many documentaries on offer about the refugee crisis that impacts so directly on Italy and thereby so alarmingly on the future of Europe. Custody is visceral cinema, an amazingly powerful debut about a ferocious child custody battle.

Leave No Trace looks like it signals the advent of a homegrown talent - do you expect this combination of Winter's Bone and Thomasin Harcourt Mackenzie to be big?
It certainly deserves to be. It’s a spellbinding film, incredibly wise and generous in spirit. We are delighted that Debra Granik will join us in Auckland and Wellington.

A farewell to Harry Dean Stanton as well - seems like something poignant for the 50th?
Lucky was perfect for him. RIP, Repo Man.
Skate Kitchen
Skate Kitchen

I'm hearing very good things about Skate Kitchen....
When these young women take to the streets of Manhattan on their boards, you want to be them.

Equally, The Guilty....

The Danish flair for crime and detection distilled into a more gripping one-man-and-a-phone thriller than Tom Hardy’s Locke.

Tell me about your opening night film Birds of Passage.
A visionary blend of genre filmmaking and indigenous fable.  A knock-out on the giant screen.

Honestly, there seems to be so much diversity this year, has it been hard to fit all the pieces together?
It’s not like a jigsaw (see Puzzle) where there’s an actual solution. We know we will always be posing some hard choices for the most avid festival-goers.

What's the one film you reckon the audiences shouldn't miss?
No film is for everyone, but The General surely comes close.
Buster Keaton in The General
The General

The one film you want to be a big hit with festival-goers.
The one? Are you kidding?

The one film you think everyone will be talking about.
The fashion films are amazing this year. Yellow is Forbidden and McQueen offer all the visual extravagance you could want, but both talk about so much more than clothes. The Vivienne Westwood film is a hoot: she really is the inveterate punk, present but uncooperative throughout the film. She has subsequently disowned it. Do NOT let that put you off.

The one film you think everyone should be talking about.
Holiday is the most provocative outside Ant’s programme. But once again ‘one’ is an intolerable limitation. Capharnaum promises to be the word-of-mouth hit in the way Call Me by Your Name was last year, though for quite different reasons. And nothing made me laugh more in the last year than Chilly Gonzales crowd surfing a Viennese concert hall in Shut Up and Play the Piano.
Holiday
Holiday

And the one film from Ant's programme that you're crazy about.

Liquid Sky.  Unadulterated pre-AIDS 1980s hedonism and fuck-you glam without the filters of hindsight. I also look forward to taking a prime seat at the Civic for Climax, the contemporary equivalent.
Climax from Gaspar Noe
Climax

Just finally, reflecting back on 50 years of the Festival, what have been the changes you've seen in the films, both internationally and locally - and the one thing that makes you proudest about the impact the Festival has annually? 
Changes? There have been too many to address here.
I’m proud that we have kept pace, even set the pace on occasion.  The Film Festival retains its place in the heart of Auckland amongst events and on-screen choices that have exploded beyond the wildest imagining of that optimistic group who set out to invigorate our film-going - and our film-making - in 1969.

2018 New Zealand International Film Festival launches

2018 New Zealand International Film Festival launches


More than 150 films to screen at NZIFF in Auckland

Auckland NZIFF programme launched for 2018


The full programme for the 50th New Zealand International Film Festival has been launched in Auckland this evening. 155 feature-length films from 40 countries will screen over 18 days beginning on Thursday 19 July.

The festival turns 50 in Auckland this year and a series of retrospective screenings are planned to mark the anniversary.

“I believe we have kept faith with that optimistic group who set out to invigorate our film-going - and our filmmaking – back in 1969. We have kept pace with enormous change – and even set the pace from time to time. While Aucklanders’ entertainment options have expanded immeasurably, I am delighted that NZIFF can still make an occasion out of a night at the movies,” says NZIFF Director Bill Gosden.

The line-up of retrospective films has been programmed by Gosden to screen in amongst the world and New Zealand premieres selected for the festival to reflect the range of cinema experiences that 
NZIFF has celebrated across the last 50 years. The retrospective screenings will culminate in the screening of Buster Keaton’s The General at the Civic with live musical performance by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, on Sunday 5 August. An exhibition of NZIFF posters and newspaper clippings from the archives will be displayed at the ASB Waterfront Theatre during festival season.

Canines provide snappy contributions to the NZIFF line-up this year: NZ-made documentary Dog’s Best Friend looks at the work in an Australian animal rehabilitation centre; Pick of the Litter follows the breeding and training programme for guide dogs for the visually impaired; Dogman is the Cannes Competition crime thriller from the director of Gomorrah about a gentle dog groomer who attempts to pacify a human beast.

NZIFF have previously announced that 29 films direct from the Cannes Film Festival are confirmed to screen. Eleven are from the Competition section of the festival including Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, Jury Prize winner Capharnaüm and Best Screenplay winners (tied) 3 Faces and Happy As LazzaroBirds of Passage, the opening night film from the 2018 Directors’ Fortnight will also be opening NZIFF in Auckland on Thursday 19 July. Cold War from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), winner of the Best Director prize, will screen as the official closing night film of NZIFF. 

Of the 155 feature-length films in the programme, 49 are features or documentaries by female filmmakers. Eleven New Zealand-made films, including six world premieres in Auckland, have previously been announced.

The full Auckland NZIFF programme is available online now: https://www.nziff.co.nz/2018/auckland/

Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review


Released by Bandai Namco

Platform: PS4

So, why would you want to punish yourself again?
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

We all know how depressingly hard Dark Souls can be at the best of times, but the remaster which has relaunched is here to remind you of the fresh hell that there is.

2011 saw From Software's game vault into everyone's best of lists, and saw you die repeatedly as you made your way through an obtuse adventure, aimed at rekindling your perseverance and your desire to be repeatedly punished.

So it's fair to say that the remaster, aside from its improved frame rates and the fact it packs in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, means you've played it before. It's a shame there's nothing radically new to be added to the mix, but in fairness, Dark Souls is a good game - but given since its launch we've add Nioh, Bloodborne and others, it seems to exist solely on the fact that nostalgia for the game is there to be used.
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

The RPG elements still work well, and the game still appeals, but given we're about to get a splurge of new content from E3 and that new games are still around to be played (Far Cry 5, God of War's much revitalised revamp), it's hard to fuylly justify why this remaster exists.

The improvement in graphics is welcome, but given everything plays as it did before, the idea of it even existing is puzzling.
Dark Souls Remastered: PS4 Review

Whereas other remasters have built on their previous versions, this one seems to be a bit of a soulless remaster that exists purely because a marketing team said it should.

It's not unplayable, and it's not like the polish isn't welcome, but Dark Souls Remastered needs a little more of a raison d'etre.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Onrush: PS4 Review

Onrush: PS4 Review


Released by Codemasters
Platform: PS4

A racing game that is more of a bubblegum thrill rather than a long-term proposition, Onrush is all about how it feels rather than how it keeps pulling you back in.

Simply put, this is a racing game that requires you to rollerderby the opposition, filling up your boost and giving you the chance to unleash a vehicle's special ability. Nothing more, nothing less.
Onrush: PS4 Review

Sure there are heats, there are challenges (such as Countdown, where you have to race through gates before the clock runs out on either you or your opposition) and sure there are vicarious thrills as you pile and wipeout your opposition.

Taking in elements of the PS One classic Rollcage, mixing in any variant of Mario Kart and adding in elements of WipeOut, Onrush, when it clicks, is thrilling. Codemasters have pulled together a game that is as arcade as they come, a smoothly executed ride that's a shot of adrenaline.

But, to be frank, it's all a hollow thrill.

The game's instantly forgettable after you finish, and to a degree, disposable as you play it.
Sure the graphics and playability are smooth; sure, the game's regions are nicely executed, and also look graphically impressive, and sure, there's no glitching as you hurtle around the tracks.
Onrush: PS4 Review

And yet, progression, with its unlocking of loot crates, and its collecting of XP, emotes et al, seems a bit pointless in the long run.

Online, the game flounders, and joining games and matches when it works, sees you essentially apparently joining the end of the game and wondering why the machine even bothered. IT needs a retool and the hope is that this can be the case soon, because online's competitive ability could be one to mine.

It's a shame for Onrush, because Codemasters have pulled together a game that when it works actually fires on all cylinders. But it's a bit directionless at times, and with a retool, and a tweak over what it wants to achieve, Onrush really could be a great addition to the pantheon of arcade racers.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Game Night: DVD Review

Game Night: DVD Review


Mixing irreverence with edges of drama and wrapping it up in a kookiness grants Game Night a feel of crackling edginess for a comedy.
Game Night: Film Review

Tapping into the ennui that affects the middle class and using Bateman's usual laconic deadpan ways, it's the story of Max and Annie (Bateman, McAdams) a normal suburban couple who like to gather their friends together for a regular weekly game night.

But Max's competitive and always wants to win (as shown in a charming montage early on) - however, he finds against a backdrop of fertility struggles, that his competitive edge is further enraged and engaged when his brother Brooks (Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler) comes to town.
Brooks sets a game night down for them, but decides it'll be a murder mystery with one of their number being kidnapped.

However, it soon turns out that the planned Game Night wasn't what was on the cards - and a fight for survival begins...

Game Night: Film Review

Game Night is fresh, spiky and genuinely funny in parts.

Even if its denouement packs too many twists for general consumption and tries to be a bit cleverer than it actually is, its general desire to subvert expectations is a welcome one.

Sure, the usual messages are there - about being open with partners, honest with friends etc, but the hugging and learning portion feels earned in the final furlong - and amuses rather than overtly preaches.

It's nice to see McAdams cut loose a little and have some fun, and Catastrophe's Horganmakes an impressive big film debut , but this is, without a doubt, Plemons' film.

Game Night: Film Review

As the sadsack former member of the group and creepy divorced neighbour, this security guard is a delight as the cameras hang on his words and actions perhaps a little too long so as to make things uncomfortable and uncertain.

Daley and Goldstein's eyes behind the camera proffer up some interesting shots too - from high-in-the-sky shots which make the sets look like board games to fixed cameras in chases, the film's freshness leaps from the screen too.

Game Night: Film Review

Ultimately, the crackling Game Night may have edges of Funny Game and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, but its quirky irreverence towards the buddy dynamic and mixing up of various genres means it proves to be a winner for a refreshing night out and proves to be a game winner. 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Tomb Raider: Blu Ray Review

Tomb Raider: Blu Ray Review


Tomb Raider has two things going for it.

Thankfully, it's not the pendulous breasts bestowed on the first iteration of one of gaming's earliest icons that gave the character the notoriety and various lads' mags covers in the UK.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Its two things of note are Academy award winning actress Alicia Vikander's committed performance and the fact some of its action scenes are drawn from the gritty and immersive game reboot from 2013.

But, sadly it's what lies in between that saddles Tomb Raider with problems and ends up leaving you feeling that this film may be the Tomb Raider's flash in the pan (even though, Vikander's signed up for a sequel).

Rejigging plot from the 2013 game, Vikander is Lara Croft, heir to a fortune, but who's denying that because it means admitting her father (Dominic West) is dead, after he went missing seven years ago.

When she stumbles across a series of clues that apparently lead to his last whereabouts, Lara charters a boat, along with its captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who was the last man to see him.

But the pair stumble onto an island, barely surviving a storm and treacherous seas, where a deeper conspiracy begins to unfurl...one which has the Crofts squarely in the middle of it.

The problem with the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider is that it largely feels like it's trying to set up a franchise, rather than concentrating fully on doing its job properly.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Lara Croft herself benefits from the reboot, with Vikander nailing both the vulnerability and relatability that the game's reboot endowed her with, and that was so lacking in Angelina Jolie's performance.

An animated Vikander commits fully to the role; whether it's the action sequences (ripped faithfully and reverentially from the game) or the lacklustre dialogue and plot she's saddled with.

The film's lack of engaging success is not down to her - she's the best thing about this female-led blockbuster, that lacks a romantic interest or bizarrely, any other women. She has degrees of depth (especially when she makes her first hand-to-hand kill), and a frailty that the game's Croft had. Coupled with a sense of her finding herself and her place in the world, Vikander can hold her head up high and bat away the oncoming criticism.

However, it's in the other elements that Tomb Raider feels as hoary as a ripped off Indiana Jones film ever could.

Tomb Raider: Film Review

Uthaug launches the film with energy and gusto until the island chases and fights rear their head, with the wind going out of the sails the moment the adventure's supposed to start.

From clunky narrative coincidences to an over-reliance on flashbacks between Croft and her dad, from an overuse of voiceover as exposition to barely enough plot to fill the two hour run time, the film squanders some of its chances.


It's not helped by one dimensional henchmen and a weak overall villain (Walton Goggins) who's never really given the chance to cut loose as much as he could.

The conclusion of the film feels anti-climactic, a rote redoing of all the usual tropes of the genre, meshing up The Mummy, zombies, and fights that leaves you feeling as much deja vu as wishing there had been some buried treasure unearthed in the plot department rather than relying on what's been buried in a tomb.

The visceral edges which channel the very best of the game's reboot, coupled with the fact it's a female-led film with an Asian sidekick means that Tomb Raider is doing some things right as it launches in an ever-changing media landscape.



But underneath the spit and polish of the regeneration, there's a nagging feeling that what passes in Tomb Raider is all too familiar - and as a conclusion cliffhanger dangles perilously in front of your very eyes, there's a worry that the bloodless, lacking-real-edge Tomb Raider reboot may be consigned to history, rather than launching a series of ever-more impressive sequels.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool: DVD Review

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool: DVD Review


Lauded for Annette Bening's performance as the fading Hollywood star Gloria Grahame, the play-like Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool benefits more from a career-best performance by Billy Elliott's Jamie Bell as her former lover Peter Turner.
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

Adapted from Turner's memoir about the relationship, the film follows Turner's reflections on their relationship as he looks after her in her dying days.

When Grahame collapses backstage at a performance of The Glass Menagerie, Turner is called - and despite his initial reticence, he brings Grahame back to his Liverpool home - wonderfully populated by Julie Walter's spot-on mother.

As the end grows nearer for Grahame, Turner is conflicted by the bittersweet recollections - and the audience is regaled with them, taken to dizzying highs before the ebb of the crushing lows swallows all.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

Opening with old style film credits, as the celluloid ripples through shutters, the film's very much got the feel of a two-hander play and shifts between scenes are beautifully handled as they blend into each other.

It's a biopic at heart, and while there is an argument to be made that little happens and the characters are kept at their most basic, there's also enough to be said about the arc that Bening imbues Grahame with in her twilight years and the range of emotions that Bell conveys as Turner.

As the film shifts into conventional weepie territory at the end, the tour de forces are slightly dulled by the narrative necessities and conflicts that play out.

But what transpires prior to this, is bested by a quiet intensity of Bell's portrayal as his part in a doomed relationship. It's a turn that gives Bell one of his chances to provide an extremely strong turn - and he doesn't remotely disappoint.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is never better than when it follows the giddy highs of their relationship, from the backstage betrayals to the jealousies of Hollywood's scene - there's more than enough here to give you a feeling of the time (particularly thanks to the use of actual Grahame footage).

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: Film Review

There are whipsmart tart moments in the dialogue which greatly help the melancholy feel of the film and give Bening's 50s screen siren a hint of sadness.

But in the final stretch, the film forsakes actions in favour of words, leading to the feeling of exposition in among the love story that drags the fresher approach of an older relationship down a notch.

Ultimately, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is powered by Bell's performance; it may be his co-star's twilight luvvie turn which is getting the adulation, but Bell's commitment and depth to the role guarantees the film its emotional core throughout. 

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

NZIFF 2018 Cannes line up confirmed

Direct from Cannes: 30 films to premiere at NZIFF 2018


Thirty films direct from the Cannes Film Festival are confirmed to screen at NZIFF 2018. Eleven are from the Competition section of the festival including Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, Jury Prize winner Capernaum and Best Screenplay winners (tied) 3 Faces and Happy As Lazzaro.

Birds of Passage, the opening night film from the 2018 Directors’ Fortnight will also be opening 
NZIFF in Auckland on Thursday 19 July. Cold War from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), winner of the Best Director prize, will screen as the official closing night film of NZIFF. 

“We have worked hard to bring a diverse selection of Cannes films to New Zealand screens for New Zealand audiences. It’s always a mad scramble for us, as the Cannes screenings are inconveniently close to our programme cut-off. The upside is that New Zealand audiences get to be amongst the first in the world to see the very latest and best in international cinema. Whatever its idiosyncrasies, Cannes still sets a very high bar, and this year’s selection proves it all over again,” says NZIFF director Bill Gosden. 

“It’s no accident that Cannes titles grace some of our top spots, beginning with the stunning Birds of Passage on opening night, including the deeply humane and moving Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters;  and ending with the dazzling Cold War as our official closing night.” says Gosden.
The Cannes Films are:
In Competition
3 Faces
“Charming Iranian cinema at its purest… Once more defying a filmmaking ban, Iranian director Jafar Panahi sounds the depths of traditional values in a road movie with actress Behnaz Jafari.” — Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter
Ash is the Purest White
The transfixing Zhao Tao plays a tough, resilient woman in love with a small-time hoodlum in Jia Zhang-ke’s epic gangland romance, set against China’s relentless modernisation in the 21st century.
Burning
A love triangle and mystery based on a Murakami Haruki short story, Korean great Lee Chang-dong’s (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) latest was the best-reviewed film at Cannes, an unforgettable now-or-never must-see on the giant Civic screen.

https://www.nziff.co.nz/2018/film/burning/

Capharnaüm
A runaway boy sues his parents for bringing him into the world in this sprawling tale of against-the-odds resilience. “Nadine Labaki’s journey through the slums of Lebanon thrills with compassion and heart.” — Anna Smith, Time Out

Cold War
Winner of the Cannes Best Director award, Paweł Pawlikowski (Ida) has crafted a brilliant, kaleidoscopic vision of 1950s Europe, bursting with music, dance and the turbulent love of two musicians caught between East and West.
Dogman
Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) returns to the scene of the crime with this jaw-dropping, based-on-fact tale of a timid dog lover driven to terrifying extremes when he hitches his star to a human beast he cannot control.
Happy as Lazzaro
Direct from Cannes where it shared the Best Screenplay award for its amazingly inventive script, Alice Rohrwacher’s seductive rural fable applies fairy-tale logic to explore the troubled soul of Italy.
Leto
An exhilarating exploration of freedom under restraint from a director under house arrest, this resonant, exuberant picture of musicianship and band life is based on the lives of two stars of pre-perestroika Leningrad rock.
This year’s surprise Cannes Palme d’Or winner is one of Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s finest films, about a loving, unconventional family making ends meet on the margins of Tokyo.
The Image Book
The latest essay film from Jean-Luc Godard, still going strong, is a dense yet intellectually dexterous vision board on cinema, image-making and the state of the world.
https://www.nziff.co.nz/2018/film/the-image-book/

The Wild Pear Tree, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest follows a would-be writer’s reluctant return to his small-town fold, spinning an extensive series of encounters into a typically rich, wry, melancholic mood-piece.

2018 Critics’ Week: opening film
Wildlife
In Paul Dano’s ace directing debut, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal capture the cracks that occur in a marriage when a young wife kicks against the constraints of 1950s domesticity.

2018 Critics’ Week: Competition
Diamantino
A universally adored, very loving but somewhat clueless Portuguese soccer star is co-opted for nefarious political ends in this outrageously bonkers satire of vacuous media and surging nationalism in Europe.
Woman at War
Iceland’s Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and Men) winningly mixes absurdist comedy and tense thriller, with Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as a fearless eco-warrior, juggling environmental action and foster motherhood.

2018 Director’s Fortnight
Birds of Passage (opening night)
The ancient traditions of Columbia’s indigenous Wayuu are shaped by an ambitious matriarch to stake a place for her clan in the burgeoning drug economy of the 1970s. This spectacularly original film opens NZIFF18.
Climax
Direct from Cannes, the latest sensation from French cinema’s premier provocateur Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void) is his best yet, an exhilarating 1990s techno dance musical that spins out into collective freak-out.
Leave No Trace (previously announced)
New Zealand actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie is mesmerising as 13-year-old Tom living off the grid with her war vet father (Ben Foster) in this haunting new film from the director of Winter’s Bone.
Mandy
“Panos Cosmatos’ follow-up to Beyond the Black Rainbow is a gloriously lurid mock-80s revenge quest that aims a raging, roaring Nicolas Cage at villains from another dimension.” — Katherine McLaughlin, Sight & Sound
Mirai
Direct from Cannes, this charming For All Ages anime from Hosoda Mamoru (Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast) takes a richly imaginative toddler-eye view of a new arrival in the family.
Petra
In this constantly surprising, exquisitely appointed drama, a young painter secures a residency at a large family estate in the Catalan countryside to study under the ageing artist and owner she suspects is her father.
Samouni Road
A captivating portrayal of the human impact of the Middle East conflict, told with a deft mix of live action and animation, Samouni Road reveals the impact on one extended family of Israel’s brutal 2009 assault on a Gaza village.
The World is Yours
Isabelle Adjani is the safe-cracking matriarch and Karim Leklou is her son who longs for a Mr Freeze franchise and a quiet life in this Cannes hit, a rollercoaster crime caper from writer-director Romain Gavras.

Cinema De La Plage
Le Grand Bal
Filmmaker Laetitia Carton draws us into the beating heart of the traditional dance festival that attracts dancers and musicians from across Europe every summer to Gennetines in central France.

Midnight Screening
Arctic
This snowbound endurance thriller, shot spectacularly on location in Iceland, stars Mads Mikkelsen as the sole survivor of an air crash, stranded somewhere in the barren wastlelands of the Arctic.

Un Certain Regard
Border
An ingenious and twisted blend of crime drama and supernatural romance, this thrillingly unpredictable Swedish film from the writer of Let the Right One In delivers a fresh spin on Nordic mythology.
Donbass
Ukrainian documentarian and writer/director Sergei Loznitsa takes a sprawling dark comedy, with a vast ensemble cast, to evoke purposely manufactured social breakdown in the Donbass region of his homeland.
El Ángel (NB: not screening in Auckland)
Co-produced in style by Pedro and Augustin Almodóvar, this provocative true crime drama explores the short violent career of Argentina’s most infamous and longest-serving convicted killer, a baby-faced teenager.
Girl
Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont won the award for best first feature at Cannes with this empathetic, emotionally rich portrait of a 15-year-old trans girl who aspires to become a ballerina.
Rafiki
Fresh and brave, Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s tender, exuberant teenage lesbian coming-out tale has been banned in Kenya and celebrated in Cannes.
The Harvesters
Set in the conservative Afrikaner farming country of South Africa’s Free State, this brooding drama pits the teenaged son of a deeply religious family against the adopted brother he believes will usurp him.

NZIFF is run by a charitable trust and encourages lively interactions between films, filmmakers and New Zealand audiences in 13 towns and cities around the country. The full NZIFF programme will be available from Tuesday 26 June for Auckland, Friday 29 June for Wellington, Monday 9 July for Christchurch and Monday 19 July for Dunedin. NZIFF starts in Auckland on 19 July, in Wellington from 27 July, in Christchurch from 2 August, and in Dunedin from 9 August in 2018.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review


Director: Kate McIntyre Clere, Michael McIntyre

It's probably easier to title doco film Kangaroo: A Polemic given how the directors are clearly pulling the animal activist angle, aiming to enrage and engage the world over treatment of the kangaroo.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

It's the national icon of Australia - from their airlines to their football teams, the roo is symbolic of the nation. But according to the directors, the relationship in reality is different to the idealised one swathed in nostalgia and patriotism.

Starting with nighttime footage of a spotlight shining on a kangaroo, then a series of shots ringing out, it's clear the directors are going for the jugular, not messing around with emotional manipulation and aiming to shock.

Complete with music from a horror film, building to a crescendo before the crack of the shot rings out, it's fairly obvious the tone the directors want to strike with this piece - and while that's understandable, it's not exactly like this doco is as balanced as you'd hope for. Though, in fairness, as they uncover the levels of mistreatment and the combination of food implications and national pride / denial over what's going on, anyone who proved to be pro-the kangaroo culling may find themselves targetted.

However, it's telling that some of the language borders on hyperbole, with a plague proportions line bandied around repeatedly, with no scientific qualification for the claims.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story: Film Review

But Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story does raise some shocking issues, exposes some divides within our trans-Tasman cuzzies and proffers up more questions than answers.

From consumers saying their pets devour kangaroo meat to claiming that they're not sure about it, it's obvious that a discussion needs to be had over harvesting of kangaroos, the fact the National Heart Foundation's given the meat a health tick and that legislation is as effective as a wet bus ticket.

More interesting, the directors don't hold back from showing what's on offer.

From the opening shots of the hunting to some truly disturbing shots of what is done to the creatures and a land-owner discovering what looks like a massacre, with limbs and fly-ridden heads on the ground, Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story does expose the cruelty that's going on unnoticed.

Equally shocking is footage of a land-owner who's purchased land for protecting the roos and who is living in fear after her farming neighbours head out nightly to shoot the animals as they are legally allowed to do so - even if they're not on their own land.

Unlike Trophy, which screened at last year's New Zealand International Film Festival,  Kangaroo - A Love/ Hate Story may not have the balance of a difficult topic mastered, but it does, however, effectively pour fuel onto a fire that clearly needs to be talked about sooner rather than later in a nation that is so clearly unaware of what's going on.