Sunday, 27 July 2014

NZIFF Review: New Zealand's Best 2014

NZIFF Review: New Zealand's Best 2014

115 entrants, 6 finalists, one big prize.

That's the push for the New Zealand's Best 2014 collection, whittled down to its final numbers by a judging panel including Andrew Adamson and Eleanor Catton.

And simply put, if this is the future of short film making, it's in incredibly rude health, judging by the six on show tonight.

First up, Eleven, a tale of peer pressure at school that really does demonstrate the cruelty of packs of girls, confirming the Mean Girl clique is still one of the most dangerous of all. Rooted in two achingly realistic performances by two young girls, its universal story of choices and the wrong ones we make at an early age is nicely put together and its final shot is as conflicting a moment of triumph which many of us will remember.

Next, UFO offers an alternative way out to a kid suffering with a life unwanted. The visual eye effects in this story at the outset are utterly incredible and would make James Cameron blush. But once the story gets its human feet, it takes a different path as tragedy hits. Its final shot is an awfully tragic reminder of the situations some of us find ourselves in.

School Night is an accomplished story in a short narrative. It casts Hayley Sproull as a young teacher caught on the cusp of condemning her own life to an early grave or reliving the heady days of her youth on the other side of the teaching world. Humour, regret and ginger crunch play a big part in this complete story which runs an impressive gamut over its run time - a rare feat and certainly one of the stand-outs of the night, given the full nature of the story it told.

Over the Moon is playing at Comic-Con and represents the work done by Auckland Media Design school. It's the story of a female astronaut who got to the moon 12 years before Neil and Buzz. However, when they show up in 69 (as a mix of jocks, hillbillies and US gun toting patriots) it becomes a classic battle of the sexes. The computer / live-action animation is slick and fun and certainly the slides at the end demonstrate how much work went into this. An impressive outing showing our technical forays continue to impress in this light and frothy fun bursts.

Cold Snap is a dark wee piece that hits strangely off kilter emotional moments which land uncomfortably but are hard to shake. A young possum trapping kid watches over his pregnant neighbour, only to find life doesn't go the way they'd expect. A beautifully shot piece aching with subtext and providing a shocking ending, this piece is still haunting me hours after I've seen it thanks to some strong imagery, disturbing ideas and a sense of foreboding.

And finally, Ross and Beth - a short about ageing in the rural sector. Interminably and inevitably sad, this underplayed piece knows how to strike each emotional moment for maximum effect. Cleverly timed moments towards the end reveal the true tenderness of life's bonds and with a strong eye for what matters, it certainly has the power to hit the heartstrings squarely where it counts.

The winner of the New Zealand's Best 2014 will be revealed on Auckland's closing night.

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