Friday, 28 October 2016

The NZ Fraud Film Festival is here!

The NZ Fraud Film Festival is here!

The first New Zealand Fraud Film Festival runs at Auckland's Q Theatre on November 18 and 19 November. Tickets are on sale now at the official site - and I caught up with the programmer Steve Newall (he's also the editor of to talk the festival and its topics.

What is the Fraud Festival - and how did the idea come about?
Last year Deloitte's Ian Tuke, who would later become chair of the NZ International Fraud Film Festival board, attended a similar event in the Netherlands. There, he saw first hand how a programme of carefully selected films on the topic, alongside panel discussions and opportunities for collaboration, can foster awareness and conversation on the issue. I say "a similar event", but Tuke was so impressed with the Dutch event that, rather than simply emulate it, we've entered into a partnership with the organisers. Staging the event in this way allows us to draw on their experience, and ourselves collaborate with them on making this the best possible film event, the first of what may be others around the world in years to come.

Setting out to foster awareness in the private and public sectors affected by fraud and seeking to combat it, as well as allowing the general public to attend some fascinating films and discussions, the festival will examine the drivers behind fraud as well as how it can manifest in a variety of ways and impact on both victims and perpetrators.

Over two days - one by invitation and the other open to the public on a per-film basis - and with a focus on financial fraud at its core, the Fraud Film Festival is a little different to other festivals increasingly jostling for space in that it is based around a topic, rather than a nationality or a format. I think there's something really interesting about that, and hope that our attendees over the two days feel the same way.

Those with a professional interest would do well to attend for the entirety of the festival, if they're able, while the second day lets anyone dip in film by film, with a programme designed to hopefully entice people to do so.

Have you ever been caught out by a Fraud scam or know of anyone who has - and what was it?

Apart from last night, when you complimented me on my virtual reality shooting skills, (Editor's note - Steve was playing the PlayStation VR game The London Heist when I saw him) I haven't really been caught in an instance of fraud. I've uncovered it in a former workplace, though, and am obviously aware of it affecting people I know. A family member, for instance, has been pursuing someone who defrauded them out of a substantial amount of income. For the past several years, as this has unfolded, it's been an unwelcome insight into the power of fraud to affect its victims financially and emotionally.

Looking at the themes of the films, the majority are about Dishonesty - what was the pool of prospective cinematic pickings like - and what were your criteria for inclusion?

Fraud's a common human experience. It's arguably human nature to lie, and this manifests in a range of ways throughout our lives. To take the broadest analysis, you could argue that a majority of films probably contain a fraud of some kind, but to achieve our objectives, we've largely focused on financial fraud or films that address the topics of cyber crime, dishonesty, investigative journalism and corruption. 

As I note in the programme, the motivations of, and consequences for, individuals committing fraud will be examined. The unregulated wild west of the internet will be explored. And the way our passion for sporting heroism, cinema, fine wine - and even tickling - can be turned against us demonstrated.

What that actually means, is screening seven documentaries over the two days of the festival, many of which are NZ premieres. Key to their inclusion was thinking about how a panel might be composed after each film to tease out the thematic threads and provide informed local perspective on the issues raised.

Sport gets a look in with The Captain and The Bookmaker - we've seen the effects of match-fixing scandals here in New Zealand already - what's the killer moment in the film and why's it so powerful? 

Straight to the controversy, eh, Darren? As most Kiwis will now sadly recognise, match-fixing isn't uncommon in cricket, though it remains a murky world. There's no doubting former South African captain Hansie Cronje's guilt though - he admitted it. Tracing the story of this national hero turned villain, some of the most powerful moments in The Captain and the Bookmaker stem from the juxtaposition between the public face and private crookedness - posing for on-field photos alongside Nelson Mandela one minute, breaking down in court the next.

A chance to see Tickled before it continues its path toward hopeful Oscar nomination as well - there's something insidious about both this and Dark Web with the thrall and thrill of the internet....?

Well spotted! Tickled may seem the biggest stretch of the programme, but its a shining example of investigative journalism untangling a web of lies and false identities. As we've already seen, its subject is not happy being in the spotlight and continues to use a number of methods to intimidate the filmmakers. I'm looking forward to co-director Dylan Reeve bringing us up to speed on the latest news in a post-film panel, and while I can't say I'd like further unpleasantness to happen, well, it would be interesting fodder for conversation.

Deep Web may be more immediately pertinent to internet users - aka damn near all of us - as it explores the world of bitcoin and the dark web. It's also the reunion of Bill & Ted co-stars Alex Winter (director) and Keanu Reeves (narrator) we've waited on for far too long, in my opinion. 
DisHonesty, The Truth about Lies

DisHonesty the Truth about Lies posits that we all cheat and lie in some form or another - isn't that a tad depressing or do you think there are some good learnings to come from this?

Lessons, Darren, lessons. I'm fascinated as to how and when the English language became mutilated through the use of "learnings" in business-speak. Maybe that's a doco of my own to come in the future. Look, you've probably lied to friends, family, co-workers, flatmates and so on - I have, with plenty of old-fashioned Kiwi "good, thanks" in response to a conversational "how are you?" from your barista or whatnot. 

What's interesting about this film is having a behavioural expert unpicking the basics, and drawing distinctions between commonplace white lies and more serious behaviour.

Even wine's tainted by corruption in Sour Grapes - are these people anti-heroes or are we going to walk away with contempt in our heart?

If I know you, you'll be popping straight down into your wine cellar to scrutinise your expensive vintages. Like many cons, there's something alluring about the audacious scam at the centre of this doco, but like most of the people onscreen at our festival, you're unlikely to end up on their side once seeing the damage they inflict on others.

Ultimately, what do you want people to get out of the Fraud Festival - and do you think opinions will be changed by some of the behaviour of these cinematic chancers?

Chancers is actually the title of one of the films! Well, Chancers - The Great Gangster Film Fraud. What better way to end a fraud film festival than with a doco about film fraud, I thought. It follows some folks who fraudulently obtain film production tax credits in the UK and then get caught. Their solution, to demonstrate their innocence, is to make a feature film and prove their bona fides. Problem is - they've never made a movie. I'm looking forward to this closing night film, and the subsequent panel that will see Wallace Chapman in conversation with local production icon John Barnett and entertainment lawyer - and film specialist - Tim Riley of Dominion Law.

But to answer your question as asked, I'd like to see some thinking on the themes stimulated and discussions and collaborations fostered. Fraud is intrinsically secret. We want to shed as much light on it as possible to aid in the fight to combat it.

Get more information on the films at the official NZ Fraud Film Festival site and book tickets now.

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