Thursday, 17 July 2014

NZIFF Review - Everything We Loved and Te Awa Tupua - Voices from the River

NZIFF Review - Everything We Loved and Te Awa Tupua - Voices from the River

Everything We Loved is a bold move by the New Zealand Film Commission.

At the behest of the producers, the film's been fast-tracked for an exciting release schedule with the launch at the Film Festival also coming at the same time that the movie will be given a VOD release so everyone can see it. Whether it pays off remains to be seen, but there can only be plaudits for the model and the fact it signals our industry's desire to move with the times.

As for the film itself, it's the story of Charlie (Brett Stewart), a magician who used to work with his wife Angela (Step Dave's Sia Trokenheim) but who, as the film begins is hidden away and appears to be central to his own mystery. In the house with him is 4 year old Tommy, who seems to be struggling with life in general and the fact his mummy is not with him.

When Angela shows up at the house, everything changes for the pair - and to reveal more would be a disservice to the story director Max Currie has dreamed up.

Everything We Loved is a fragile and haunting movie, and one that is tremendously affecting in parts. With its sedately paced, beautifully shot vistas and its two hander approach for the majority of the film, it draws you into its world. Currie's managed to use the minimalism of the story to proffer tidbits about what's going on that you cling on to each revelation, desperate to prize into a solvable puzzle.

There are shots in the film which resonate, and an uncertain atmosphere over what's going on that resounds in emotional depths that are difficult to ignore as the story heads to its inexorable conclusion. Certainly the lakeside sequence at the end is a powerful piece that aches with emotion and heartbreak. Themes of loss, love, grief, hope and desperation mingle together in a particularly potent mix.

A quietly understated delivery from Stewart and a story that feels universally relatable, Everything We Loved provides haunting imagery, an almost ethereal presence at times and a quietly compelling  drama that's definitely worth your time.

Te Awa Tupua - Voices from the River

From Paora Joseph who made Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka comes this latest doco and historical piece about the Whanganui Iwi and their struggles over ownership of the river.

More than that, Te Awa Tupua looks at the close bond felt between iwi and the river, with the proverb " I am the river - and the river is me" encapsulating the strength of the ties of two. Gracefully and skillfully weaving archival footage from 1995 and the occupation of Pakaitore, Joseph manages to craft something together that's haunting and effective as well as demonstrating a sensitivity that's obligatory in a doco like this.

Aerial sweeping shots and scenes of the river harness the power within, but it's the human side which keeps this tethered to a sense of the personal and a demonstration of the strength of the bonds within. Clever use (and occasional over-reliance on footage) of material means the story comes full circle, with archival imagery and radio reports helping to paint the scene and the landscape being used to complete the portrait.

The doco closes with a series of photos at the end, a telling reminder of all those who've been affected through the years - it's a powerful set of images to close a quietly unassuming doco.

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