Thursday, 30 June 2016

NZIFF 2016 - Q&A with festival director Bill Gosden

NZIFF 2016 - Q&A with festival director Bill Gosden

The New Zealand International Film Festival is just a few weeks away in Auckland and will then be rolling out across the country.
It's a great time to luxuriate in the cinematic offerings but also an even better time to catch up with festival director Bill Gosden to talk the 2016 festival.

Welcome back - it only seems like yesterday since the start of Autumn Events season. What's been going on in the background to the run up this year?
A frantic scramble to haul in the films we fancied NZIFF audiences would want to see from Cannes.

NZIFF in Auckland seems a bolder proposition - expanding out to the likes of Westgate and Manukau - what's precipitated such a measure?
Spreading the gospel is in our DNA, but we go only where there’s a supportive partner sharing some ownership of the event (and the risk). In this case ATEED’s objectives gelled very nicely with ours.

And the launch of an Animation Now! strand too - at least in Auckland. Are there any plans to expand that nationwide?
We’d love to see that happen. Programmer Malcolm Turner knows the animation world backwards, sideways and upside down. Each one of his programmes is extravagantly good, a mini festival in itself.

Last year was the biggest ever year in Auckland for audiences - can this year's festival maintain that pace?
We’d like to think so.  NZIFF 2015 was our biggest elsewhere too, spectacularly so in Wellington, thanks to a new ticketing system, and Christchurch, thanks to a glorious new venue at the Isaac Theatre Royal.

The ten-trip online booking is a new thing too, a sign that you're listening to audience feedback year on year?
It’s more a sign that Ticketmaster have developed an online redemption system that makes listening to audience feedback a little less painful.

As for the films this year, I think it's fair to say this is the first year that the programme to me has required more in-depth reading than in previous years; how have you managed to pull together something so diverse, with so many topics from comedy to human rights, horror to the environment - it's hard to see a common thread?
It takes many different audiences to make NZIFF so diversity is always essential. We hope that festival goers don’t have too much trouble identifying the films that will appeal to them personally. The website, with its genre breakdowns and Must-See lists, can certainly provide more instant shortcuts and pathways than the printed brochure in that respect.

Strong female characters constitute the most immediately apparent trend emerging in the year’s top films. It’s also been a great year for Spanish and Latin American cinema.

Animation is perhaps the first thing that springs out to me - last year's Song of the Sea and this year's remastered Iron Giant at Autumn Events were perhaps festival formative experiences. Can we hope for that with The Red Turtle and Long Way North?
The Red Turtle is a luminous, exquisitely simple, though often surprising fable of a shipwrecked sailor. There’s an almost zen quality to it: even the most suspenseful moments unfold in a mesmerising hush (and for anyone as phobic as I am about narrow spaces under water, there’s no shortage of suspense.) The Studio Ghibli imprimatur is utterly fitting, given the film’s intensely animist rendering of nature.
Long Way North

Long Way North is a great Girls’ Own Adventure, sending its young heroine to an evocatively rendered North Pole to rescue her explorer grandad. Robert Falcon Scott could have used such a granddaughter.

Christchurch gets a premiere for one of its own with Phil Keoghan's Le Ride. Having seen the doco, it's a testament to one of NZ's unsung heroes Harry Watson - do you expect Phil Keoghan's film to inspire a new generation of bikers and fans?
The film is now confirmed for the whole circuit. I can’t imagine many people will want to emulate Phil’s choice of bike, a replica of the steel-framed monster that Harry Watson rode in the Tour de France of 1928.

It's another strong line up from Cannes this year - what are the favourites from your perspective and why? And can you give us an insight into why Winding Refn's Neon Demon didn't make it this far?
I, Daniel Blake is the most powerful Ken Loach film in years: it is simple, direct, fuelled by an anger many of us share, and superbly well acted. The two Romanian films are completely enthralling: how bracing it is to experience such powerful, fluid cinema powered by dialogue, character and ideas. Of those I have not seen, I am eager to catch Toni Erdmann, Neruda, Aquarius and Paterson in particular.
We counted on local distribution on the Refn film, but it never happened, so you can say we missed the bus on that one. If you must.
I, Daniel Blake

I'll get back to the films in a moment, but I wanted to comment on the visiting talent to NZIFF this year - as stronger a selection as ever I've seen; from Terence Davies to Taryn Brumfitt, these are quite the gamut?
Hosting Terence Davies is such an honour. He’s one of the greats and we’ve been screening his films since his trilogy in the early 80s. I’m pleased that we can also host a breaking young filmmaker like Babak Anvari. His Under the Shadow is a highlight of Ant’s programme this year.

What about the Kiwi contingent of film-makers' offerings this year - is it another strong one? Is Poi E as opening night likely to become as classic as The Dark Horse?
I’m sure it’s just as clearly destined to be taught in schools!  It would be a daring teacher that took Alison Maclean’s The Rehearsal into the classroom though: it definitely prods some sensitive areas in the teacher-student dynamic.
The Rehearsal

 I’m delighted to showing new docos from several NZIFF alumni, notably Pietra Brettkelly (A Flickering Truth) Abi King-Jones and Errol Wright (The 5th Eye) and Luit and Jan Bieringa (The heART of the Matter). Sam Hamilton (Apple Pie) and Summer Agnew and Adam Luxton (On an Unknown Beach) have much less straightforward non-fiction to offer. Their perseverance in the experimental domain is inspiring considering the generally overwhelming lack of institutional support available to them. Big ups to the Wallace Arts Trust for supporting Sam and the Film Commission for chipping in some completion money for Adam and Summer.

What's your stand out film from Ant Timpson's Incredibly Strange Film Festival - and what's your second choice?
For me the Polish disco mermaids have the edge on the marauding djinn.

It's another strong year for female directors as we reach midway through the #52filmsbywomen challenge - which stand out here and why?
Things to Come: a young woman’s beautifully rounded appreciation of an older woman’s hard-won assurance.
Cameraperson:  A great film from about photography and compassion from a woman who has thought a lot about the ‘observer effect’.
Sand Storm and As I Open My Eyes: Fresh, deeply felt perspectives on the lives of Middle Eastern women.
Certain Women: Kelly Reichardt, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams
Lovesong: An intimate view of the complexity and fluidity of friendship
McCabe and Mrs Miller

Give us your picks for crowd favourites and which of the Retro films do you believe will see audiences heading to
McCabe & Mrs Miller is one of the all-time greats, imho, though its melancholic beauty can take some time to seep in. Any lover of Shakespeare who’s never seen Chimes at Midnight is in for a big surprise. And why would you miss the rare chance to see Tokyo Story on the giant screen?  It currently sits at #3 on the much-quoted Sight & Sound poll. And of course A Touch of Zen features the ultimate woman warrior: actress Hsu Feng funded the restoration herself, and who could blame her.

Tell us the films we may have overlooked in our cinematic overload that you reckon are worth seeking out?
Les Démons, Being 17, Neon Bull, Under the Sun and Love-Sick Shorts, a programme of brilliant shorts you won’t soon forget, curated from a year of avid short-film watching by my colleague Michael McDonnell.

Just finally, which is the one film you will be in the crowd for, with your phone off and luxuriating in?
Safety Last!  Live Cinema with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.  Only one film to go in Auckland after that. I can’t believe I am thinking about the final day already.
Safety Last

The New Zealand International film Festival kicks off in Auckland on July 14th and heads around the country shortly after.
For all the details on the films, head to the official site at

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