Thursday, 30 June 2016

NZIFF Questions for Ant Timpson, curator of the Incredibly Strange Film Festival

NZIFF Questions for Ant Timpson, curator of the Incredibly Strange Film Festival

The New Zealand International Film Festival is about to kick off.
And contained within its hallowed pages are some more out there films curated as part of the Incredibly Strange Film Festival.
The head honcho there is one Ant Timpson who I caught up with to get some words - and some thinly veiled abuse - about this year's selections.

Ant Timpson (we suspect)

Well, the past few years have been somewhat fractured in our interactions around this time of year with the festival – are you feeling in a better mood this year on our 5th annual Q&A?

I was feeling fine before I read your passive aggressive intro to this year’s Q&A in which you infer that at every other time you have done a Q&A with me I have not been in a good mood. 
Just to set the record straight - Me being annoyed with your style of inane fluffy questioning is in no way a reflection of my state of being, it is just a reflection of your inability to ask me things that will engage the readers. 

I am left to do the heavy lifting while you sit back and earn a paycheck from TVNZ or whoever the hell pays you.

Previous questionnaires have involved me holding a gun to your head or faux court proceedings – how would you like to proceed with this year’s?

Well those setups were real knee slappers that I’m sure your family enjoyed greatly. I’d like to proceed as if you knew how to do your job and I was a willing participant in the proceedings.

Assuming you don’t object to my line of questioning carrying on again, let’s take a look at the selection this year – what’s it been like on the scene?

What’s it like on the ‘scene’? Err I apologise I truly didn’t realise you were like 90 years old. The ‘scene’ grandpa is called "The Movies" and it’s been the same for over 100 years which is amusing because you’re nearly as old as the ‘scene’.
Beware the Slendermen

First film, Beware The Slendermen seems frighteningly timely. An investigative doco on the urban legend and Creepypasta – is it quite a disturbing piece?

It’s not as disturbing as the thought of you, a hydro slide, small children and an ill-fitting speedo but it’s up there. 
All seriousness aside, you are quite correct – this is an insightful, raw and jarring documentary that manages to capture the phenomenon of online urban legends and the king daddy of all internet boogeymen – the Slenderman and a crime that shocked the world. Any parent who has kids with over- active imaginations may want to take a valium after seeing this doc, it really is a heart-breaking story told exceptionally well.

I’m intrigued to know what kind of information you have on the programmers given you’ve got your film The Greasy Strangler on the slate this year (cough, nepotism, cough)– Housebound, Deathgasm; do you just make films for the Incredibly Strange secretly?

I see what you did there – you put the word nepotism between two coughs – inferring that I keep managing to programme films I produced in my own section. 
Congrats, Sherlock you solved the mystery.
Unfortunately I said exactly the same thing in my introduction to this year's festival. The truth is rather less exciting than me exploiting my position as programmer. The films I produce have all proved their salt on the international circuit either premiering at Sundance or similar festival premieres. They’re well received and they’re perfect fits for my section. It’s not simply a case of me accepting my own submission, I have to send the film to the other programmers who have to agree that it’s okay to screen. Luckily so far they’ve agreed with me on all counts.

The Greasy Strangler

Talking of things that are out there, singing mermaids, vampirism and sultriness – The Lure has it all, doesn’t it?

Well it doesn’t have it all. I don’t want to mislead your readers. You may be okay with doing that but I’m not going to lie to them.
Sure the film is a hybrid – and yes, it does contain singing mermaids, dance routines, brazen sexuality and vampiric violence but I’m not going to say Bigfoot makes an appearance. For a debut feature film it has that same “all or nothing” approach by filmmakers who want to leave an indelible impression – the way it mixes decadent Warsaw history with some western genre tropes is very clever and unique. I’m really happy it’s playing in the section because some of the films are heavy going this for most of its run-time is super upbeat and poppy.

Ben Wheatley’s back with High-Rise with a score from Clint Mansell, famed for Black Swan among others and of course, Loki in the buff in one shot. Sell me other reasons to see this?

Good lord you really are a lurid little fanboy aren’t you? Loki in the buff? You think I programme films based on any salacious material they may house? 
Grow up. 
High-Rise by the brilliant writer JG Ballard was the novel that could never be filmed. Since 1975 it has eluded many major talents. 'Til now. And it's been made by one of the brightest directing talents in the UK. 
It’s a stylish thought-provoking and at times confounding affair. It’s not an easy watch. That phrase loved by horrible critics “turn your brain off and enjoy” – will never be used in a review of this film. There are going to be arguments amongst viewers afterwards, some will get it and some will be left frustrated. Like all strong art, it demands something in return from the viewer.
Maybe you should just go check out Captain America 3, Darren.
High Rise

Green Room’s likely to pick up interest due to the sad passing of Anton Yelchin. Having seen it at programme launch, this film’s about as far from sentiment as you can muster; tense, claustrophobic and thrilling, plus a heart-breaking final shot of a dog and master– what was it about Green Room that struck you?

I’m a enthusiast of any siege scenario in cinema. There’s something just inherently compulsive to me about the simple setup. Obviously relatable to all of us because there’s a primal fear about being stuck with every exit blocked and an enemy who just wants to snuff you out.  We think about these scenarios in unknown threatening areas, it flashes from deep within our subconscious and so when we see a film like GREEN ROOM we’re continually self-examining what we’d do in the same situation as the protagonists. I’d already played the director's breakout film BLUE RUIN and so it was natural to want to showcase his latest effort which has made a big impact on the circuit – getting rave reviews for the performances and his tight direction. A punk band take a gig in the boonies at the headquarters of some neo-Nazis – they see something they shouldn’t and then things start going very, very badly.

Documentary Tower captures the timely and continual horror of campus shootings , combined with animation. Are you hoping this is the film that shakes out of our continual numbness of America’s gun laws?

Yes, Darren, this is the film that will change the US gun laws and erase the 2nd amendment after a single viewing. The NRA membership will watch it, then strip naked and finally burn their guns in a giant bonfire while dancing around in the nude singing kumbaya. 
Do I think this is a powerful effective doc? Absolutely.
Based on a riveting oral history of the infamous shootings, this doc uses different story-telling techniques to convey different perspectives and moods. It’s really a knock-out and I don’t think anyone is prepared for how good this doc actually is. I’d be surprised if they didn’t position in for an Oscar next year.

What can you tell us about Under The Shadow ?
Under the Shadow

Do you know how to use WIKI? Here you go…
Under the Shadow is a 2016 Iranian-British horror film written and directed by Babak Anvari as his directorial debut, in which a mother and daughter are haunted by a mysterious evil in 1980s Tehran. The film stars Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian and Arash Marandi.

I’ll just say that this was the must-see film that everyone was talking about at Sundance this year. That it's one of the most unique and solid debuts for sometime it’s surely going to follow in the footsteps of other Sundance notable horrors like IT FOLLOWS and THE WITCH.

I’m fascinated by the subject of Operation Avalanche – a film that continues our obsession with the moon-landings?

Do you want a medal for being fascinated by the Moon? Congrats mate.. do you feel special? I mean it’s just you and every other bloody person on the planet who has ever looked up at that shining orb and wondered about it.
You should be fascinated because this is the followup to The Dirties one of the best independent films made in the past 10 years but one of the most exciting young directors to come out of Canada. This is a bona fide indie classic that pulls off a miracle. A meta faux doc thriller that manages to encapsulate everything that’s wonderful about the race to the moon and cold war thrillers.

Operation Avalanche

And Swiss Army Man – I’m not sure where to stand with this film. Its mix of the profound and the puerile plays well, but I can’t quite work out whether the whole thing is for one final fart gag – it’s quite extraordinary the flights of fancy and imaginative visuals on this one, though, right?

What’s your problem? You seem unsure of how you feel about the film.. that because the film has some silly puerile humour it instantly means that it can’t achieve poignancy or profundity? Well guess what Einstein.. it can do both. And this film does both. It’s also one of the most playful imaginative films since Michel Gondry was on fire. I can’t imagine anyone not having fun with the film. A flatulent corpse teaches a young man about the value of the human existence? With two great young actors tearing the hell up onscreen?! Come on.. you must be dead inside.
Swiss Army Man

Overall, how do you rate your section this year – it seems to be infused with a little more heart and emotionally resonant themes this year, rather than just guaranteed good times. Are you getting a bit softer do you think?

What do you mean? I am hard. Always. 
What did you hear? Who’s been using the word soft and my name in the same sentence? I’m not going soft – if anything I’m harder than I have ever been. I’m like a diamond that’s being crushed into something that’s even harder. 
Yeah, sure I like the good times but life's not always about the party. Sometimes I like to sit at parties and just ponder about my place in the world. Sure, that may look a bit morose and sad from a distance but I’m okay with that because even though I give off the air of being deflated with everything I’m still hard as, mate.

Were there any other films you’d targeted for the festival?


What’s your pick from the rest of the film programme this year? And what do you hope your 2016 NZIFF moment will be?

They all look good. 
My moment this year will be when the lights come up after the first screening of THE GREASY STRANGLER and I see the audience’s collective astonishment about what they’ve just experienced.

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

1 comment:

  1. Ant Timpson; "I’m like a diamond that’s being crushed into something that’s even harder" Go hard Ant..that was a great interview!