Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Talking the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival with Bill Gosden

Talking the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival with Bill Gosden

It's here for another year, the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival. Launching in Auckland on July 20th, with the Animation Now! Festival kicking off the week before, it's the perfect cinematic smorgasbord. As ever, director Bill Gosden was around for a chat about the 49th event.

So you're in your 49th year of the festival, how's it been pulling that together with the big birthday on the horizon?

We’ve been too busy making a milestone of 49 to think about 50.

Bill Gosden, NZIFF
Bill Gosden, NZIFF director - picture: Rebecca McMillan
And it seems with 5 decades ahead of you, there's been some big changes this year - particularly in Auckland, with the expansion of the festival tothe Waterfront, the expansion in Manukau and Westgate, and the addition of the Hollywood cinema, the extraction out of the Animation Now festival - these must all seem tremendously exciting touches?

The ASB Waterfront Theatre is the big one, a huge vote of confidence from the Auckland Theatre Company, and a fabulous new precinct for Auckland NZIFFers.

What's precipitated all this flurry of activity for the festival?

Irresistible opportunities offered by ATEED in the case of Manukau and Westgate, and by Matt Timpson at the rejuvenated Hollywood. Animation NOW!  is too good to be swamped by the rest of NZIFF and deserves to stand on its own six feet.

Turning to the films themselves, you mentioned at the launch that Killing of A Sacred Deer caused a bit of a last minute panic....

It was the film people repeatedly told us we had to show. Sadly, we’d been advised by the local rights holder that it would absolutely not be available anywhere after Cannes before the US Fall. We learned to live without it, only to have it offered the day after the Rubik’s Cube of the schedule had finally been solved. The temptation to say ‘forget it’ was only momentary.

As a perennial to the festival, it's always about experiences for a dyed-in-the-wool viewer, which films this year do you think will provide the ultimate Film Festival experience and why?
My Year With Helen
My Year With Helen

Opening Night: The Square
Local girls do good: My Year with Helen
One to tell the grandchildren: Top of the Lake: China Girl on the giant screen in one enthralling day, introduced by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee.
Discovery: your guess is as good as mine.

Sandra's been busy with some 21 selections from Cannes - which of the Cannes selection are you particularly excited for - in terms of a viewer and also in terms of audience reaction?

Above all, The Square, but pretty much everything.

Let’s not overlook Michael McDonnell’s pre-Cannes selections, amongst which Bad Genius is the one I am most eager to see.

I can't go on without mentioning the special event binge session that is Top of the Lake: China Girl at the ASB Waterfront Theatre - I've heard you describe it as electric viewing? Are there any tips for pacing? OR is this the perfect festival response to the binge culture we now live in?

Didn't film festivals invent binge culture?  No tips are required for “sitting through” six hours of dazzling filmmaking.

My Year With Helen, Waru, a new film from Jennifer Peedom, 6 Days, the return of Florian with Spookers, Kim Dotcom - the local films have captured quite the zeitgeist this year again haven't they?

They have deservedly commandeered some big spots on this year’s programme.

I'm also impressed how strong the shorts section is this year - was it hard whittling down the content?

The difficulty is in programming the good shorts that don’t make it into New Zealand’s Best or Nga Whanaunga. We need to be confident that the people who have come to see the feature will be receptive to the short. Hence, our programming coup of the year: preceding Kedi, a film about cats, with Stay, a brilliant short film starring a dog.

Which country do you feel has provided with some surprises for viewing this year - and what's impressed you about them?

Brazil: Both Araby and the more obviously appealing Gabriel and the Mountain are richly layered character pieces that evoke whole worlds of experience.

What are the themes that stand out to you this year?
  1. The rights of children are everywhere abused, not least in Aotearoa
  2. Romance, not Bromance
  3. Dinner parties always end in tears.
My Life As A Zucchini
My Life as a Zucchini

My Life as a Zucchini and Ethel and Ernest look like animated stand-outs this year; what is it about these two that raise themselves above the crowd?

Let’s not overlook the Animation NOW! programmes. I thought four of these programmes were stunning: Black & White, Living Masters, the International Showcase and the New Chinese Animation programmes are amongst the liveliest things I have seen on screen this year.

Which is the film that you will expect will get the best crowd reaction?

My Year with Helen.

The visiting roster of talent, from the likes of Jane Campion to Kate Adie all seem very esteemed this year - whose Q&A do you think will provide the most fascinating post-film fodder?

Ant Timpson, if you can find him after the Secret Screening.

Which film from Ant's Incredibly Strange do you want to see and why?

It must be possible to see Multiple Maniacs once too often, but after 30-years of a cherished bootleg VHS, I’m feeling ready for the deluxe Criterion experience.
Finally, there's way too many films to talk about, which ones would you urge people not to skim over and take a chance on?
Gabriel and the Mountain
Gabriel and the Mountain

For travel that expands the spirit:
Gabriel and the Mountain

For peace of mind in a wild world:
Kobi, Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy

For a villain to love to hate:
The Teacher

You only think you have seen it before:

And for a laugh

That’s Not Me, A Date for Mad Mary

The New Zealand International Film Festival gets underway in Auckland in a couple of weeks, before opening around the country. Check out for more information and also to compile cinematic wishlists, before buying tickets!

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