Tuesday, 17 July 2018

NZIFF 2018 Preview - It all starts this week

NZIFF 2018 Preview - It all starts this week

With just days before the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off in Auckland at the mighty Civic Theatre before heading around the country, it's time to take a look at some of the offerings.

The 50th anniversary of the festival has brought all manner of treats, and plenty of fresh offerings from around the world.
The Guilty

Taut, terrific and twisty, The Guilty's captive setting and lead man make director Gustav Möller's claustrophobic call centre flick one of the most compelling dramas of the festival. 

Jakob Cedergren's policeman Asger Holm is a call centre worker, at the emergency services. A series of calls come in - each more mundane than the next in his eyes, but each vital to those dialling for the help. Then a call comes in that sets his senses off - an apparent kidnapping.

Clever, compelling, and character-led, The Guilty is a festival must-see - a stripped back, pared down character piece that's almost Shakespearean in its tragedy. See it now, preferably Hollywood miscasts its lead in its remake.
Maui's Hook

Director Paora Joseph's Maui's Hook clearly has an agenda - and in the current world we live in in New Zealand, that's no bad thing at all.

The psychologist's piece mixes both a drama and a documentary to get the discussion on suicide in our youth up and running. And while the drama is reasonably well acted and in parts, strong, it has nowhere near the power of the heart-wrenching true life stories.

Four Maori families and one Pakeha family join a hikoi around parts of the north of country, visiting marae to discuss the impact and the reality of suicide on families. To be frank, it doesn't really matter what race these families are, these are stories which have a human universality that's relatable throughout.

It's clear that for Maori, this is a real issue, an underlying cancer that's ripping through society and which goes unspoken even though its effects are utterly devastating and the ramifications live on for decades. Whether it's the simplicity of having 10 family members sat on mats discussing the effect the death of their mother had on them, or a final set of sequences atop a cliff at Cape Reinga, laying photos and reflecting, there's a power here unable to be denied.

Carrying on the trend ploughed by Florian Habicht et al, Ryan Heron and Andy Deere's Bludgeon is a small treasure on the NZIFF programme, a doco that has elements of the Office and the heart of an against-the-odds competition.

It follows a group of modern knights looking to represent NZ in the sport of 'medieval combat', something one competitor intones should be an Olympic sport.

Packed with humour and heart, with a genial outlook and large swathes of humanity, Bludgeon is yet another celebration of what truly makes New Zealand tick, and another demonstration that all walks of life deserve celebration, even when their unswerving devotion to their cause bemuses and amuses.
The Ice King

A doco that's as much about showing the balletics of ice skating as it is interested in delving into its protagonist's torture, James Erskine's The Ice King celebrates John Curry.

To be frank, he's possibly a name that's less familiar to some, but Erskine's fulsome piece could ensure that changes - and Curry becomes known more about his ice-capades than being thrust into the spotlight after securing a gold medal at the 70s Olympics and coming out "off the record."

Using voiceover interviews, rather than endless talking heads, and with letters from Curry himself helping to sell and tell the story, The Ice King is not really your traditional documentary and also not really your traditional sports story.

It's a muted piece, that enlightens and enthralls occasionally, but never fully grips when the spotlight shifts from what Curry could do on the ice - at the end, he still remains an enigma to the audience. But it's interlaced with some splendid footage of Curry's moves on the ice, which are just incredible to behold.

If you ever wanted a reason to delete your social accounts and reassess your life, documentary The Cleaners is that film.
The Cleaners

Distinctly terrifying and definitely a sign of our depressing online times, The Cleaners turns its eye on those who police Facebook and other social channels by following five content moderators who reside in the Philippines and whose job it is to moderate what is out there.

Bleak in many ways, psychologically depressing for anyone who uses social media or deals with communities, The Cleaners maybe goes a little too skin deep on the implications for free speech and lets off the moderators who strongly believe "Algorithms can't do what we do."

A sobering story of electronics and social media over-taking the world we inhabit and the morals we should hold dear, The Cleaners is perhaps one of the most terrifying portraits of 21st Century online life.

The New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off in Auckland on Thursday July 19th before heading around the country. More details at nziff.co.nz

Stay tuned to this website during the Auckland leg of the festival for reviews from the films and also director Q&As.

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