Thursday, 12 July 2018

NZIFF 2018 Preview

NZIFF 2018 Preview

Cheers to 50 years.

That's easily the cry to festival director Bill Gosden and the rest of his team at the New Zealand International Film Festival gears up for its fifth decade of bringing the world of film to our screens.

The event kicks off again this next Thursday in Auckland's mighty Civic Theatre before heading around the country, and yes, the veritable cinematic smorgasbord is ready to be troughed upon, with local delights mingling among viewers' tastebuds along with tasty international morsels to sink your teeth into.

As well as the Cannes' big hitters, and the local premieres, and the films we've been waiting for but no local distributors will take a chance on, there's much to indulge on, but equally much to choose over, and to schedule.
pick of the litter
Pick Of the Litter

This year's Kedi, though perhaps a little less effective but none the less fluffy, is the puppy overload that is Pick Of The Litter. This sweet-natured doco goes skin-deep on the world of the training of five potential pooches to take on the mantle of would-be guide dogs. Five are plucked from the kennels, and your time is invested in the group - will they make the cut? It's amiable fare, that shies away from some of the details (costs etc) but shows the ruthlessness in which they thrive. It's certainly also one to give animal lovers the fluffy vicarious fuzzies they may seek.

Dog's Best Friend
Dog's Best Friend
At the other end of the spectrum, Dog's Best Friend follows Aussie hardknock dogs rehab centre and its tattooed boss, Jacob Leezak, as he tries to rehabilitate some of the pooches who've been labelled menaces. With a no-nonsense approach to what the dogs need and the mantra it's the owners who make them what they are, director Eryn Wilson's determination to turn these perceptions around is laudable. Never confronting but always insightful, Dog's Best Friend makes a valid case for all animals, even if the fuller details of the humans involved isn't quite as fulsome as it could be.
I Used to be normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story
I Used to be normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story

Equally confusing to outsiders, I Used to be normal - A Boyband Fangirl Story's affectionate look at what fuels fandom sees director director Jessica Leski's affectionate douse its subjects in such a universal appeal that it makes their obsessions seem normal - and whisper it, almost relatable.

Centring on four different fans - 16 year-old Elif, who's a One Directioner, Dara, 33, who's a proclaimed Take That fan, 25 year old Sadia, a US Backstreet Boys fan and 64-year-old Susan who was there at the start of the trend with her Beatles love - Leski's piece becomes more of a rounded piece as it goes on, and makes the case that it's as much a coming-of-age ritual as it is a shared obsession. Packed with energy and soundtracks, as well as some social commentary, the boyband obsession has never been so openly approachable and watchable.

Opening with potentially one of the most visually arresting images of the festival, genial and benign in its intentions, Aga is an intriguing, minimalist slice of slow cinema the festival specializes in.

Set in a location unknown, it's the story of an old couple, Nanook and Sedna. This duo, old and wizened, but clearly blessed with a love for each other that's endured more than just the harsh winters on show, spend their time in their yurt, living the traditions of their ancestors.

From ice-fishing to lying back in a snow angel on the frozen wastes as a plane and its chem-trails head over, life is simple. But it's becoming more of a struggle - and with life encroaching on them, things are about to cataclysmically change. 

If the scope of Aga's white snowy vistas and visuals is vast, the intent of the drama is intimate. Patience is rewarded with a window into a world seldom glimpsed on our screens - and showing the NZIFF is still intent on opening minds.

More loopy, than Looper, Thames-shot crime caper Mega Time Squad is a blast.
Mega Time Squad
Mega Time Squad

A ludicrously-fuelled tale of crime and lack of ambition in middle New Zealand, director Tim Van Dammen's follow up to NZIFF hit Romeo and Juliet: A Love Story is nonetheless stylish.
Centring on Anton Tennet's John, a low-level hoodlum who's in the thrall of Johnny Brugh's crime boss, Mega Time Squad follows the story as John gets ambitions for more - a move to Paeroa for love.

Aided by a mysterious Chinese trinket, the film's heart is in its love story - but not at the expense of anything else that matters as it brilliantly unspools.

Fresh, enticing and flipping funny, Mega Time Squad is easily the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival's best time at the movies.

With over 150 choices to be made at the festival, Q&As to be attended and premieres to be seen, this year's NZIFF feels wider in scope, more enticing in its offerings and proffers more guarantees of good times in the cinema. There's no sign of it going away, and although they say life begins at 40, it's clear hitting 50 for this festival is showing no signs of slowing down.

Stay tuned for more previews, director Q&As and reviews as the Auckland leg of the festival gears up for kick off!

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