Thursday, 19 July 2018

NZIFF Preview - 2018 - it all begins tonight!

NZIFF Preview - 2018 - it all begins tonight!


It's finally here - the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off tonight.

Selections from around the world, as well as homegrown premieres, animation and film-maker Q&As all mingle into one for the next few weeks as the Auckland leg kicks off, before heading around the country.

There's much to sample - and below are just a few to factor into your choices.

Slick and surprising, Three Identical Strangers benefits from the less-you-know approach going in.
Three Identical Strangers : NZIFF Review

Opening with a talking head saying "When I tell people my story, they don't quite believe it", there's very much the feeling of a shaggy dog approach as it first begins. Essentially, it's the story of how Bobby a freshman at a US college in 1970 showed up on his first day and was told he was someone else - repeatedly by other people on campus.

Deciding to meet with this "other person", a world opens up to Bobby he could never have expected -and it gets stranger from there.

It has the feel of a viral tale writ large, a hoax gone mad, and a truth long buried with implications from the beginning - but in the latter stages of the piece, there's more to chew on than the headline-grabbing opening, a sense that something is dreadfully unfinished. The less you know is weirdly the better for enjoying this.

Some may not be familiar with Australian musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, but this doco Gurrumul may look to change some of that.
Gurrumul: NZIFF Review

Paul Damien Williams' piece follows the history of the Australian artist, whose use of soulful Aborigine tunes and definitive voice captivated a generation back in 2008. Mixing Indigenous languages and simple music, Gurrumul's success was guaranteed, but what came with it was something more than perhaps blind musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu actually wanted.

Williams' piece is somewhat confined by the fact that the reclusive Gurrumul was no fan of talking to the media - not out of arrogance or indignance, but more out of discomfort. Gurrumul's background, his life on Elcho Island and why his sense of community and connection to the land was more important than the possibility of fame.

The end result is humbling and while it may be frustrating to some given how the usual biographical documentaries handle their subjects, this spiritual piece talks of tolerance, tradition and offers treats.
Holiday: NZIFF Review

An icy debut from Danish director Isabella Eklöf, Holiday's message is kind of clear - power corrupts.

Victoria Carmen Sonne is Sascha, who finds herself in an Aegean holiday, complete with all the trappings. That is to say, if the trappings come from the dirty money world of gangsters. Bling, Bodrum and bodies may shimmer in Holiday, but there's an iciness to this film which is maintained throughout. The sun may shine, and everyone may appear to be having a good time, but nastiness is never far away, implied often more than an implicit.

Ruminating on the corrosion of criminals and the tentacles of ugly despair wrapping around them all, Holiday is trippy at times, sickening in others. The wallops don't come till near the end, with Eklöf maintaining the dread as much as is necessary, but never holding back.

Placing the psycho among the psychotropic, Panos Cosmatos' Mandy is a curious beast, likely to satiate an Incredibly Strange audience, but unlikely to burst out of its cult bubble.
Mandy: NZIFF Review

Starting with Nic Cage in full lumberjack mode felling a tree (not a euphemism), Cosmatos's under siege piece takes its 80s vibe and fully runs with it.

Cosmatos makes his piece a masterclass in lighting, soaking many scenes in red and backlighting the fight scenes with spotlights - it's a visual lunacy that's worth embracing.

Mandy may drag a little in parts, a fever dream that's extended beyond need, but Cage's fans will be happy to see their hero, in his tighty-whiteys, doing what he does best - chewing up the scenery (and doing a large amount of cocaine at the end of one scene).


It's possibly fair to say that Bing Liu's debut documentary film Minding The Gap was never planned to be anything more than capturing stolen moments of boys-being-boys, skateboarding and shooting the breeze in small town America.
Minding The Gap: NZIFF Review

But what emerges from the film, once it settles from its initial shots of kerb-hopping and open-road boarding and divests into life, is a fascinating, maddening and saddening portrait of what it means to be a boy, and how it is to grow up a man these days.

It may sound gimmicky but what occurs organically in this film is a wealth of paradigm shifts, each more subtle than the last, but each with more resounding consequences than are to be expected

Minding the Gap is a human take on where boys struggle with being men, and where toxic masculinity resides ; poignant, powerful and prescient, it's a documentary that lingers long after.

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

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