A fest of films

I’ve always had this awkward relationship with the NZ International Film Festival. Sometimes I throw myself right into it, other times I ignore it entirely. In recent years, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by the choice offered in the programme, and cautious of leaping into see some film only for it to come out on general release the next week.

I’d more or less ignored it for the last few years, but this year, with my realisation that I’m still totally nuts about film, I decided to give the film fest a go.

But this year I based my film-going around two basic rules:

  • No planning ahead. All films are to be decided upon on the day and no tickets bought in advance.
  • No films that are due to come out on general release in the near future.

So I took it day by day and this is what I saw:

Best Worst Movie
Best Worst Movie is a documentary about a film that tried to be a good film but ended up a bad film which in turn made it a good film. The film in question is 1990 horror film “Troll 2” (which has nothing to do with the original “Troll”). After languishing in home video obscurity, the film slowly gained a cult following, and the doco (made by “Troll 2″‘s child star) takes a look at the cast reluctantly revisiting the most embarrassing role on their IMDB profile. It was a little slow in places, but ended up being a joyful, kind-hearted look at films and fans.

The Camera on the Shore
This documentary by Graeme Tuckett looks at the work of New Zealand film-maker Barry Barclay. The only film of his I’d seen before was “Feathers of Peace”, but, as the doco shows, he had a significant career in both film and television work. Sadly, Barclay died during the making of the documentary, but the film includes footage from his tangi, including his friends telling stories about him. The doco’s style just lets the story of Barclay’s life unfold quite organically, without a power narrative pushing things along. The result it a really lovely, moving film about a great New Zealand film-maker.

Tangata Whenua 1
The film festival also included a retrospective of some of Baz’s films. “Tangata Whenua” was a television series from 1974, written and presented by Michael King. The Barclay-directed crew travelled to various parts of New Zealand and let groups of Maori tell their stories. The two episode in this series looked at kuia with moko (there were only 30 left at the time) and the Waikato. It was remarkable seeing footage of the Raglan golf course, with men in walk shorts and knee socks, while the old kuia talked about the great whare nui that once stood there.

Humpday
This was a very talky film, about two old university friends who suddenly become reunited as adults and decide to make a gay porn film together. No, really. The script was clever and focused on the relationship of the two men and the wife of one. The awkwardness and bravado of the conversations got a lot of laughs, though I heard that a daytime session of the same film screened to an almost silent audience. Really, the film isn’t about porn or sexuality, but more about male friendships – and not many films do that well.

Moon
The Tuesday night session (during the 40th anniversary of the first man on the moon!) was sold out, but I got a sweet seat anyway. “Moon” is directed by Duncan Jones (son of some famous guy who wrote some songs about space) and stars Sam Rockwell (who is my boyfriend). Moon exists in a sort of Kubrickian universe, as if the moon of “2001” had been further explored, mined, and just left to get a bit crappy. The story centres around a man who works on the moon, and his discovery of, ooh, another version of himself. What’s going on, and what does Gerty the computer know? “Moon” is a really enjoyable, tense sci-fi.

Every Little Step
This documentary follows the casting process of the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line”, with the idea of contrasting the ambitious contemporary actors with their fictional counterparts from the musical, as well as interviews with the team behind the original musical. Now, I’ve only seen “A Chorus Line” once so I was really surprised at how moving I found “Every Little Step”. But when you take what is quite an emotional musical and couple it with people are going through similar experiences to the characters, and then consider how rare it is for actor/singer/dancers to get good work, then you can see where the drama comes from.

It Might Get Loud
The Embassy was full of rock geeks – people who I imagine read Q magazine. This documentary was all about rock guitar, told through interviews with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Mr Page and Mr Edge seem to have reached a comfortable place in their lives, whereas Mr White is still in a very self-conscious place and seems to want most to be an old black bluesman. The three are brought together for a “summit” – talking about guitars ‘n’ shit while seated on old brown couches – and a great highlight of that is seeing the look of glee on The Edge and Jack White’s faces as Jimmy Page rips into “A Whole Lotta Love”.

All Tomorrow’s Parties
Yeah, let’s finish with some more music nerdary. This documentary looks at the 10 years of the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival, where indie bands play at British holiday camps. Most of the footage seemed to have been gathered together from bits and pieces incidentally filmed over the years, and much of the film’s appeal comes from the clever editing. All the film really concludes is that a bunch of bands have played at various ATPs over the years and most people there had a good time. But isn’t that all you really want in a festival?

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