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Doc Edge 2011: festival films unveiled

Doc Edge 2011 held its unveiling at the Academy in Auckland last night, revealing its festival programme to the public gaze. By the numbers, 51 features and 13 shorts from 20 countries will screen in the festival at five Auckland and Wellington venues over 36 days next February and March.

The NZ contingent of films (six features and three shorts) has its own section in the programme. The features are Dan Salmon’s Dirty Bloody Hippies, Paul Trotman’s Donated to Science, Luigi Cutore and Mark McNeill’s I Am The River, Justin Pemberton’s Is She or Isn’t He?, Dean Easterbrook’s The Jade Bell Story and Luke Wheeler and Peter Simpson’s Stand Up. The shorts are Anna Cottrell’s Lest We Forget, Richard Sidey’s Landscapes at World’s End and Paora Joseph’s Hiding Behind the Green Screen.

Some of these films were amongst those announced in late October.

Of the features not previously announced, Luigi Cutore and Mark McNeill’s I Am the River explores the fallout from a rare insight into 19th century NZ history. A chance discovery provided a link between Maori in the present with tupuna (ancestors) in the past, which then provoked a storm of public protest and continues to raise questions of ownership that divide our cultures.

A documentary filmmaker for over two decades, McNeill is currently more widely known for producing The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show. In 2001, his My Father’s War in Italy won the Best Documentary gong at the Qantas Media Awards.

Dean Easterbrook’s The Jade Bell Story follows Jade, a blind, mute and immobile young man who survived a near-lethal injection of heroin and cocaine. Jade will do anything to get his old life back and by fighting his own war against drug addiction among youth, he believes it just might happen.

The film is the fifth Easterbrook has directed or co-directed through Qiujing Wong’s Borderless Productions, based in Auckland and producing documentaries around the world.

Dan Salmon’s Dirty Bloody Hippies takes a “trip” back to 1970’s New Zealand hippy culture. Salmon is a regular participant in the festival, his TOKI Does New York having screened and Pictures of Susan pitched in the 2009 festival and Forum.

The three New Zealand shorts are all new announcements.

Paora Joseph’s Hiding Behind the Green Screen follows four men trying to break their addiction to marijuana through their love of music, and screens with Australian Matthew Bate’s The Mystery of Flying Kicks, a film about the story behind those pairs of shoes that hang on telephone wires.

Screening as a double bill are Anna Cottrell’s Lest We Forget and Richard Sidey’s Landscapes at the World’s Ends.

Cottrell’s film features New Zealanders telling their Holocaust stories. Her An Abbreviated Life premi?red at the 2007 DOCNZ festival prior to its TVNZ airing. Sidey is a previous winner at DOCNZ, having won the Best Short award in the inaugural 2005 edition with Aeon. A digital media designer and nature photographer, his 2011 contribution to the festival is a non-verbal visual journey to the polar regions of our planet through a triptych montage of photography and video.

The international sections are Best of Fest, Culture Vultures, Heroes and Icons, Shorts and World Cinema, plus two new sections: On the Edge and a Spotlight: All In The Family. The programme is now available in print and will be online very soon.

As for the international films programmed, we will visit those at a later date, but for now simply note that two of them are competing with the Burstyn’s This Way of Life for an Oscar: Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People addresses the Pol Pot regime’s rule in Cambodia in “a profound meditation on the nature of good and evil”; and Shlomi Eldar’s Precious Life tells the story of a Palestinian woman whose son’s treatment for a rare gentic disease is funded by Israeli donations. Complicating matters is her intention to raise her son to believe it’s OK to be a suicide bomber.

The festival opens in Auckland earlier than in previous years on 16 February – hence moving the launch to before Christmas.

There are a few other changes to the festival this time around. One is an extension of the screening venues in Auckland, adding the Academy and Victoria Picture Palace as satellite venues, making it the first time the festival will be seen on the Shore.

All films in the festival will screen in competition in what remains Australasia’s only competitive documentary festival. Category finalists will be announced in late January ahead of the 24 February Gala Awards night.

Another first, this time for any NZ film festival, is the introduction of a iPhone app to be launched before Xmas. This will carry full programme and schedule information. Finally, the festival has appointed TV3’s Kate Rodger as a festival ambassador.

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