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Festival Fare: NZIFF, 1 April 2016

For the programming team at NZIFF Easter break = four phone-free days to sit at home streaming submissions. Invited to blog a little about NZIFF Autumn Events, herewith 13 random thoughts about films and filmmaking relating to the 13 films on our April/May programme.

Kurosawa’s epic adaptation of King Lear (with conniving brothers in place of Shakespeare’s sisters) is replete with stunningly choreographed battlefield chaos – but the soundtrack is miraculously sparse.
“THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” If you tell a lie big enough…
The Iron Giant
Like so many widely loved movies, Brad Bird’s 1999 animated feature was a box-office flop on its initial release. The reviewers always liked it though, give or take a few who took exceptions to its anti-gun messaging aka political correctness.
The Philadelphia Story
Twitter was not required in 1938 to inform Katharine Hepburn that she was box office poison. The counter tactic was to create a role in which her tall poppy persona was cut down to size. It was just what audiences wanted to see, first on stage, then in this perennial favourite of high society romcoms.
Stop Making Sense
Unless you are setting out to record a historical phenomenon (Woodstock, say) it makes very good sense to keep the live audience out of a concert movie: the audience in the cinema steps into the role and the performance stays in the present tense.
The King and I
Yul Brynner is forever associated with this role which he played on stage 4000 times. When he won his Oscar for it, there were those who scoffed that he was merely doing what came naturally. Sixty years on, his sensual grace still provides an elaborately artificial construction with vitality and spontaneity.
Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words
The daughter of a photographer, Ingrid Bergman knew from an early age that the camera loved her.
Bolshoi Babylon
In the wake of the acid attack on its artistic director, the Bolshoi Ballet’s new General Manager agrees to cooperate with British documentary filmmakers Nick Read and Mark Franchetti in the hope of managing the company’s image. Even such calculated openness feels imperilled in the Machiavellian world their film describes.
Where to Invade Next
Michael Moore’s smartest, funniest most upbeat film is lumbered with a title that takes a lot of explaining before you get to its point.
Putuparri and the Rainmakers
If you can see past the T-shirts, the 1994 video footage that sits at the heart of this richly layered chronicle of an Australian Aboriginal land rights claim might have been shot 40,000 years earlier.
The Witch
Has there ever been a more intensely researched horror movie? It even looks and sounds totally academic – to begin with.
Sure it’s a great hook, but this is also one beautifully constructed investigative documentary.
Janis: Little Girl Blue
Amy Berg has been assembling (and clearing) material for her Janis Joplin documentary for a long time. It must have provided welcome respite from all her excellent work on polygamists, paedophiles and redneck prosecutors.

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