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NZFF 2011 finds local films lean to reality

As the festival noted in pre-programme release announcements, the number of local films making it into this year’s festival is considerably down on the bumper crop that peppered last year’s programme. There’s also a heavy lean to documentary, with no fiction features on the menu.

A good crop of 19 local short films features in the Homegrown sections of the programme, plus one in the Artists Cinema programme. The best-known are Stephen Kang’s Cannes winner Blue, Tammy Davis’ Ebony Society. Additional shorts will screen ahead of some feature presentations, including Sam Holst’s Cannes entry Meathead (with The Forgivenss of Blood) and David Coyle’s Where Dad Walked (with Tyrannosaur).

Last year, the festival screened 22 shorts within the Homegrown programme and 24 NZ films in the rest of the festival programme.

Six feature works make the cut this time around, all being (more or less) documentaries: Annie Goldson’s Brother Number One, Costa Botes Daytime Tiger, Florian Habicht’s Love Story (the festival’s opening film), Merata Mita’s Mana Waka, Sally Rowe’s A Matter of Taste and Park Kiyong’s Moving.

If nothing else, the selection demonstrates that NZ still has an extremely healthy and diverse doco community. Annie Goldson’s Brother Number One has been in production for a number of years and – with no disrespect to others – is probably the most anticipated of the local offerings.

It was pitched at Documentary Edge, back in the day (2009) when it was still the DOC NZ Forum. It was at the same event that Goldson and producer James Bellamy met Academy Award winner Peter Gilbert, who subsequently joined the project as DOP.

Of the international offering, diversity is again the word, coming from all continents (unless one includes Antartica) although there’s a preponderance of films from the US. This year’s Asian contingent looks strong, with several films already awarded elsewhere putting in appearances.

From across the ditch, three entries arrive, brought to you by the letter S: Matthew Bates’ Sundance-debuted Shut Up Little Man!, Julia Leigh’s Cannes (main competition) entry Sleeping Beauty and Justin Kurzel’s Cannes (Critics Week) entry Snowtown. Kurzel and actor Daniel Henshall will do the Q&A thing at Auckland screenings on 21 and 22 July. Shut Up Little Man! screens as part of the Incredibly Strange selection.

Other international guests who’ll accompany their films include US documentary maker Morgan Spurlock (POM Wonderful presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold); American Ti West (The Innkeepers); and Kiwi expat Sally Rowe (A Matter of Taste: Serving up Paul Liebrandt).

Of the locals, all will appear except – obviously – the late Merata Mita. Goldson’s, Botes’ and Park’s films all receive their world premiere screenings in Auckland.

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