NZIFF 2013 at a glance

An overview of our New Zealand International Film Festival coverage for 2013.

Correspondents: Aaron Caleb Bardo (ACB), Alexander Bisley (AB), Alice May Connolly (AC), Andy Palmer (AP), Brannavan Gnanalingam (BG), Jacob Powell (JP), James Robinson (JR), Leo Koziol (LK), Robert Metcalf (RM), Sam Brooks (SB), Steve Garden (SG), Tim Wong (TW).

Last updated: September 3, 2013

Big Nights

Utu Redux (Geoff Murphy, NZ) » Interview
“A classic revenge tale set in the carnage of British campaign in the Uruweras in the 1870s.”—BG

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, UK/Germany/France/Cyprus) » Review [1] [2]
“An amalgam of personal fibres threaded through a glossy core of aloof coolness… the purely aesthetic pleasures of the film are undeniable.”—JP

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France) » Review [1] [2]
“Sorrentino films Rome exquisitely… The cinematography is sensual, the editing flows then jars with great relish, and the performances are fitting. A few characters… are poorly drawn, but they’re the exception in what is a beautiful mood piece.”—BG

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, USA) » Review [1] [2]
“On the back of Soderbergh’s recent “State of Cinema” address, one can sense the link between Liberace’s packaging and eventual casting off by the entertainment industry, and the director’s own disgust for Hollywood’s conservatism and treatment of auteurs. The film’s account of the love affair is fascinating.”—BG

Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, USA) » Review
“This adaptation has its own pleasures… Whedon keeps it rolling along well and provides some of the biggest laughs I’ve had this year.”—SB

Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan) » Review [1] [2]
“There is humour, recurring symbolism (trains, of course!), and subtle character observations; little asides that cumulate into something quite powerful. The rhythm is exquisite, and Kore-eda’s real skill in subtext and suppressed emotions is once again to the fore.”—BG

The Past (Asghar Farhadi, France/Italy) » Review [1] [2]
“The past informs every interaction between these characters, and their personal histories are slowly revealed through the course of the film. The effect is harrowing.”—RM

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Retrospective

The Crowd (King Vidor, USA, 1928) » Review
“A visionary epic of everyday struggle and resilience bold enough to forgo the rote escapism and sentiment that the entertainment industry was founded on.”—TW

Goblin play Suspiria (Dario Argento, USA, 1977) » Review
“A kitsch fever dream that only gets more lurid and intensely beautiful with age.”—TW

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1959) » Review
“Hitchcock’s accidental spy adventure delivers an irresistible blend of style, danger, sex, and wit, and as big screen entertainment, it’s nigh on unbeatable.”—TW

Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1954) » Review
“As riveting artifice, it’s as gripping, resourceful, and cheeky as you’d expect from the master of suspense.”—TW

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Aotearoa

Fantail (Curtis Vowell, NZ) » Interview
“A fascinating and brave film anchored by Sophie Henderson’s Kidman-esque performance… [which] brings weight to the narrative’s themes of cultural fluidity. Curtis Vowell’s direction lends a refreshing lightness to a story that both embraces and critiques New Zealand culture, and what that term actually means.”—SB

Nga Whanaunga Maori Pasifika Shorts (Various, NZ) » Preview
“It is intriguing that in what seems to be such divisive times—rich, poor; Maori, Pakeha; young, old; rural, urban; divorced, married—that our new emerging filmmakers are able to explore and reconcile such important social dimensions of modern life.”—LK

Scenes in My Head (Theo Taylor, NZ) » Interview | Review
“Taylor has successfully emulated his humble idols… an honest portrait of escalating anxiety.”—AC

The Weight of Elephants (Daniel Joseph Borgman, NZ/Denmark) » Interview
“Through an intense commitment to the inner world of a shy, sensitive young boy, Daniel Joseph Borgman has delivered a subtly distinctive Kiwi coming-of-age film.”—TW

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

France

Camille Claudel 1915 (Bruno Dumont, France) » Review [1] [2] [3]
“Remarkable for its visual brevity with a particular emphasis on close-ups… an extraordinary study of faces. Juliette Binoche, never more naked than in this performance, asks us to stare directly into her soul.”—TW

It Boy (Bruno Dumont, France) » Review
“Director Moreau successfully makes the transition from horror to romantic comedy, probing the comedic potential of romantic age gaps… A lively script and strong lead performances elicit genuine laughter.”—RM

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

World

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, Austria/USA) » Review [1] [2]
“Moves to its own sublime, unpretentious beat… By the time the credits have rolled on this quietly engrossing film, chances are you’ll still be absorbed in the reverie, and will want to linger behind in the cinema long afterwards.”—TW

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, Canada) » Review [1] [2]
“Is truth a personal concept, or a communal one? Polley’s stimulating film not only opens its can of worms but proceeds to empty them out onto the table to writhe, constantly reforming in plain view. If the director’s goal was to make a highly personal film which speaks as easily to universal experience, then she has most assuredly succeeded.”—JP

Gloria (Sebastian Lelio, Chile) » Review
“Lelio celebrates [Gloria’s] resilience and acceptance of herself—in sharp contrast to most romantic comedies in which the characters have to give something up—and provides an approach for moving forward… The result is wonderful.”—BG

A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang-ke, China) » Review [1] [2]
“Nothing short of masterful, and further proof that Jia is without doubt one of the best directors working today.”—BG

Dormant Beauty (Marco Bellocchio, Italy) » Review
“There is an undercurrent of satire and social commentary, suggesting that Bellocchio—who made his startling debut with Fists in the Pocket (1965)—hasn’t lost his bite as a filmmaker.”—BG

Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami, Japan/France) » Review [1] [2]
“Quintessential Kiarostami… it’s through [a] subtly and mystery of tone that the film must be regarded as a brilliant formal exercise in its own right.”—TW

Lines of Wellington (Valeria Sarmiento, Portugal) » Review
“Like Ruiz’s sublime Mysteries of Lisbon, Sarmiento mines 19th century Portugal to opulent effect… It’s a dark and brooding film that depicts a Portugal in flux and struggling to identify with itself.”—BG

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) » Review [1] [2]
“An amusing, but also very touching film about an insecure young woman struggling with personal isolation… another jewel from Korea’s most consistent auteur.”—SG

La jaula de oro (Diego Quemada-Díez, Mexico/Spain) » Review
“For a deceptively simple road movie, La jaula de oro digs its thematic hooks into some deeply interesting subjects, shedding light as it does on the broader context of (illegal) immigration, and holds its own as a work of worthwhile formal filmmaking skill.”—JP

Child’s Pose (Calin Peter Netzer, Romania) » Review
“A pointed attack on the insidious nature of Communist-era Romania corruption and class seeping into the ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ EU Romania.”—BG

Gebo and the Shadow (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal/France) » Review [1] [2]
“de Oliveira (still going strong at 103) returns with another wonderful small movie… a powerful and emotional account of duty, death, and pain.”—BG

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Fresh

Ilo Ilo (Anthony Chen, Singapore) » Review
“As assured as debut feature films get… Moving yet unsentimental, the film’s final scenes are at once devastating and illuminating in their matter-of-fact brevity.”—TW

The Rocket (Kim Mordaunt, Australia/Laos/Thailand) » Interview
“The easy-going film wears its heart on its sleeve.”—BG

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Bold

Harmony Lessons (Emir Baigazin, Kazakhstan) » Review
“A remarkably assured debut… clearly marks Baigazin as a major talent.”—BG

Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor/Véréna Paravel, France) » Review [1] [2]
“A wholly immersive sensory experience… acutely focused on the rhythms, sounds, colours, sensations and experiences of the natural world, specifically that of deep-sea fishing. One the most visceral and affecting films of the festival.”—SG

Paradise: Love/Faith/Hope (Ulrich Seidl, Austria) » Review [1] [2]
“In the context of a film festival with more than enough eye candy and prestige to go around, Seidl’s Paradise films, not in spite but because of their difficulty, don’t deserve to be ignored.”—TW

Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, France) » Review [1] [2]
“Upfront, this is an engaging, well-crafted, luxuriously paced thriller… On the down-low, this is Haneke directing a Bel Ami film.”—SB

Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico) » Review
“The opening minutes alone are worth the ticket price, a cinematic tour de force in which Reygadas lays down the thematic substance of his film… n exceptional work that requires more than a single viewing to appreciate.”—SG

To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, USA) » Review [1] [2]
“Malick’s brilliant new film conveys everything that The Tree of Life attempted—spiritual discontentment, anomie, a cry about a world that is being destroyed, bittersweet relationships—but in a concise and measured way… [it] simply swoons.”—BG

Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, Philippines) » Review [1] [2]
“Diaz is committed to cinema as a platform for personal artistic expression and socio-political discussion, and is rigorously wedded to the belief that form follows function… There’s much to absorb and plenty ponder in this meticulous, stimulating, magnificent work.”—SG

Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, USA) » Review [1] [2]
“The central thematic line of external forces controlling our lives, culminating in its ‘taking control of one’s own destiny’ climax, manages to stand out despite being purposefully shrouded in the mechanics of the film’s presentation.”—JP

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Independents

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, USA) » Interview
“A fascinating mash of narrative context, surrealist action, and thematic exploration… making for a singularly exhilarating viewing experience.”—JP

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, USA) » Review
“[Greta] Gerwig blossoms through her ownership of the material, which in its lust for life and proud asexuality, dances to a different beat than Lena Dunham’s Girls. Her personality is all over the film… and is a major saving grace.”—TW

Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green, USA) » Review
“The film is a bruised take on the human condition… [it] leaves space around the beats of the movie to give it all a weird tenderness. It has no huge aim but to study its characters and it is all the more endearing for it.”—JR

Starlet (Sean Baker, USA) » Interview | Review
“It’s hard to translate how unique and moving this film is. It gives us two characters who are often marginalised in films… and brings them together in a friendship that is more real and genuine that any I’ve seen onscreen in a long time.”—SB

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Inside Stories

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Mike Lerner/Maxim Pozdorovkin, UK/Russia) » Interview
“Pussy Riot… are awesome. It’s a much-abused word, but I mean it in the classical sense, they are awe-inspiring. Vladimir Putin’s close relationship with Pope Kirill and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church demands protest.”—AB

Valentine Road (Marta Cunningham, USA) » Review
“A dense portrait of a country at the crossroads, Valentine Road slots straight into the zeitgeist of Trayvon Martin and marriage equality debates in the United States.”—BG

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (Alex Gibney, USA) » Interview | Review
“It’s a hypnotic, absurd human drama and Gibney turns it over expertly and from all sides. No one has put this story together in such a complete fashion.”—JR

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Real

The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Norway) » Interview | Review [1] [2]
“It’s no overstatement to say that Oppenheimer’s astonishing documentary will leave you mouth agape.”—TW

56 Up (Michael Apted/Paul Almond, UK) » Interview
“An extremely fascinating and beloved snapshot of an ever-changing England, and a tribute to the extraordinariness of ‘ordinary’ folk.”—BG

Gideon’s Army (Dawn Porter, USA) » Review
“Shows that despite this guarantee of access [to public defenders], the overworked lawyers, the poor pay, and the skewed legal system tell a different story—that justice isn’t being served.”—BG

The Human Scale (Andreas Dalsgaard, Denmark) » Interview
“A salient, visually articulate look at successful cities (Copenhagen, New York), failed cities (Chongqing, Dakar), and the visionary Danish architect Jan Gehl’s ideas.”—AB

The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, Cambodia) » Review [1] [2]
“Panh, in his own formally inventive way, shows devastatingly, the care and detail that was exterminated in each of the Khmer Rouge’s murdered victims.”—BG

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (Sophie Fiennes, UK) » Review
“A hugely entertaining follow up to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema… the section devoted to Titanic and James Cameron’s insipid “Hollywood Marxism” is particularly inspired.”—TW

Three Sisters (Wang Bing, Hong Kong/France) » Review
“Wang’s artless, unadorned images speak eloquently to the deprivation at the heart of China’s unrelenting (some say vicious) social and economic transformation.”—SG

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Extreme

The Crash Reel (Lucy Walker, USA) » Review
“The documentary’s conflict is internal… and we wonder if Pearce is going to, and should, return to his old life. It’s an old-fashioned kind of narrative of rising above adversity, but not in the way that one would expect.”—BG

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Music

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Drew DeNicola/Olivia Mori, USA) » Review
“There are moments of humour, and moments of great sadness… but for me it was full of information, some unknown, some forgotten, and of course the music, much of which had the affect of hearing it for the first time.”—AP

Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger, USA) » Review
“A clever, smart-arsey film, one that’s hugely entertaining and finishes on an unexpectedly moving note.”—AP

This Ain’t No Mouse Music! (Chris Simon/Maureen Gosling, USA) » Interview | Review
“The live music and the primary footage is the film’s highlight—everyday people expressing whatever it is they feel like. And that, when you scrape away the music industry’s mediation, was as far as Strachwitz was concerned all that really mattered.”—BG

Ornette: Made in America (Shirley Clarke, USA, 1985) » Review
“Chaotic, colourful, ornate, and haggard, Ornette: Made in America attacks the audience as Ornette does a reed.”—ACB

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Artists

Us and the Game Industry (Stephanie Beth, NZ) » Review
“Blending intellectual, inspirational and, often existential conversation with video game, Beth’s documentary captures the emergence of a groundbreaking digital genre… a movie about minds on the forefront of technology and independent thinking.”—ACB

William Yang: My Generation (Martin Fox, Australia) » Review
“Yang isn’t a Nan Goldin copy; though largely utilising the snapshot approach, his photos generally are much more celebratory, and look less at the sadness and violence of life.”—AP

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin

Incredibly Strange

Cheap Thrills (E.L. Katz, USA) » Interview | Review
“A comedy marbled with darkness, Evan Katz’s film strikes an excellent balance between cringe humour, out-and-out laughs, and its wryly thoughtful undercurrent.”—JP

Lesson of the Evil (Takashi Miike, Japan) » Review
“Violent, visceral, vengeful… the results are satisfyingly gory, distasteful, and fun.”—JP

A Band Called Death (Mike Covino/Jeff Howlett, USA) » Interview
“From their unmarketable name and music, which sounds like it bypassed Johnny Rotten’s pantomime straight to DC hardcore a decade before that became renowned, to their complete obscurity for decades, these guys were the real deal.”—BG

Screenings: Auckland | Wellington | Christchurch | Dunedin


The New Zealand International Film Festival 2013 opens in Auckland on July 18, Wellington on July 26, Christchurch on August 1, Dunedin on August 8, and tours the remainder of the country thereafter. For regional dates, programme details, and screening times, visit nzff.co.nz.
The Lumière Reader reports from the New Zealand International Film Festival every winter. For additional commentary and opinion, follow us on Twitter.

Release date: July 14, 2013