St. James Theatre
November 27 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

ONE OF THE big debates in music video analysis is whether the visuals or the music are the most important for a viewer. Handle the Jandle pretends the music doesn’t exist. Outside the obvious criterion that the video is made for a song, this is a contest for the directors and the visual artists. It’s a great forum, it rewards directors and musicians who come up with a good visual idea and bring it to fruition off their own steam. The rules mean that the videos are to be of a DIY nature – the music has to be New Zealand made and the videos self-funded. One hundred and twenty-two entries were received for this year’s Handle the Jandal, and fifteen finalists were chosen from around the country. In the end, the brilliant Hot Grits’ video ‘Headlights’ (the first video banned by TVNZ since 1987, which would matter if TVNZ played music videos these days) won the top prizes from the judges and the audience.

The fifteen finalists, all with something to offer were: The Ruby Suns’ ‘Tane Mahuta’ (dir. Marco Vidaurre), Vorn’s ‘Get Better Work Stories’ (dir. Vorn Colgan), Brand New Math’s ‘Idiot Savant’ (dir. Sam Muirhead), Finnigan Deep Sea Regret’s ‘So Far So Good (dir. Ben Forman/Judah), Little Pictures’ ‘This House Can Fit Us All’ (dir. Daniel Batkin-Smith), Wilberforces’ Tidal Waves (dir. Campbell Farquar), Missing Teeth’s ‘Not For Me’ (dir. Kent Griggs), Moon Balloon’s ‘Video Games’ (dir. Jonas Besson & Paul Raine), Reb Fountain’s ‘TAB’ (dir. Anton Steel), The Short Shorts’ ‘You Don’t Know’ (dir. Brian Hainsworth), Tommy Ill and Buck Beauchamp’s ‘Letters to the Editor’ (dir. Brian Hainsworth), Denmark Street ‘Will You?’ (dir. Daniel Alexander Fowler), Flip Grater’s ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ (dir. Logan McMillan), The Hot Grits’ ‘Headlights’ (dir. Thedownlowconcept), and The Bonnie Scarlets’ ‘It’s Getting Me Down’ (dir. Curtis Baigent). These were presented to a pretty full crowd at the St. James, a step-up in terms of setting from previous awards shows. While the jaunty atmosphere of previous years wasn’t as evident this time around (maybe the awful jokes of the presenters didn’t help in that respect), it was an enjoyable night overall.

The advantages about modern technology is that all of these videos are easily watchable on the internet now, rather than the unfortunate situation in the past where these videos would have disappeared into the ether. Some of the videos were downright hilarious, and were able to transcend their straight-out amateurism. Vorn’s ‘Get Better Work Stories’, a rabble-rousing piece with its mocking of the police had some great use of collage and animation, and Finnigan’s Deep Sea Regret’s ‘So Far So Good’ loving homage/piss-take (which managed to incorporate the Hutt’s greatest landmarks) were two notable examples of this. Moon Balloon’s ‘Video Games’ was a beauty, the video a real-life homage to classic video games. Some of the videos were technically highly proficient, and belied the smaller budgets – Brand New Math’s ‘Idiot Savant’ and ‘Reb Fountain’s ‘TAB’ were extremely polished and showed that music videos simply need a good idea and some talent. The Bonnie Scarlets’ ‘It’s Getting Me Down’ won the best editing award, the video matching the ‘60s harmonies of the group perfectly. Best cinematography went to the highly polished Flip Grater’s ‘Ring Around the Rosie’, while best concept and best rising star went to Denmark Street’s ‘Will You’. Best animation went to the Ruby Suns’ ‘Tane Mahuta’ rather odd video. The overall deserving winner however was The Hot Grits, whose driving funk was perfectly suited to a nihilistic party-video. The problem for TVNZ apparently was the use of children depicting such a scene – of course, they have no issue advertising kids driving around cars in nappies or selling mobile phone networks – as the kids sculled back milk, flirted with each other and ate late night takeaways. The video won best exploitative tactics, audience favourite and the overall award and was beautifully constructed. A fitting winner for a competition which showcased some excellent film work in the country.