New Zealand International Film Festival — Dunedin

by Mr Wainscotting

I’m a film nerd. From 4th to the 21st August, Dunedin will be regaled with this year’s NZFF. This year, I’m pleased that, for once, we have a selection of queer films amongst the lineup. There are a number of other good films worth seeing this year, though only a handful hold my particular interest.

Dunedin gets five queer films this year. Ours is the smallest of the main centres, so we don’t get all the films that Auckland or Wellington get, and the queer films are usually the first to be culled. (Even in mainstream cinema, it took months for a print of Milk to reach the south, even after it’s Oscar victories. (I was told that Auckland cinemas were hogging all the prints, but that would mean that the distributors only purchased a very small number for the whole country).)

So, in no particular order, here are some of the films I’m looking forward to (quotes are taken from their entries on the NZFF website):

Heartbeats (Canada, 2010)

Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother) brings a “sharp, ebulliently stylish tale of two best friends fighting for the same boy.” “Francis (Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) are a couple of drop-dead gorgeous twenty-something hipsters whose friendship is rocked when they both fall for Nicolas. Luscious and elusive, the curly-headed blonde is the definition of ambiguous, flirting with both of them and enjoying the power of his attractiveness. Intoxicated by the image of Nicolas (in one party scene, Francis sees him as a series of Cocteau drawings while Marie sees Michelangelo’s statue of David), the pair refuse to let reality intrude on their constructed world… Dolan’s queer reworking of the romantic ménage à trois… is heightened by a black, psychological dimension that constantly threatens to disrupt the film’s dreamy surfaces.”

92 minutes. French with English Subtitles

  • Rialto, Friday 19 August, 8.15pm
  • Rialto, Sunday 21 August, 6.30pm

Tomboy (France, 2011)

“Young French filmmaker Céline Sciamma explores, with luminous grace, children’s notions of gender and identity… Androgynous Laure hovers between childhood and something else… When a next-door neighbour asks Laure her name, she forthrightly responds ‘Michaël’. Soon Michaël, bare-chested and bold, is playing soccer with the local boys. However, trying out boys’ stuff requires deception that Laure will have difficulty maintaining.”

84 minutes. French with English Subtitles

  • Regent, Saturday 13 August, 4.00pm
  • Rialto, Tuesday 16 August, 11.00am

Circumstance (USA/Iran/Lebanon, 2011)

“The world of sex, drugs, and underground nightclubs in Iran provides the backdrop for Maryam Keshavarz’s lusty, dreamy take on the passionate teenagers behind the hijabs. Risking jail and worse are the sassy, privileged Atafeh and the beautiful, orphaned Shireen, who, much like young women anywhere, just want to be free… The difference here is that they’re under constant, unnerving surveillance… Nevertheless, within their mansion walls and without, beneath graffitied walls and undulating at intoxicating house parties, the two girls begin to fall in love with each other, as Atafeh’s handsome, albeit creepy older brother Mehran gazes on… Filmed underground in Beirut, with layers that permit both pleasure and protest… Circumstance viscerally transmits the realities and fantasies of Iranian young women on the verge.”

105 minutes. Farsi with English Subtitles

  • Regent, Friday 12 August, 8.45pm
  • Regent, Monday 15 August, 1.15pm

Weekend (UK, 2011)

Andrew Haigh offers us “a salty, insightful love story buoyed by sex, drugs and testing differences of opinion. Russell, a pool lifeguard, parties with his straight friends before heading to a bar where he picks up Glen. Glen turns out next morning to be a one-man gay liberation front, not really Russell’s style at all. As the goad away at each other, the film offers us the pleasure of seeing them ease up on their practised personas and grow in each other’s eyes… This intimate encounter is as engrossing to witness as it is poignant… I’m guessing you’d have to be insanely heterocentric not to take this particular man-on-man affair to heart.”

96 minutes. English

  • Rialto, Friday 5 August, 8.00pm
  • Rialto, Saturday 6 August, 8.15pm
  • Rialto, Tuesday 9 August, 8.15pm

Beginners (USA, 2011)

Mike Mills delivers “a romantic comedy of appealing depth and thoughtfulness, Oliver, a Los Angeles graphic designer (Ewan McGregor, slow-burningly charming) ponders his budding new relationship with a mercurial young actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent)… Mills has based his film on experience: almost immediately after the death of his mother, his 75-year-old father announced that he was gay, always had been, and intended finally to do something about it. As Oliver’s father, Christopher Plummer is wonderful. He tempers the old man’s headlong pursuit of love and liberation with incredulous delight at his own lack of embarrassment. He is perfectly matched by McGregor and their tender mutual perplexity suffuses the movie.

105 minutes. English

  • Regent, Sunday 7 August, 5.45pm
  • Regent, Wednesday 10 August, 1.00pm

Miss Representation (USA, 2011)

This is a feminist doco, rather than a queer one, but one need only make a cursory glance of this blog or the many feminist blogs in New Zealand or elsewhere to see that queer and feminist issues have many parallels and overlaps. Jennifer Siebel Newsom explores the question of why half the human race are under-represented in the media and politics. I also really want to see it because it has Margaret Cho in it, who is queer, and I hope will be just as deliciously vulgar in this as she is in her stand-up.

95 minutes. English

  • Rialto, Thursday 11 August, 6.16pm
  • Rialto, Saturday 13 August, 11.00pm

Here’s some other films I’m dying to see at the festival:

Metropolis (Germany, 1927)

This one is for the sheer film-porn of it. Fritz Lang’s amazing 1927 thriller paved the way for science fiction cinema, pioneering special effects that would still be used over 70 years later in The Lord of the Rings. Restored in 2002, the film was missing about 25 minutes of footage, which in 2008 was found when a worn 16mm print was discovered in Buenos Aires.

“… a crypto-Marxist, proto-Fascist… art deco futuro-fable of industrialist excess, proletarian rebellion, and robot romance, one of the last big-budget exhilarations of the pre-talkie era. Once considered merely hokey and excessive, Lang’s hyper-capitalist vision of workers oppressed by mechanical Molochs as their labor sustains a paradise for wealthy technocrats now seems both quaintly steampunk and disjunctively contemporary… Lang’s impossibly vast skyscraper-ziggurats… are the blueprint for nearly every science-fiction movie city of the past 30 years… Mixing European avant-garde techniques with Hollywood mass-cult extravagance, Metropolis’s staggering architectural scale and syncopated near-musical choreography still seem surprisingly contemporary in an age that has far from tired of seeing the future in harshly dystopic terms.”

150 minutes. German with English Subtitles

  • Regent, Thursday 18 August, 12.45pm
  • Regent, Sunday 21 August, 3.00pm

Le quatto volte (Italy/Germany/Switzerland, 2010)

“Michelangelo Frammartino’s ode to the cycles of nature applies a wryly detached ‘documentary’ eye to what is in fact a meticulously staged and richly loaded drama – in which some of the principal actors are mineral, vegetable and animal. Here humanity is no longer at the centre of the universe, simply part of its mysterious process: we see a mighty tree accorded more ceremony in death than a superstitious old man. Frammartino’s eye on the animal world is little short of miraculous. He holds us enthralled by the territorial contests of baby goats – and, in a shot that will live forever in cinema history, floors us with the intervention in human affairs of a dog.”

88 minutes.

  • Regent, Thursday 11 August, 4.00pm
  • Regent, Saturday 13 August, 1.45pm

Hot Coffee (USA 2011)

“The case of the little old lady who spilled hot coffee in her lap, sued McDonald’s for millions and won is legendary. Susan Saladoff’s documentary investigates what really happened – and shows how easily American corporations can misrepresent themselves as the victims of civil suits. The notion of the ‘frivolous lawsuit’ is so widespread by now that trial lawyers, once valiant defenders of the little guy, are generally regarded as predatory opportunists. America has taken the bait, Saladoff argues, voting for so-called ‘tort reforms’ that effectively deny juries the right to assess appropriate settlements. A wider picture is drawn in three other jaw-dropping tales of civil justice eroded by corporate power. Increasingly common ‘mandatory arbitration’ agreements in employment and service contracts waive citizens’ rights to legal redress: Saladoff tells one last story that makes the abuses this can shelter indelibly clear. Such cogent examples of democratic rights under attack may be specifically American, but who of us can take comfort in that?”

88 minutes.

  • Rialto, Wednesday 10 August, 6.15pm
  • Rialto, Friday 12 August, 4.15pm

So, there we are. You can find the pricing and confirmation of the screening times on the website or in the brochure, which you can find around town.

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