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July 16, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Wellington Film Festival Preview

This Friday the 36th Wellington Film Festival kicks off so we asked Salient Film Editor Stephen Hay what to watch out for. After all who can dispute a man that watched 45 of them last year?

Thus begins the coolest time of the year for film geeks, the Wellington Film Festival. This year’s festival looks to have many great films. However, these festivals are usually a mixed bag, often the most hyped films are disappointing, while the smaller films can be the real gems. So here is a look at some of the films that are coming in under the radar that have potential.

Brand Upon the Brain is directed by the always brilliant Guy Maddin. He makes his film look old school, as in the style of filmmakers of the 20s and 30s. This is his follow up to his most successful feature film and inspired black comedy musical masterpiece The Saddest Music in the World. Brand upon the Brain looks to be even darker and quite surreal, but still imbedded with Maddin’s seedy sense of humour.

Bamako is a film about a symbolic trial with Africa taking a case against the World Bank, the IMF and globalisation itself. So few films come out of the forgotten continent of Africa, but so many of them are absolutely superb, full of passion and Bamako looks like it will step up.

Death of a President is a mockumentary that looks at the lead up and consequence of the October 2007 assassination of George W. Bush. You will want to see it for just how controversial this is, but what those who have led the outcry against this film really hate is how smart it is. Director Gabriel Range has put forward some hard question about how the America government use the threat of terrorism for it own purposes.

Also, how scary would it be if Dick Cheney was in charge? Half Nelson is the latest take of the white teacher inspiring poor students, but what turns the cliché on its head is the film takes a wider political view. Half Nelson appears to be something very uncommon, edgy and a bit of a risk by American cinema standards.

No Mercy for the Rude is the latest offering from the South Korea film industry that has been pumping out so many brilliant and brutal action films. The host of great Korean action directors are the only ones who have been able to build on the early promise of the Tarantino style, where all others have failed in a big heap of contrived mediocrity. Hopefully No Mercy for the Rude shows that there are good action films still being made.

Comrades in Dreams is a documentary about four independent movie theatre owners and the role they play in the very different parts of the world that they operate. The cinemas are in India, North Korea, Burkina Faso and the USA’s Wyoming. This just sounds like a really cool and beautiful film.

Jesus Camp could very well be the scariest movie ever made. This documentary examines how the Christian Right attempts to brainwash their kids. At the “Kids on Fire” summer camp children learn how speak in tongues, hate gays, discover that evolution is actually a made up theory, and how Harry Potter is evil; But I already knew that.

A Civilised Society is the latest documentary from the New Zealand equivalent of Michael Moore, but without the self-indulgent parts. A Civilised Society is part of his trilogy (along with In a Land of Plenty and Some Else’s Country) that examines the new right economics that have been imposed on New Zealand by both Labour and National Governments.

Killer of Sheep is a pearl from the past. The film was director Charles Burnett’s film school project. This is a depiction of working-class blacks living in poverty. Shot in post riot Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles, this is a piece of social realism that could only come out of the political milieu of the 70’s.

Tales from Earthsea comes out of Miyazaki Hayao (Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and so many other great films) Studio Ghibli and directed by his son Miyazaki Goro. Based on a book by the legendary K Le Guin, this film promises a lot.

Also take a closer look at the films in the 70s Mavericks section from the second golden age of Hollywood. Lastly “That’s Incredible Cinema” part of the festival will often have the weirdest, most sickening and surprisingly excellent films. So, see as many films as you can and I hope some of them are what you were looking for.

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