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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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Shustak

Unfortunately, by the time this issue of Salient has come to print, the DocNZ festival will have just concluded in Wellington, and will be on its way to Christchurch. Though it is a bit late to plug the festival, it’s still worth noting the programme operates as a useful guide for seeking out some great documentaries. One of the films I was able to see was Shustak, a film about the Jewish American photographer Larence Shustak, a larger-than-life character who relocated to New Zealand in the seventies. Shustak is a loving, yet honest eulogy, obviously made with great care by Shustak’s friend Stuart Page.

Shustak is a difficult man to like—this is largely due to some of the less than fond memories related by some of his children who only ever refer to him as “Larry”. Despite this, humanity emerges in his photographs and in the accounts of his friends and students here in New Zealand. Shustak’s devotion to photography and his rolling stone gathers no moss credo make him a irrepressible character, who was undoubtedly magnetic and influential to those who surrounded him. Page has succeeded in garnering good interviews from his subjects, as well as mixing the talking heads with candid home video footage of Shustak, and interviews with the man himself.

A problem with documentaries about artists is the temporal nature of film, which means we are often not accorded enough time to spend with the works themselves. The problem extends further when attempting to cover an artist’s lifetime in a mere ninety minutes. This is not a failing of Page’s film, but rather a failing of the brevity of feature length documentaries. A retort to this is that it offers the viewer an opportunity to then seek out the artist’s work themselves, and in Shustak’s case this is something I am compelled to do.

This documentary is typical of why Creative New Zealand funding is a good thing. Through their help, Page is able to make a tribute to a man many New Zealanders would otherwise never hear of. Whether documentaries chronicle our nation’s defining moments, or offer smaller portraits of artists like Shustak, the more we produce the better, because in my opinion New Zealanders are pretty good at making them.

Directed by Stuart Page
Lucio makes its NZ premiere is in the 2009 Documentary Film Festival.

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  1. tom appleton says:

    hab mir den film reingezogen für 15.50 dollar — super beschissen hoch vier, ein beschissen gemachter film über einen beschissenen typen, beschissen langweilig und beschissen irrelevant. genau so würde ich mir einen neuseeländischen dokumentarfilm vorstellen, wenn ich zb in wien oder new york wohnen würde und mir einen neuseeländischen film ansehen würde. im arte könnte ich einfach weiter klicken, hier musste ich im kino sitzen und warten ob das ganze irgendwann noch mal rund wird. im gegenteil, der filme wurde zusehends unrunder. ich überlegte mir schon, ob das ganze nur eine verarschung sein sollte, wie forgotten silver, aber danach sah s nicht aus. als der abspann lief mit lauter beschissenen flying nun titeln hab ich dann das kino eilends verlassen. das publikum blieb noch ehrfurchtsvoll sitzen. vielleicht wollte der regisseur uns noch irgendwas mitteilen, oder es gab kanapees umsonst hinterher — aber dazu hatte ich ganz bestimmt keine lust mehr. ich hab vor einiger zeit einen dokumentarfilm über rita angus gesehen, der film hieß — sehr phantasievoll betitelt, lovely rita. über eine frau, an der nun wirklich gar nichts lovely war. auch da wieder ein saudoofer film, über eine frau, deren kzwächterinnenblick mir kalte schauer über den rücken laufen lässt, eine malerin, die bunte postkartenbildchen gemalt hat wie nur je eine kunstnazisse, und die hier hagiographisch abgefeiert wurde, als gäbe es überhaupt keine mindesthöhe für den limbo beim kunstdiskurs.

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