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July 11, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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The New Zealand International Film Festival

Two weeks ago, the programme for the 40th New Zealand International Film Festival was released into the wild.
It’s characteristically formidable—the prime cinematic cuts from Cannes, classy revivals aplenty, long-awaited offerings from the best directors and an abundance of fascinating documentaries fill out the festival’s wares. Because we only have 400 words’ space (approximately) this week, though, I shall spend them economically, helping you make those tough decisions about what to spend your ticket money on.


Highly-anticipated centrepieces populate the Film Festival’s ‘big nights’—Terrence Malick’s polarising The Tree of Life takes the opening night slot while Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive closes the festival with car chases and Carey Mulligan (a winning combo). Meanwhile, Ghibli adapts The Borrowers with the beauteous Arrietty and Lars von Trier tortures Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia.


Showstoppers abound. Jiang Wen’s madcap Chinese western Let the Bullets Fly is my most-anticipated film of the festival, but that’s not all on offer—Footnote, The Trip and Nothing to Declare provide hearty chortles, Elite Squad 2 and Gantz serve up bloody violence and adrenaline rushes, Meek’s Cutoff, Norwegian Wood and Goodbye offer serious drama and then there’s the long-awaited restorations of Taxi Driver, Metropolis and La dolce vita.
Also recommended: Winter Vacation; Incendies; Illustrious Energy.


There’s a film about Elmo. It’s called Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. That’s all you need to know.


Debut and sophomore directors from across the world populate this section, though there’s names that already carry cinephilic currency here—Na Hong-jin (whose brutal The Yellow Sea promises to be excellent), John Michael McDonagh (writer/director of The Guard and brother of In Bruges’ Martin), Joshua Marston (The Forgiveness of Blood) and Richard Ayoade (Submarine) should pique the interest of any self-respecting film-watcher. The likely highlight, though, is Take Shelter, which has Michael Shannon (possibly) going crazy.
Also recommended: Sleeping Beauty; Martha Marcy May Marlene; Viva Riva!


No-holds-barred violence is the order of the day here, be it in Takashi Miike’s chambara film 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s brutal torture thriller I Saw The Devil, Sion Sono’s off-the-wall serial killer comedy Cold Fish or Jason Eisener’s grindhouse homage Hobo with a Shotgun. It’s going to be glorious.


‘Go Slow’ offers Grand Prix winner at Cannes Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. ‘Sporting Life’ has a trifecta of fascinating sports documentaries in Senna, Bobby Fischer Against the World and Fire in Babylon. ‘At the Barricades’ has a prescient and promising doco about American ‘tort reform’ in Hot Coffee. ‘Inside Stories’ has the latest films from Errol Morris (Tabloid) and Morgan Spurlock (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold). ‘Framing Reality’ has Werner Herzog’s latest (Cave of Forgotten Dreams). Good times. *

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  1. Tike says:

    Fialnly! This is just what I was looking for.

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Burnt Honey

: First tutorial of the year. When I open the door, I underestimate my strength, thinking it to be all used up in my journey here. It swings open violently and I trip into the room where awkward gazes greet me. Frozen, my legs are lead and I’m stuck on display for too long. My ov