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April 2, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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World Cinema Showcase: A Choice Selection

For the cinema junkie, New Zealand’s geographical isolation is often a cause for despair. All too often our screens are polluted with the latest Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich blockbuster; films that offer different perspectives and worldviews are few and far between. Thank goodness, then, for the World Cinema Showcase, which brings us a multitude of international gems year in and year out.

In this critic’s opinion, this year’s line-up is simply fantastic. There’s something to sate everyone’s cinematic appetites. While the focus appears to be on documentaries, there are a number of fantastic dramas and even some unexpectedly brilliant animated films – continue reading for more.

THE TALL MAN

The Tall Man is, ostensibly, a story about how an Aboriginal man was beaten to death by a police officer. In reality, the film skilfully depicts the incident as a microcosm of the greater social issues faced by Australian society.

Stylish cinematography is melded with touching vignettes about the harsh realities of life in Aboriginal communities; idyllic island views are juxtaposed against images of abject poverty and the people whose lives have been shattered by this tragedy. Director Tony Krawitz manages to convey a sense of a broken community that feels disconnected from the ‘white Australia’ that has consistently denigrated them, and it is impossible not to be struck by the gravity of the situation that his film so expertly illustrates.

Thankfully, for all the gravity of the subject matter, the film refuses to condescend to its audience. Instead of painting Hurley, the alleged murderer, as the epitome of evil, the film opts to judiciously examine the wider social context underlying his actions.

For an intelligent, affecting dissection of the racial divisions in Australia, look no further than The Tall Man.

ALOIS NEBEL

After fifty years of occupation by the Soviet Union, Czechslovakia is struggling to find a sense of itself as a nation,
much as the titular Nebel, an aging stationmaster, tries to find a path to guide him. Uncertainty is this stunning film’s unifying theme, as everyone is unsure of their place within the world. Its striking visual style is both enthralling and evocative, creating a memorable film whose images linger in the viewer’s mind.

Dialogue is scarce; the film is more interested in elegant expression than in blunt explanations and exposition. The animation is stylish, with a sharp delineation between light and shadow. The atmosphere that is generated is remarkably bleak, yet deeply involving.

Whilst light on narrative, there is no question as to the film’s powerful visuals and ability to evoke emotion. For those who prefer animation to be an emotive tool, rather than mere eye candy, Alois Nebel will undoubtedly interest you.

HELL AND BACK AGAIN

This is a raw, unflinching examination of the effects of war, as expressed through the viewpoint of one soldier returning from Afghanistan, Nathan Harris.

Harris is laid bare for the audience, warts and all. His detached and cold demeanour is disturbing, yet captivating. Through him, the film finds an empathetic perspective that encourages us to recognise the psychological effects of war, even if we do not necessarily sympathise with him.

The intercutting between the war and its aftermath is seamless, and effectively develops how the instances of one period play into the other. A moment of quiet panic is juxtaposed against a harrowing battle, accompanied by appropriate audio cues; the camera refuses to shy away from these brutal sequences. It continually hovers over Harris, capturing the horrifying moments that these soldiers must endure.

All in all, it may be a disturbing and conflicting watch, but that also makes Hell and Back Again essential one.

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  1. Gerald says:

    Just to clarify that Hell and Back Again is told from the perspective of one soldier whilst in Afghanistan and after he suffers a serious injury and is sent home. Apologies for the omission.

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