It lingered longer than usual, thanks to Harry Potter 7.2 hogging all the 3D screens, but the New Zealand International Film Festival has finally wrapped in Auckland. You only have to look at Festival Director Bill Gosden’s weary but upbeat face to know, it’s been exhausting. While Aucklanders recover from our post-festival fatigue, the NZFF is now weaving its way around the country; moving, entertaining and exhilarating new audiences.
Most of the comments from people I’ve spoken to about this year’s programme have been positive. It does after all feature a great collection of recent award winners from Cannes and Sundance Festivals, and an impressive variety of documentaries. There have been a few grumbles, probably more about the parking options in Auckland than the films themselves, and is normal at a festival to hear people talking about being underwhelmed by a film just as much as being overwhelmed by a film. I’ve certainly been, but that’s the exciting thing about a film festival, often, you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get. I don’t mind a little Hollywood escapism, but for two weeks, it’s a joy to go to the cinema and see film after film where you can’t guess the entire storyline from its trailer.
Overall, I think it was a very good, solid showing this year. I was initially a little hesitant about the selection of New Zealand director Florian Habicht’s Love Story as the opening night film, but I was completely won over by his charming and unique film, his enthusiasm for his art, and his bright orange pants. If the festival is heading your way, make the most of it.
THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS ON RIALTO CHANNEL
Taking a look at the week ahead here on Rialto Channel, I’m looking forward to the Official Selection screening of The Messenger (Saturday 13th August, 8.30pm). I’ve haven’t seen this military drama, it was released in 2009 when everyone was talking about The Hurt Locker, and stars Ben Foster as an injured US Army officer who returns home to find himself assigned to the Army’s Casualty Notification service. Woody Harrelson also stars as his commanding officer, and together they are the bearers of bad news to families of fallen soldiers. According to Variety, Foster delivers “a complex and moving performance” in his first lead role, and I’m interested to see how director and co-writer Oren Moverman handles such devastating material in his debut feature.
Wednesday night needs a mention as it features a stellar lineup starting with the contentious award winning Australian drama Samson and Delilah (6.50pm), followed by New Zealand director Jane Campion’s captivating Bright Star (8.30pm). This wistful drama about the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne is, in my opinion, Campion’s best work to date. It doesn’t end there, if you were distracted by a game of sport on Saturday night and missed A Single Man, you can catch it again at 10.30pm.
Best way to end the week? Watching Robert De Niro in Eliza Kazan’s 1976 classic The Last Tycoon (Sunday 14th August, 8.30pm)