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Posted on Thursday 22/11/2012 November, 2012 by Francesca Rudkin
You’ve probably noticed December is approaching fast, and Rialto Channel is, like the rest of us, determined to get in as much as possible before Christmas.

You’ve probably noticed December is approaching fast, and Rialto Channel is, like the rest of us, determined to get in as much as possible before Christmas.  

World Cinema takes you Around the World in 80 Days, playing two films from the same country on Tuesday and Wednesday nights each week. This series begins on December 11th, and the first few weeks features award-winning films from Japan (Norwegian Wood, 13 Assassins), Israel (Ajami, The Human Resource Manager) and Norway (Happy, Happy, Troll Hunter). 

On Sunday 16th December you can join Rialto at 6.25pm and watch our very own Kiwi filmmakers and stars battle it out for an inaugural Moa award at The Sorta Unofficial New Zealand Film Awards. Join me backstage where I’ll be talking to the winners…and maybe a few losers…as we celebrate another awesome year of New Zealand film.

Kicking off December though, is the remarkable documentary How to Survive a Plague (Saturday 1st December, 8.30pm), proudly brought to you by the NZ AIDS Foundation in support of World AIDS Day. It’s the heartbreaking and inspirational story of how a group of mostly HIV positive folk took on Washington and the medical establishment in a determined effort to get access to drugs that transformed AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

How to Survive a Plague is followed by six days of ground-breaking and critically acclaimed gay and lesbian films. Included in the line-up is the compelling New Zealand documentary Men Like Us, which provides a candid look into the lives of nine NZ gay men. I spoke to director Christopher Banks recently, and you’ll be able to check out our interview next week.

We are also in December celebrating the work of gay German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, every Sunday night in our Directors' Showcase.

Fassbinder was the enfant terrible of New German Cinema, and one of it’s most important contributors. A prolific artist, between 1969 – 1982 Fassbinder released over 40 productions (feature films, short films, TV shows, plays and one epic 931 minute TV mini series), nearly all written and adapted for the screen by Fassbinder himself. Not only did he write and direct, he would often take on the role of cinematographer, art director, editor or producer.

His relatively short career can be separated into three phases; static and theatre inspired early works, his Hollywood/Douglas Sirk inspired film making phase, and a final, more varied and idiosyncratic period.

Most of the films featured in the Directors' Showcase are films from this middle stage, from around 1971 – 1977: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1973), Effi Briest (1974), and Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (1975). The series ends with the 1978 classic The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978).

It’s impossible to summarise Fassbinder’s work without writing a small book, but this collection of films illustrate his fascination with documenting the disappointments and cruelty of urban life, which he did compassionately but without sentimentality. He was interested in themes of individuality and championed the plight of the outsiders and loners. Fassbinder loyally cast the same actors over and over again, until his volatile personality alienated them, and took pleasure in being thought of as a difficult and unlikable man.

Fassbinder died at the early age of 37 from a lethal combination of painkillers and cocaine. Imagine what he might have achieved if he’d lived.

Enjoy the December rush.

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