Tonight’s the night - well if you’re Auckland based it is - as The 2012 New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off with the award winning Beasts of the Southern Wild. Quite frankly, I’m excited.
Tonight’s the night - well if you’re Auckland based it is - as the 2012 New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off with the award-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild. Quite frankly, I’m excited.
This year, Rialto Channel is sponsoring three films featured in the NZIFF programme; Michael Haneke’s Amour, Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister and Bart Layton’s The Imposter.
Little needs to be said about Amour - it’s the film on everyone’s lips after it scooped the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year, and it quite rightly features as the Centrepiece in the Big Nights at the Civic section of the programme.
Your Sister’s Sister is the fourth feature film from writer/director Lynn Shelton (Humpday, My Effortless Brilliance) and stars Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt as sisters with designs on the same man. This comedy has been reviewed well, with many critics commenting on the superb and naturalistic performances, and Shelton’s ability to reproduce reality with wit and effortless charm. This too should be on your short list.
But the film I really want to talk about is documentary The Imposter. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year; transfixing audiences with its unique stylistic approach to storytelling.
Layton’s documentary recounts the true story of how legendary French-Algerian serial identity thief Frederic Bourdin managed to convince a family in Texas he was their son Nicholas, who had gone missing three years earlier at the age of 13.
A mix of traditional documentary with film noir-like dramatic reconstructions the film plays out like a psychological thriller, filled with shocking twists and turns revealed by Layton’s interviews.
It was a tricky story to make sense of, as Layton told Alexandra Byer at the industry website Filmmaker recently.
“The hardest part was figuring out how to make sense of all the subjective and often conflicting versions of events described by each of the interviewees - this paired with the perennial problem of how to condense something that had happened over many months into just 90 minutes. The solution seemed to me to try to follow each of those characters’ journeys more or less chronologically and allow the story to unfold for the audience in a way that reflected the twists and turns that each of the interviews threw up. The other big challenge…was finding a visual language to describe the past that was unlike anything you might have seen in a documentary before”
Layton went on to explain to Filmmaker how he and DOP Erik Wilson came up with their unique and inventive “visual language”.
“My idea was to play with notions of memory and subjectivity – not to try to create some kind of faux archive that the audience would be invited to believe was real – instead I wanted to create something vivid and almost dream-like and not a great deal like reality at all. So my friend and DP, the amazing Erik Wilson, and I set about creating a somewhat film-noir world full of atmosphere and conflicting colour temperatures. My intention was also to blur the lines between documentary and drama – there are moments in the film when the interviewee and the actor intersect or overlap in their speech or movement and moments when the actor seems to address the camera – the idea here is to weave the past and present together seamlessly but also remind the audience that this is a subjective account of the past. From the very first scene, I wanted to make clear in the visualisation that this is not what “must” have happened but an attempt to illustrate each person’s version of what they want to tell you happened. My big plan was to try to recreate that movie that plays in your head when someone tells you a truly extraordinary story.”
This may not sound like you’re average documentary, but don’t be afraid. As The New York Times’ critic Jeannette Catsoulis wrote in her review “It's also one of the most entertaining documentaries to appear since Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film similarly obsessed with role playing and deception”.
Put it on the list people!