NZ International Film Festival

Jess Soutar Barron and Bridget Freeman Rock are co-ordinators of The Hook. In general The Hook does not review films, however Jess and Bridie are interested to unpack the Festival itself as a happening. Both avid Festival goers and culture consumers they saw a collective total of 12 films in the NZIFF this year. They discuss the experience, curation, themes and festivals in general:

BFR: Thinking of what films are included and why is interesting. Thinking of that in terms of the arts festival, that process of how shows are chosen, and then the ones which might be a bit more difficult or are there for a minority audience.

JSB: Then if you look around the audience and you see that it’s older, moneyed, female, do you then curate a festival for your audience or do you try and stretch your audience into new things?

BFR: In all the films I saw, people still want to be entertained essentially. Even though it is a Film Festival and there’s room for more edgy films, it’s still a need to be entertained with the curious, the freak. Where as something like Wings of Desire, there were 15 people. And some of those walked out half way through. And this is a beautiful film, it’s long, two and half hours, and it’s quite aesthetic, its artistic rather that telling a particular story.

JSB: Do you think the appetite is there for more documentary than artistic films? Two of the films I saw were about artists. People love being an insider into the art form. Kusama and Yellow is Forbidden were both about the creator of work, rather than being a beautiful piece of work in their own right.

BFR: There’s an interest in the creative process isn’t there. It’s like this popularity of Reader and Writers festivals where there’s an interest in the writer, not necessarily in what they’ve written.

JSB: Is it The Epoch of Behind-The-Scenes? People want to be in-the-know.

BFR: What is it to Be A Creative?!

JSB: The Japanese film I saw – Shoplifters – the Japanese friend I bumped into said that director usually makes documentaries, and it was interesting to know that because the way it was shot it was almost mumble-core, it had a real documentary sense to it. I think you see that more in festivals where makers muddle genre.

BFR: One I saw was called Cold War, a Polish director – Paweł Pawlikowski – and his last film Ida won an Oscar and a big global reception, and it was interesting that the auditorium was still not filled. It’s very artistic, vignettes with gaps between for you to fill, so as a spectator you had to work a little harder, it’s not just handed over for consumption.

JSB: There’s been a fair amount of playing hooky over the past month. Saying I have a meeting in Napier but really I’ve been at the movies. I’ve been really selfish with it. Whenever someone said “Come to a film” I went. One friend said “Come to Woman At War” and one said “Come to Loveling”. I didn’t really know what I was in for. That’s one of the gifts of any festival, it’s a party mix, and I don’t even care if I didn’t enjoy the film it’s just the experience of sitting in a dark theatre with a whole lot of other people and having this journey with them…

BFR: It’s a lovely little escape. And I love seeing the same people in the audience!

JSB: We are great arts consumers here, we’re up for a festival!

BFR: We absolutely justify bringing the festival here!

JSB: Was it just me or where there quite a few strong female films this time.

BFR: There were! I see that reflected in the Arts Festival too. I think that’s reflecting a wider global thematic.

JSB: What I saw in the Film Festival and what I hope to see in the Arts Festival is not just makers of the work but the way they are repositioning who women are and their cultural value system. I am seeing a lot of twisting of the stereotype, which I find heartwarming. I’m actually beginning to see myself on film or in theatre pieces. I think it’s a bit of a relief for men too. I think that kind of stereotyping of the way women should be is hard going for men too.

BFR: Because it’s a narrow scope to place men in too. And if you don’t fit within that…

JSB: It is a great way to slice a culture when you see it as a festival. It’s self-indulgent but it’s immersive…is this my coffee, or this?…

BFR: That’s my coffee. I take my time to ramble my way to clarity. I was just thinking: the great thing about having a festival is it’s like you have this secret happening for two weeks, I had that feeling, that every day I could just run off to a festival film.

JSB: I’ve always had a feeling with festivals that I want to be to one who spotted The One To See. It’s linked to FOMO. You want to have seen the film that people will have FOMO for and you don’t want to suffer from it yourself.

BFR: I have that feeling of wanting to see the ones I chose at some stage. Which ones will I let go? And which ones will come back on general release? Like Celia – that one must be coming back.

JSB: I chose to be really self-indulgent with my choices. Maybe I should have gone to more challenging films, it was all a bit easy. But that’s the thing with a festival, you can choose what kind of audience you are going to be and some years you want to be stretched and some years you just want comfort.

BFR: I did see myself choosing the ones I tend to fall for and being okay with that. I did go to a lot more cerebral and arty films but that’s because here’s an opportunity to see these on a big screen. It’s a joy to be able to pick up these obsessive threads that I’ve been following for years, a progressive theme that I come back to over and over again.

JSB: In the past I‘ve been better at setting myself a challenge and going to the ones that I think are good for my cerebral growth. I didn’t this time but when I have in the past that has thrown up some real gems. This year I took the easy option but maybe next year I’ll push myself a bit more.

BFR: I loved Woman At War, that classic man-alone, action film, against-all-odds, doing all these incredible acts of rescue, was now done with a 50-year-old woman …

JSB:…in a home spun Icelandic jersey!…

BFR:…with orchestral accompaniment!

JSB: It was deeply satisfying. In fact, I think that’s the lasting echo from the Festival, just feeling deeply satisfied, I can almost survive off that for another few months. Really the film is only the filling in the donut. It’s the sneaking off, it’s the eating the ice cream, it’s the secret nod to the people you know who have also wagged from whatever their responsibility is, and it’s the chewing it over with yourself or with a friend afterwards, it’s the whole thing, then taking a breath and launching into another one.

BFR: Because you’re having these conversations not just about what you saw but about what others saw, it’s a puzzling together of pieces. You weave those experiences that are vicarious into your own fabric of the festival.

JSB: In an everyday narrative that is so tied up with social ills and environmental issues and worries about the world it is a really nice change to be spending a lot of thought and energy consuming culture, and culture from around the world. It does make you feel like you’re part of something bigger.




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