Live at the Paramount, Wellington – Nick Ward reviews The Heat; we interview mother and daughter Gaylene Preston and Chelsie Preston-Crayford who both have films in the New Zealand International Film Festival, Sean Baker, director of the LA indie Starlet and Anthony Powell (Antarctica: A Year on Ice).
Now, I’m risking the ire of the extremely helpful and generous New Zealand International Film Festival team here, but I’m going to recommend an approach to festival-going that will probably reward you more than it will them. Here goes: don’t book for anything. Don’t plan your life around any particular screening of any particular film. Especially, don’t book for anything because that’s the one all your mates are going to.
Try this instead. Wake up on any given morning during the festival, feel like watching a movie, have a look through the festival calendar in the middle of the programme (or the handy-sized mini-guide, available soon) and pick a something you fancy based on the title. Or the cinema closest to you. Or the cinema furthest away. Or close your eyes and jab a finger at the page. Either way, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You won’t regret it. Well, you might, but probably not for long.
Every year, this is kind of what I do when I ask the festival publicity team for help with this preview. Give me a stack of screener DVDs, I say, or those new-fangled internet links where I have to watch a film sitting at my desk. No, don’t tell me what they are. Let me guess. Some of my favourite festival experiences have come watching films I knew nothing about, but for those of you who are going to ignore my advice and, um, take my advice, here are some notes on the films I’ve already seen, in no particular order.
I’m a radio-head from my childhood. I love radio, listening to it, appearing on it, making it. I love looking at studios, perving at microphones, the red lights that go on when the mics are live, the silently ticking clocks. Watching Nicolas Philibert’s The House of Radio, I was a pig in shit. I don’t think I’ve been as blissed out as this watching a film for ages. It’s one day in the life of Radio France, where seemingly dozens of stations share a giant Parisian cathedral dedicated to the wireless. News, talk, culture, music – classical, jazz and hip-hop. Philibert’s polite camera peers into their studios and their offices, even the Tour de France correspondent reporting live from the back of a motorbike.
The New Zealand International Film Festival was launched in Auckland and Dan was there. Back at the multiplex, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jay Baruchel play themselves at the end of the world in This Is the End. Viggo Mortensen shows off his Spanish in Everybody has a Plan and James Cromwell has a plan for a house in Canadian drama Still Mine.
Today, at the Virginia Theater in Urbana Ill., a few thousand cinephiles and Ebert-olytes are gathering for the first day of the 15th Ebertfest, formerly known as Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival. I should be with them – I even bought a pass back in November last year – but a change of job meant no annual leave and no money for the flight. Normally, I would just say, “there’ll always be next year” but with Mr. Ebert’s recent passing I don’t know if that will be true.
Instead, we turn our attention to local events and there’s plenty to keep us entertained on top of all the new commercial releases. For a start, the new NZFF Autumn Events initiative – replacing the much-loved (by me) World Cinema Showcase – gets under way today and the festival organisation were good enough to slip me a few screeners so I could tip you off about some of the less-heralded titles. So, I’m going to presume you are already familiar with Lawrence of Arabia and will be camping out overnight to see the the only two screenings of the – reportedly – magnificent 4k restoration and instead I’ll take a look at a couple of docos and a couple of other features.
I was a little snarky towards the NZFF on Twitter when they announced that Baltasar Kormákur’s The Deep was going to play. After all, the last film of his that local audiences got to see was the woeful Contraband starring Mark Wahlberg. It turns out that was a Hollywood remake of an already successful Icelandic thriller that Mr. Kormákur produced and very likely his director’s fee made The Deep possible. So, snark withdrawn.