Dozen of the best at yearly festival

Whittling down this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival into a dozen picks,
sight unseen, may seem foolhardy, given there’s a choice of more than 140 different

Mia Wasikowska stars in a scene from the movie Maps to the Stars. (CNS photo-Disney)

Even the most hardened festival-goer has to be ruthless, perhaps forgoing the
major attractions in favour of the more obscure delights.
This is because a good number are being previewed ahead of wider release over the next 12
It took local production Fantail (reviewed June 15-22) that long to return. But it’s not
easy to pick what will come back and what won’t.
Festival organisers don’t let on, as it could affect their box office. In addition, outside
Auckland and Wellington, the festival loses a number of titles as it heads around the
Topping any list must be the big winners at Cannes this year. This means putting a tick
alongside Maps to the Stars, director David Cronenberg’s Hollywood satire with Julianne
Moore in her Best Actress Award performance.
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep won the Palme d’Or for his epic three
hours-plus triangular domestic drama set in Cappadocia about a retired writer, his stifled
younger wife and his recently divorced sister.
Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders (Le meraviglie) concerns a family
of beekeepers and was a joint winner of the Jury Prize, whose panel this year was chaired by
New Zealand’s Jane Campion. The offbeat humour has been likened to Little Miss Sunshine. Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (Liaviafan) is a harrowing drama that applies the biblical story of Job to the modern abuse of power. It won Best Screenplay for writer Oleg Negin.
Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall is based on the life of twice deported Jimmy Gralton, who brought New York dance music to Ireland in the 1930s by reviving a family-founded community hall amid much
Muslim fundamentalists in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu impose sharia law and
ban music in the historic Saharan desert city, but they cannot destroy the human spirit.
Religion is also to the fore in Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg), a German drama set in a
conservative Catholic sect and enacted in the formal Easter tableaux.
The Belgium- based Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have twice won the premier Palme d’Or at Cannes, but missed out this time with Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit), a workplace drama about a woman who has only one weekend to persuade her colleagues to give up their bonuses so she doesn’t lose her job.
An avalanche disrupts the skiing holiday in the French alps of a Swedish family in Force Majeure. As the mother calls to the father for help to protect the children, he takes off to save his life and leave consequences to be faced later.
A strong contingent of Australian entries is headed by the unmistakable face of David
Gulpilil in Charlie’s Country. He won the Best Actor Award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard
selection for unusual fare.
The thriller choice is also formidable with Night Moves, about eco-activists and looking
like a repeat of last year’s The East, while the Critics’ Week favourite was When Animals
Dream (Nar dyrene drommer), a Danish horror storyin the Nordic noir tradition of
the Swedish Let the Right One In.
The NZ International Film Festival runs for two weeks in Auckland from July 17 to August 3 and in Wellington from July 25 to August 10. Other centres will follow.

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Michael Otto

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