New Zealand International Film Festival 2012

8 Jul

It is no accident that The Rag launch coincides with the increasing fervour surrounding the 44th New Zealand International Film Festival. I had always planned that when I finally took the plunge and went out on my own that I wanted to open the blog with a piece on my favourite time of the year. Now that the festival is nearly upon us, it’s time for a look at my top five picks for this year’s NZFF:

  1. Monsieur Lazhar (Dir. Philippe Falardeau, 2011)

This film was chosen as one of two options for partygoers at the NZFF 2012 launch party, wowing the crowd, myself included, and proving it’s award winning reputation more than justified. Monsieur Lazhar follows the emotional catharsis of an Algerian assylum seeker coming to terms with his own grief through his experience of helping a class of students through their loss when a beloved teacher commits suicide. Falardeau handles the material with such grace and delicacy that the many unpleasant events which underpin the story are not overwhelming for his audience. Instead the director gives us an uplifting story of love and hope that should satisfy any cinema goer.

  1. Blackmail (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1929)

Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary tale of murder and suspense is being resurrected in its silent form as part of the festival’s annual special presentation, with a live score performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. This will be only the second screening of the film with it’s new score, written by seasoned composer Neil Brand, making this a film not to be missed.

  1. Rebellion (Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, 2011)

I have followed Mathieu Kassovitz for many years having fallen in love with his directorial style after seeing a screening of La Haine, so I am delighted that a film he both directed and starred in will be screening at this year’s festival. Rebellion dramatises the events that occurred in New Caledonia between hostage-takers and the French military during a hostage situation in 1988. Kassovitz’s cinematic energy, coupled with his unwavering comittment to political activism make Rebellion a sure fire winner in this year’s festival line up.

  1. West of Memphis (Dir. Amy Berg, 2012)

The 1994 murder of three eight year old boys in West Memphis shook America to its core. In the wake of this unspeakably heinous crime, speculation rose to fever pitch before three teenage boys were arrested and charged with the murders. The trial and conviction of the West Memphis Three represents one of the most contentious events in America’s judicial history; here Amy Berg documents the movement to have the boys freed from jail and the eventual overturning of their convictions.

  1. Bully (Dir. Lee Hirsch, 2011)

Director Lee Hirsch puts a human face on the epidemic which is emotionally crippling young people the world over. The film follows five stories, those of Alex, Ja’Meya and Kelby who are verbally and physically bullied at school without respite or aide from school officials, as well as the families of two boys who comitted suicide who are now trying to raise awareness about the tragic consequences of bullying. Hirsch’s film makes a valiant attempt to shed light on an issue which is so often brushed aside. Sadly the film was thwarted by the American censors who, with little foresight, deemed it too offensive to be seen by its intended audience due to it’s use of offensive language. Support Hirsch’s vision and include Bully in your festival itinerary this year.

With that, I’d like to say welcome to The Rag. In the coming weeks you will find the latest news and reviews of arts and culture, along with a dash of politics covered by a team of writers I handpicked for their brilliance and passion. I hope you will all enjoy reading The Rag as much as we enjoy bringing it to you.



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