This year, I lacked the energy to attend more than three films at the festival. Since I am so pressed for time this year, I've been turning to books more than going to the cinema. Going to a movie requires planning and a solid two-hour commitment! With books, I can read them on the bus, in the lift and while walking to work.
My festival film picks this year were:
There Once Was An Island (Te Henua E Nnoho)
Briar's first film, Allie Eagle & Me, was so well done considering how young and inexperienced she was at the time. I was glad to see that TOWAI got a lot of press leading up to the screening. It's a documentary about the island of Takuu which is quickly sinking due to the effects of global warming. It's very sad that the unique culture of Takuu's inhabitants will be wiped out through no fault of their own; my spirit is so tied up with Malaysia, I can't even imagine losing my country like that. I liked how Briar let the islanders speak for themselves, and often filmed them speaking to each other about the dire situation. I kept wondering how Briar managed to capture all these pertinent and interesting conversations, whether she set them up or just appeared with her camera mid-conversation. Also, the two scientists who visited the island to assess the situation were very pleasant characters and appeared to establish a good rapport with the islanders during their stay. I was amused at how they took to wearing sarongs after a while. I'm optimistic that this film will get a general release soon in NZ and would recommend it to anyone.
Nothing at all prepared me for this experience. It's very hard to describe; no wonder the blurb in the festival booklet was nowhere near illuminating. The Room is dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies. It was made in 2003 and has gained serious cult status since, so much so that audiences yell the lines out and arrive at the theatre with props. The movie itself is unremarkable (I've seen worse movies); what made it so watchable was the audience's behaviour. People were yelling (yes, most of the time I couldn't hear the movie itself) jibes and hilarious commentary. For some bizarre reason, framed pictures of spoons appear throughout the movie, so whenever one was spotted, audience members would yell "Spoons!" and waves of plastic spoons promptly flew through the air. I wish my friends had been there with me; this was definitely my highlight for this festival.
Sam Hunt: The Purple Balloon and other stories
This documentary about NZ's beloved poet Sam Hunt is good but it could have been better. Compared to TOWAI, this was not as slick - the choppy editing, the Courier New typeface... Well, it was still enjoyable watching the man perform his poems, hearing his old buddies talk about him, and seeing the old footage of Sam which must have been a pain to source. Young Sam seemed to surround himself with creative people who would become stalwarts in their respective fields. What a magnificent way to live, creative minds bouncing off and propelling each other. Listening to Robin White talk about the sweet old days when she and Sam were virtually neighbours and would often visit each other to share their art, made me envious of such lifelong creative friendships. Good ol' Sam.