Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Local efforts lead film festival

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Blogger Dominic Corry takes in some Kiwi movie highlights ahead of the launch of the International Film Festival.

Heading into this year's film festival, there's an air of rare vitality to the Kiwi films on offer.

It's a section of the festival that sometimes requires a little effort to get genuinely excited about, but my interest was very easily piqued by many of this year's Kiwi crop.

I would challenge anyone to watch footage from Zoe Mcintosh's The Deadly Ponies Gang and not be curious to see more.

The two central figures here, Clint and Dwayne - I'm thinking of them as an equine Bill & Ted - seem tailor-made for a big screen showcase and I can't wait to see how the film explores their world.

The Deadly Ponies Gang isn't a mockumentary, but promises a "merging of real lives and comic personas". Today's sophisticated comedy landscape definitely allows for such storytelling ambiguities, but I am also intrigued to see how the narrative will come together.

I'm strongly in favour of there being a moratorium on straight dramas in New Zealand cinema for at least a generation. We've made more than enough of those for now.

If we want our cinematic culture to evolve, then it's time to get really weird. The weirder a Kiwi film, the better.

Succeed or fail, a sense of uniqueness can artistically justify anything. Bravo The Deadly Ponies Gang for not seeming like anything I've ever seen before.

Director Tim Van Dammen is responsible for some of New Zealand's more interesting music videos, which no doubt played a role in him being selected to helm a new high-concept musical version of the bard's best known play.

Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song went into production with the songs already recorded and Van Dammen tasked with bringing them to visual life.

With the inherent drama of the source material driving it forward, the press materials promising "bad haircuts and bad influences" and filming having taken place in a campground up north, it's anyone's guess as to the exact aesthetic that will be presented, or if this will even be identifiable as a New Zealand film.

Whatever the case, I'm on board.

Just as The Deadly Ponies Gang fuses the new filmmaking school with the old by having Costa Botes (Forgotten Silver) as editor, Romeo & Juliet: A Love Song received some post-shoot guidance from long-term Peter Jackson collaborator Jamie Selkirk.

For reasons I'm not able to completely identify, I am strongly drawn to any movies that empathise with the mundanity of retail work. Curtis Vowell's film Fantail is about a young petrol station attendant played by Sophie Henderson, upon whose one-woman play this film is based.

I'm sure Fantail has plenty to say about life, the universe and everything, but I'm excited for the graveyard-shift-at-the-servo stuff. It's not difficult for films in this milieu to tap into a quiet urban poetry (see Clerks, Suburbia), and I look forward to seeing Vowell and Henderson engage this dynamic.

The boldness of this year's narrative Kiwi offerings extends to the documentaries as well, with lots of attention focusing on Soul in the Sea, already famous for its Department of Conservation showdown scene.

The film is about a human-friendly dolphin named Moko who died in 2010, and the impact he had on the coastal communities he visited.

It doesn't appear to have much of a New Zealand focus, but Kiwi director Stephanie Beth's Us and the Game Industry sure looks fascinating nonetheless, especially coming at a time when the positive side of the "Are games art?" debate is gathering steam.

Other Kiwi docs eliciting interest in me are Venus: A Quest, Don Driver: Magician and Amthony Powell's sure-to-be-breathtaking time-lapse project Antartica: A Year on Ice.

* Are you looking forward to this year's Kiwi films? Any in particular? Keep an eye for my festival blog from Friday. Comment Below!

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