International Film Festival starring Auckland

By Russell Baillie

A scene from Predicament. Photo / Supplied
A scene from Predicament. Photo / Supplied

When it opens in Auckland in a month, the 2010 New Zealand International Film Festival will have a decidedly domestic flavour.

It's always been global in its reach during its 42 years as the annual highpoint for the city's film buffs. But this year it is also focussed on Auckland like never before.

Even the programme, which is launched next week, has its own section titled "Auckland Erupts" dedicated to the five features set in the city having their world premieres at this year's event.

Inevitably, those films involve some familiar faces as well as familiar territory.

Both After The Waterfall and The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell feature Outrageous Fortune stars in leading roles - Antony Starr in the former and Robyn Malcolm in the latter.

Starr plays a park ranger living on the West Coast, whose life is up-ended with the disappearance of his young daughter, while Malcolm is the wife of the titular Gazza (played by Aussie actor William McInnes) whose life in Howick with their two teenage sons Marc and Ed comes under pressure from Dad's efforts to make motorsport heroes out of his boys.

"Dads who never grew up are now officially this year's flavour in New Zealand cinema," observes festival director Bill Gosden "and this one has some harsh lessons coming."

It's the feature debut for Brendon Donovan, who was behind television series Insider's Guide to Love and Insider's Guide to Happiness.

Talking of petrolhead-onism, the documentary Gordonia looks at Graham Gordon, whose sprawling car wrecking yard in the Waitakere bush and its residents came up against the local council's district scheme, resulting in a seven-year fight.

Despite that, Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey gives the doco his endorsement: "A breathtaking and heartfelt account of humanity at is raw and confronting best."

The programme also heads to Ponsonby with Insatiable Moon, a story about the bureaucratic and commercial pressure brought to bear on a local boarding house which is the home of Arthur (Rawiri Paratene) - who proclaims himself the second son of God - and other psychiatric patients who become the concern of Sara Wiseman's social worker.

It's directed by Rosemary Riddell from a script by her partner, former Ponsonby minister Mike Riddell.

And with his film Russian Snark, screenwriter Stephen Sinclair turns director for a film about two refugee artists from Russia coping with their strange new life in contemporary Auckland.

There's even enough local films this year to have one included in the "Incredibly Strange" section of the festival programme.

David Blyth, director of Kiwi cult flicks Angel Mine and Death Warmed Up returns with Wound, which Incredibly Strange programmer Ant Timpson describes as "a shockingly supernatural tale of mental illness, bondage, incest, revenge and explicit graphic violence".

Other documentaries with a local focus include The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island, a Dutch production which caught up with six Greenpeace veterans of the ship bombed in 1985, who now make their home in the Hauraki Gulf and Sam Hunt: Purple Balloon and Other Stories, which Gosden says is a "startlingly honest portrait of a man in a state of constant agitation with himself".

But of all the New Zealand movies in this year's festival, the most eagerly anticipated will be Predicament, the fourth and last of Ronald Hugh Morrieson's Kiwi Gothic novels to be adapted for the big screen after The Scarecrow, Came a Hot Friday and Pallet on the Floor.

It's directed by Jason Stutter, who cast old mate Jemaine Clement - he appeared in Stutter's earlier no-budget flicks Diagnosis Death and Tongan Ninja - as the strangely pale "Spook" in the tale of fraud and blackmail in 1930s small-town Taranaki.

Also starring are comedian Heath "Chopper" Franklin as Spook's offsider Mervyn, and Tim Finn as the eccentric father of the film's bespectacled young hero, Cedric (Hayden Frost). Predicament's single screening will be on the festival's closing night, July 24.

LOWDOWN

What: New Zealand International Film Festival 2010
When: Auckland, July 8-25 (programme out Wednesday)
Where: Civic, SkyCity Theatre, Rialto, Academy Lido, Bridgeway cinemas
Other centres: Wellington, July 16-August 1; Dunedin, July 23-August 8; Christchurch, July 29-August 15; Palmerston North, August 5-22; Hamilton, August 12-29; Napier, August 18-September 5; Tauranga, August 26 - September 8; New Plymouth, September 2-15; Nelson, September 9-23; Greymouth, October 4-10; Masterton, October 13-27; Gisborne, October 28-November 10; Whangarei, November 4-17;
Website: nzff.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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