Last year, because of the pandemic, the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) programme rolled out online.
This year, film lovers have more than two weeks to immerse themselves in the NZIFF held both here, in the MTG Century Theatre, and at Event Cinemas, Havelock North.
Scheduling the festival in these times has not been altogether smooth sailing for its organisers. The festival set for its usual date in September was rescheduled so films from the delayed Cannes Film Festival could be shown.
A good thing too because, starting this Friday, November 18, the festival opens featuring some of the best of Cannes, Toronto and Venice film festivals.
Festival organisers have said hosting the festival this late in the year is a one-off, and the festival will return to its usual August/September dates in 2022.
This later date has also ensured audiences can feel safe coming back into cinemas in Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch where the festival also runs.
At MTG Hawke's Bay, the opening event features one of China's premier filmmakers, Zhang Yimou in One Second, a Chinese drama about a movie fan who escapes from a farm prison during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
The film was pulled unexpectedly from the Berlin International Film Festival citing technical difficulties, though politically motivated censorship was suspected.
Other picks from me include a documentary on photographer Fiona Clark titled, Fiona Clark: Unafraid.
Fiona Clark is one of Aotearoa's most celebrated photographers, who captured images of queer culture in Auckland in the 1970s. In part due to the repressive environment at that time, her work was largely unknown in the mainstream.
"The gay and drag scene around K Road was very small in those days. I developed a sense of the history of what I was doing: I would make people private photo scrapbooks, reproducing copies of their one-off polaroids which most photographic labs would have destroyed or censored for being 'illegal' or 'offensive', in exchange for some of the very early historical images," Clark said of her work in this community.
Another one to see is Signed Theo Schoon, by director Luit Bieringa, a filmmaker and art historian who is known for his other wonderful documentaries; Ans Westra: Private Journeys/Public Signposts, The Man in the Hat (about art dealer Peter McLeavey) and The heART of the Matter.
Signed Theo Schoon, pieces together the tale of Theo Schoon from historic archive footage, photos and audio recordings, all supported by Bieringa's own encounters and correspondence with the artist.
Andrew Clifford, director of Te Uru Gallery, says of Schoon "[he] crossed paths with the likes of Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Len Castle, Helen Mason and, significantly, Gordon Walters, but his most powerful encounters were with Māori culture. From his work to preserve historic cave paintings, to his exploration of koru and kowhaiwhai, his revival of hue (gourd) growing and work with pounamu carving, he unapologetically traced a maverick path towards a legacy that remains controversial and relevant today.
Other films such as New Zealand's Best 2021 and Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2021 show new work by leading filmmakers from Moana-nui-a-kiwa, with the latter curated by Leo Koziol, director of Wairoa Māori Film Festival.
While this selection shows a rather obvious bias to films about art, or produced in Aotearoa, these and many others besides are part of what is a hugely exciting programme that is the 2021 New Zealand International Film Festival.
• You can view the schedule of movies online at www.nziff.co.nz or call in to the MTG and pick up a print version of the programme to take away.
• Toni MacKinnon is art curator at MTG.