Five films to see at the NZ Film Festival this week
The 5th Eye
Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones (Operation 8) join forces again. This time to remind us that New Zealand is very much a member of a western spy network that is quite capable of reading and recording every shred of electronic communication you've ever generated. The 5th Eye is the story of the events that underpinned so much of the farcical goings on at the 2014 general election, threaded through with the only-in-New Zealand yarn of the three men who – armed with a pair of cheap bolt cutters and a statue of the Virgin Mary – managed to break into and the Waihopai spy base and deflate the dome that covered one of the satellite dishes. A pity John Oliver wasn't paying attention to New Zealand back then. He would have a had a ball with that story. Wright and King-Jones assemble their material – new and archival – into an intelligent, informative and entertaining film. This is serious stuff, deftly done. Recommended.
Wellington-based writer/director and star Hayden J. Weal's debut feature is a very assured and impressive calling card. Weal the writer has put together a romantic comedy that flirts with the conventions of a horror movie and a drama of dislocation and amnesia. The film is a lot of fun, impressively well-shot – one sequence, set during a storm on the south coast shows a commitment to "getting the shot" by cinematographer Simeon Duncombe that is quite stunning – and pretty well acted. Weal and his cast display a really pleasing lightness of touch here, and bring home a story that above all is a love letter – to films, to falling in love and to Wellington on a summer's day – Nice one.
"Obituaries have next to nothing to with death and almost everything to do with life." And with that lovely and counter-intuitive quote, Vanessa Gould's perceptive and witty Obit, on the men and women who write the obituaries for The New York Times is underway. This is a warm, insightful and perfectly human film. Full of detail, unexpected flashes of humour (not all of the gallows' variety) and a lightly dealt with exploration of what it means to be alive. Lovely film.
As I Open My Eyes.
Set on the cusp of the Arab Spring of 2010/2011, particularly in the streets of working class Tunisia. Leyla Bouzid's debut feature As I Open My Eyes follows a young singer in a band as she tries to conduct a relationship, get to her gigs, negotiate her family dynamics and keep her own freedom – personal and political.
The world-changing events about to unfold outside are hinted at, but the film keeps the focus almost entirely on a well-drawn domestic drama scored to seriously ear-worming Tunisian pop music. Lead actress Baya Medhaffer is fantastic. Recommended.
Actor/Dancer/Choreographer and Indigenous super-star David Gulpilil narrates and co-authored Molly Reynolds' observational documentary on life in Gulpilil's home town of Ramininging in the Northern Territory. Whereas Charlie's Country (directed by Reynolds' husband Rolf De Heer) was based on events in Gulpilil's own life, this film throws the net far wider. As Gulpilil puts it, "this is what happened when your culture interrupted my culture". Another Country is a witty, occasionally shocking, engaging and hugely watchable film.
For locations and session times, see The Dominion Post Entertainment pages, or nziff.co.nz