Kiwi's 'rock doc' a slice of steely Pulp non-fiction
A Kiwi film-maker has found himself an unlikely celebrity in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield after making a documentary about one of its best-known musical exports.
Florian Habicht earned rave reviews after the June 7 premiere of Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets, which was simultaneously screened at 150 theatres across Britain. He is now mobbed by Pulp fans whenever he goes out, and has been sent fan mail praising his talent and sunny personality.
"People keep coming up to me on the street, shaking hands and not letting go," he said.
Critics have heralded the film a triumph, calling it "moving, funny, sweet, eccentric", and "a refreshing antidote to the typical rock doc".
"It was incredible," Habicht said of the premiere, which included a laser show and pink carpet. "I was really buzzing from the event. Some people thought I was high, I was just so happy."
Pulp, fronted by singer Jarvis Cocker, were formed in 1978 but found fame in the mid-1990s with hits Common People and Sorted for E's and Wizz. The film centres on a farewell concert the band performed in their hometown in late 2012, but lingers as much on regular Sheffield fans, from a choir of middle-aged women to a newspaper seller.
That suited both Pulp, whose lyrics celebrate the ordinary, and Habicht, whose past films include a fond but unflinching portrait of Northland life, Kaikohe Demolition.
"It was about the people of Sheffield, not a regular rock documentary where the band are treated like rock gods. Regular people are given the same respect and treatment as Jarvis," Habicht said.
Paihia-raised Habicht had been a Pulp fan since Elam art school, and had invited Cocker to the London premiere of his previous film, Love Story. The rocker was impressed enough to sign Habicht on for a mad six-week shoot in the leadup to their final gig.
Cocker circled significant Sheffield locations in Pulp lyrics for Habicht, who set out to convince taciturn locals to go on camera.
"It was the most challenging part. Sheffielders are a little like Kiwis, they're understated and not over-the-top," Habicht said. "Someone asked why didn't they get a Sheffield film-maker to make it. I explained it was like wearing camo gear, being dropped in with a camera. When you see a place for the first time, you see it with childlike eyes, like you're a tourist - everything's exciting."
Pulp were "stoked" with the result, he said, and the film has been invited to festivals across Europe, the United States and in Mexico. It will be shown at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July.
Habicht, who has lived in New York and Berlin for several years, plans to return home for his next project, a musical film set in New Zealand and Japan.
The Dominion Post