Review: The Art of Recovery


A new feature-length documentary from award-winning Christchurch director Peter Young will be shown for the first time at NZIFF - Christchurch, 7-23 August 2015.


THE ART OF RECOVERY (E, 90mins)  Directed by Peter Young ★★★★

Fresh from sell-out screenings at the New Zealand International Film Festival, Peter Young's (The Last Ocean) documentary is a kinetic, interesting and inspiring look at the post-earthquakes "street" arts and hospitality scene in Christchurch.

While not necessarily pitched this way it is also an interesting companion piece to, not only Gerard Smyth's When A City Falls, but also Banksy Does New York and 2013 Danish documentary The Human Scale.

Picking up from where both Falls and Scale left off, Art of Recovery showcases the work of individuals like Johnny Moore and Sam Crofskey and groups like Gap Filler in bringing life back to the heart of the broken city. Success stories like the Dance-O-Mat, Pallet Pavilion, the cycle-powered cinema, C1 Espresso and Smash Palace are shared and their genesis explained, while Young offers crisp visuals and plenty of unusual views of the CBD as it slowly begins to re-form (Gap Filler's Coralie Winn proving to be a particularly amiable and engaging cycle-tour guide).

Attempting to cover all sides of the Christchurch story, Young also talks to CERA and Christchurch Central Development Unit bosses and earthquake minister Gerry Brownlee about their more formal "blueprinted" plans for the CBD. And while they get their chance to present their case, they will likely be choking on their cornflakes when they see the film's overall tenor against such micro-managing.

Peter Young turns his camera on Christchurch's central city in The Art of Recovery.

Peter Young turns his camera on Christchurch's central city in The Art of Recovery.

If there's a quibble, it's the lack of mention of the Christchurch City Council's initial Share An Idea campaign (highly-lauded in The Human Scale) and the much-publicised hand-wringing over the CBD before nature finished the job city planners had started in turning Christchurch into a "doughnut city". But perhaps executive producer Gaylene Preston wasn't keen to revisit pre-earthquake Christchurch after the reception given to the "dark" opening scenes of her 2014 drama Hope and Wire.

However, that aside, The Art of Recovery is a fine celebration and deserved documenting of some truly innovative individual thinking that we hope will continue to flourish (and be allowed to) as the new Central Christchurch emerges.


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