Blockbuster movies - high-cost production extravaganzas aimed at higher mass-market returns - have become "event" films in the 21st century.
Yet there's another kind of cinema "event" that occurs once a year in Nelson and this year for the 37th time - the Nelson International Film Festival. What differentiates - and distinguishes - it from the lowest-common-denominator, one-size-fits-all mentality approach of individual blockbuster movies is that this festival is the sum of its many parts.
In effect, the Nelson festival is a package of quality "smaller" movies screening at the Suter Cinema from August 28 through to September 15.
Bill Gosden, director of the New Zealand International Film Festival, from which 43 movies and three short-film collections were selected for Nelson, says "in a world increasingly dominated by monster movies, we at NZIFF make it our job to celebrate the other kinds of films, the ones that aren't intended to stomp the living daylights out of you".
"Our response to ‘event' cinema is to make an annual aggregation of personal, exploratory, innovative, risky, ‘foreign' and homegrown cinema into an event itself."
Gosden and his team have selected movies most likely "to entertain, edify, exasperate, perplex, astound or delight you".
This year's Nelson festival programme is divided into five sections. Four films feature in Big Nights: Joss Whedon's Much Ado about Nothing, an updating of Shakespeare's romantic comedy, opens the festival on Wednesday night; The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino's cinematic fresco of contemporary Rome, closes the festival; Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch's chic and cool foray in vampirism, is the festival's centrepiece; and Utu Redux, Geoff Murphy's director's cut of his 1983 epic, is the festival's special presentation. The Aotearoa section has eight New Zealand films, including three documentaries (Antarctica: A Year on Ice, Gardening with Soul and Soul in the Sea), a film version of an acclaimed Royal New Zealand Ballet production (Giselle), and a musical re-imagining of a famous Shakespeare romantic tragedy (Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song).
There's also a fictional insight into the world of children from Daniel Joseph Borgman (The Weight of Elephants), a film adaptation of Sophie Henderson's one-woman stage piece (Fantail), a valentine to stoned mateship and recreational innovation in New Zealand's backblocks (The Deadly Ponies Gang), plus the annual presentation of six of New Zealand's best short films.
Animation comprises two collections of animated short films, one aimed at children aged 7-10 and an R16 collection of different techniques, genres and styles.
Real consists of 11 documentaries. There are exposes on US undercover war-on-terror operations (Dirty Wars), a Sea World "killer whale" (Blackfish), gigacity urban issues and challenges (The Human Scale), idealism in the information wars (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks) and a deadly 2008 mountain-climbing attempt on K2 (The Summit).
Also screening are a history of pop music from the viewpoint of backup singers (Twenty Feet from Stardom), a singer's search for a saint and spiritual transformation (One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das), a montage of workers at France's premier public radio stations (The House of Radio), an R&B singer's life that led to success (Charles Bradley: Soul of America), a rebellious Russian female band trio (Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer) and a chronicle of rehearsals for a 2011 Verdi opera production (Becoming Traviata).
The largest section, with 20 films, is World. Here are six temptations:
The Past: an intimate drama set in a Parisian household, from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (The Separation);
Wadjda: insight into a young girl's life in Saudi Arabia, where women are disenfranchised and cinema itself is banned;
Mud: an adventure about two teenaged Arkansas boys and a fugitive they meet, from writer-director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter);
Blancanieves: a surreal retelling by Spanish director Pablo Berger of Snow White with a non-traditional ending;
Stories We Tell: a documentary of family drama from Canadian Sarah Polley (Away from Her) about one generation's impact on the next;
The Broken Circle Breakdown: a Belgium tearjerker blend of romance, melodrama and bluegrass music.
The World category also includes Hitchcock's 1959 paranoid thriller North by Northwest; the romantic and existential drama 2 Autumns, 3 Winters; the upstairs-downstairs comedy The Gilded Cage; the animated fairy-tale Ernest & Celestine; the equestrian drama Jappeloup; the romantic comedy It Boy; the Hassidic family drama Fill the Void; the Palestinian West Bank thriller Omar; Giuseppe Tornatore's auction-house mystery The Best Offer; an ironic hipster comedy and ode to today's Berlin, Oh Boy; a Korean coming-of-age tale with shivers and romance, A Werewolf Boy; Sally Potter's coming-of-age story of BFF Ginger & Rosa; a Laotian boy trying to escape a curse in The Rocket; and a middle-aged woman's evolution after divorce in Gloria.
SCREEN TIMES Festival information is available at nziff.co.nz or in programmes from the State Cinema or the Suter.
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