An exciting new event is on the horizon for Aucklanders itching for the best of world cinema. In The Shade is a new film festival created by Dos Ojos, a shadowy collective of cinephiles whose identities are as closely guarded as KFC’s eleven secret herbs and spices. The seeds of the festival’s creation were laid in the void left behind by the cancellation of the Tāmaki Makaurau iteration of last year’s Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival. With this mammoth event gone from the Tāmaki Makaurau cultural landscape for a year, so goes the one opportunity to see a selection of the world’s most exciting films. Thus, In The Shade bursts onto the scene with its 50-odd films, many of which are local premieres, that makes it possible to see feature films from some of the most renowned filmmakers on the big screen where their art belongs.
The festival is set to be the start to 2022 we all needed after an arduous few years as for a few hours, you can escape from the horrors of these unprecedented times by surrendering yourself to the magic of cinema. From January 19th to February 2nd, you can escape and enjoy the privilege of a Kiwi summer by cooling off from a day at the beach in an air-conditioned cinema. You can get together with your friends to enjoy the new Guillermo del Toro or Paul Thomas Anderson film whilst knowing your ticket, beverage and popcorn purchases are making a world of difference to The Hollywood Avondale and Academy Cinemas. These two institutions are the venues to seek out and support if you want to check out In The Shade, but if you need any more encouragement, The Hollywood Avondale features a garden bar. Cocktails and cinema sound like a perfect night to me.
Now comes the hard part; to choose what to see out of those 50-odd films, which is a near-impossible task, but that’s my job. As the resident film expert at Craccum, I have tortured myself in devising a list that helps guide you through these firms. This list of five films is my personal recommendation for the festival so I hope you find something you like. If none of these films takes your fancy, have a look at the programme for yourself as there’s “something for everyone”, and that includes your National voting grandparents.
Asghar Farhadi is one of the world’s finest filmmakers, yet his name has not entered the mainstream as Del Toro’s and Cuaron’s have, even with two Oscars to his name for A Separation in 2012 and The Salesman in 2018. However, achieving global recognition is a double-edged sword for Farhadi as an Iranian who has to negotiate with a government that “has spared no effort to destroy, marginalise, and stigmatise” him and his films. Thus, his new film A Hero, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year, continues his focus on ordinary people and ordinary things in the face of this political aversion.
The film focuses on imprisoned Rahim, who failed to pay a debt and on his two-days leave from debtors prison, he attempts to convince the creditor to withdraw his complaint against him. Things do not go as planned for Rahim as a simple good deed spirals out of control, shifting the tone from a light-hearted farce to a morality tale that could be mistaken for a taut thriller. To see Farhadi craft, this film so masterfully makes A Hero a must. Did I even mention that it’s hotly tipped for the Oscars?
If you’re to watch one documentary and or animation film this year Flee is the one to see. The story of Amin Nawabi, a gay refugee from Afghanistan to Denmark who has to confront his hidden past is told in a remarkable blend of animation and archive footage. Nawabi’s real identity is kept secret by director-writer Jonas Poher Rasmussen who tells his story with such vivid detail it is a privilege to bear witness to his life. In less deft hands, Flee as a complex piece of storytelling would have been forgotten too easily among the horrors that now pervade modern life, but Nawabi’s story will be everlasting thanks to this film.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with Mia Hansen-Løve and her films as I adore her understated sensibility. Goodbye First Love is a personal favourite but her latest film Bergman Island may be her best yet. Set on the island of Fårö, famed for its legacy as Ingmar Bergman, whose works are considered to be among the most accomplished and influential in cinematic history lived, worked and died on the island. This makes Fårö the place married American filmmakers Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony Sanders (Tim Roth) seek out as the attempt to source inspiration from Bergman’s legacy.
Comparisons have been drawn to Linklater’s ‘Before’ Trilogy, but Bergman Island is a film of its own elk. Hansen-Løve is a filmmaker in her own lane, and Bergman Island is a testament to that as she effortlessly casts a meta-textual spell of self-reflection. The film questions the concepts of art, love and life itself without ever getting nauseous or stuffy. You cannot say the same for some of Bergman’s films, but it is clear that Hansen-Løve in Bergman Island is able to conjure up a film that exists outside the shadow of his legacy. The film is refreshing in its earnestness and its playfulness which makes Bergman Island the film to seek out if you’re in the mood for something that’ll gently sway your soul.
Those who live in Tāmaki Makaurau are given the privilege of watching the 40th Anniversary Restoration (1983) of Patu! by Merata Mita, the “godmother of indigenous film” on the big screen. A seminal film in indigenous filmmaking, it depicts the campaign against the 1981 Springbok Tour and the violent clashes between protestors and police. Its legacy and influence to indigenous filmmakers cannot be understated, whilst its importance as a cultural document of the racial discrimination practised in New Zealand make Patu! a must-watch for anyone living on this long white cloud.
Tilda Swinton, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and a hallucinatory-like film that delivers an out of body experience. These elements make for a near-perfect film that has to be seen to be believed, but to describe Memoria beyond the faintest detail is to ruin Weerasethakul’s singular vision. His approach to narrative sound and cinematic temporality in Memoria is nothing short of extraordinary, but to preserve the sacred experience of the film, I’ll instead offer you a brief description of Memoria — a film that will leave you in a daze of spiritual rumination.
The description of Memoria by yours truly is as follows: Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is awoken from her slumber by a strange bang at daybreak and is left unable to sleep. Seek this film out, and you’ll be rewarded with an utterly profound cinematic experience that may cause you to have a revelation of mind, body and soul.