The NZIFF rolls into town
This post first appeared on Watt to Watch, http://www.stuff.co.nz
Two decades ago I got my first fix.
The film festival came to town that winter while I was supposed to be in university lectures, completely disrupting what turned out to be a patchy academic period anyway. For two glorious weeks I raced down the hill to the (then) St James theatre and the Civic, taking in up to four films a day on some occasions. By bedtime I couldn’t remember what I’d seen that morning, but I was exhilarated and sated, smug in the knowledge that the cultural platter I had gorged on was teaching me far more than those missed lectures ever could.
Since then I’ve done several NZ International Film Festivals, visited Dublin’s in 2007 and attended most of the London BFI festivals during eight years in the UK. Then last year I took myself off to la crème de la crème, the incredible Festival de Cannes, where I sat in over-caffeinated wonder at 8 o’clock most mornings with critics from around the world as we watched movies that were literally fresh from the can.
I didn’t need selling on the notion, but that fortnight in the South of France reinforced my love of going to the movies in the daytime before chewing the film over with friends afterwards. So for me, winter brings with it the great joy of anticipating the treasures Bill Gosden, Sandra Reid and our programmers have worked tirelessly to secure. This year there are more than 20 films from Cannes (including two from last year’s festival) and audiences can feel chuffed that we get to see these before any of the other major international festivals.
But there is so much more on offer than just the big-hitters. Thanks to NZIFF, in previous years I saw the Paradise Lost documentary trilogy before Peter Jackson got in on the act with West of Memphis. Nanni Moretti’s films helped me pass my Italian papers; I was introduced to an unknown Julianne Moore through Todd Haynes; and discovered Mathieu Kassovitz as a director years before he turned up as the romantic lead in Amelie. My first time with The Big Lebowski. Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days upstairs at the Civic!
I feel the same sense of excitement as Opening Night arrives and the likelihood of seeing family over the next fortnight fades. It’s going to be exhausting – there are a few three- and four-a-days in my heavily highlighted timetable, though I am ashamed to say I’m also balancing FOMO about what I haven’t chosen – but it’s also going to be the best time ever.
Dim the lights, and let’s get this party started.