Wellington’s leg of the New Zealand International Film Festival is the highlight of my calendar every year and a huge reason I love winter.
I still remember my first film festival film. It was 2005. Super-Size Me was showing at the Embassy, the first food documentary/expose really ever made back then (which is unthinkable today in the abundance of Netflix food movies we now have on offer). Morgan Spurlock gave a director Q&A at the end. My best friend and I were 15, and I think I wore a powder blue ‘Dickies’ hoodie. We took a photo of the three of us together on my Nokia Camera Phone which I printed and kept for a very long time on my wall.
Over the years I think there is only one festival since then I’ve not actually seen a film at (soz). 2017, however, promises to be a golden harvest of film.
As a policy advisor/blogger/Wellingtonian, I have a wide range of interests which I want fed by the festival. I want French romantic comedy, Italian farce, hard-hitting documentaries and American indie classics. This year, the film festival delivers for me, and then some.
I’ve also already enjoyed the excellent claymation My Life as A Courgette which I'd highly recommend.
Last Sunday Matt and I went to our second film of the festival, 'Risk' made by the amazing Laura Poritas. Risk is a documentary which is a portrait of the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. The film interestingly started off as a portrait of him in his favour and ends on a much more conflicted note.
Through the 6 years the filmmaker took to make the documentary, Julian Assange went from hero to battling sexual assault allegations, finding himself at the centre of a Scandal where he was under threat of going to Sweden and then being extradited to the United States. He then took refuge in the Dominican Embassy in London, where he has lived for the last 4 years. The film ends reflecting on the role Wikileaks had in derailing Hilary Clinton's campaign in the 2016 election, leading to the election of Donald Trump.
Laura Poritas's movie is a fascinating watch. She has incredible footage of the inner working of Wikileaks and the secret world of tech renegades. Her most interesting quality is letting the subjects talk for themselves, letting you draw your own conclusions. Matt had decided by the end that Julian Assange was a total prick where I felt more ambiguous.
In one damning scene, which the filmmaker and Assange fell out over when he wanted it removed (ironic in the light of Wikileaks mission to ban censorship), he says that the women who accused him of sexual assault are making a mistake and will find themselves at the centre of a public witch hunt. It is a sign of his arrogance and the thick walls of the bubble he has built himself that he doesn't reflect on his own culpability or responsibility to appropriately respond to the allegations. While he may be a Robin Hood type character for his band of hackers, he also is no angel to put it politely.
Laura Poritas film is a must see - especially for anyone who has an interest in technology and documentary films. I'm looking forward to catching up on her Oscar Winning 2010 documentary 'Citizenfour' about Edward Snowden.
The New Zealand Film Festival is a treasure and I love it like a beautiful eccentric aunt. She’s full of wonder and can take you on a journey. We must care for this old dame, buy her a drink and make sure we listen to her wise stories, whenever we catch up with her on those cold Winter evenings as she passes through Wellington.
Photos by Dinosaurtoast.