NZIFF – 3 Short Reviews on Films I watched

A slightly different post today. I’m doing a review post on the films I saw at the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF).
Every year I look forward to the annual NZIFF. I love movies and I don’t watch nearly as many as I would like to. During my high school years I managed to watch all but 5 movies in the horror section of my local video store, and most of those I avoided because they were about spiders. Although I do specifically enjoy horror, thriller, experimental and documentary films I’m usually up for anything. When I choose the films I want to go and see I usually judge it by the title and accompanying image and occasionally the country. Also I do have my favourite categories which I look over more than the others – Framing Reality and Incredibly Strange being this year’s.
Here’s a fun, long, explanation of how I select my film festival movies, a mostly pointless paragraph, but who knows who might be interested!
I’ll flick through the magazine twice, marking the ones I was interested in by folding down the page corners. Then I go through it again, and if the movie doesn’t immediately spring out to me I’ll flatten out the page then ignore it. I’m sure I will have missed many good movies due to this method, but for this special event I want to go to films that excite me. I want to watch things which grab my attention and make me not regret spending the money to see it. Next I go through for a fourth time and circle the movies I’m pretty certain I want to see, then I rinse and repeat, circling the movies that are the most interesting with multiple circles. In previous years at this point I would get a sheet of paper and write out the details of all of them but this year I decided just to tear them out and compare them side by side that way.
I selected 5 movies but was hesitant to buy my tickets as there were a couple of conflicts. Now I am very lucky that I did because I became incredibly ill for the first week of the festival and ended up missing out on 2 that I wanted to see because they had either been and gone by the time I was able to get back to my regular life, or they had sold out (They were Goodnight Mommy and Going Clear:Scientology and the Prison of Belief). I was left with 3 selections though, which were also thankfully the top 3 I was most interested in.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron
With reviews hailing it as being akin to David Lynch and existentialist Monty Python I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to be in for with this movie. Though it is a Swedish film so I was expecting quite a subdued and minimal look to it. This film is actually composed of a number of short sketches which link into each other to give the movie something to follow.
There were definitely mixed opinions in the cinema, I witnessed at least 15 walk-outs and more – those of which I decided were just due to the film running longer because of a short played before hand. I did enjoy this movie but my partner who I went with did not. This is definitely not a regular movie and people who are used to and enjoy typical Hollywood cinema would probably not enjoy this. For someone being a fan of experimental, David Lynch and Scandinavian films it was definitely up my alley.
I found it was more of an internally amusing film than laugh out loud, although there were moments. This however didn’t stop the woman sitting in front of me from laughing  at everything put in front of her. I suspect this was more ‘trying to look intelligent’ laughter than actually finding it funny or maybe her sense of humor transcends normal human levels. The story and humor are centered around recurring jokes and characters which makes for an interesting experience as it lacks a central plot.
Experience is definitely the one word I would use to describe this movie. It was very much a mood or atmospheric and a visual experience rather than the storytelling method we normally consider film to be. This movie is like a humorous Eraserhead/Donnie Darko, which I know sounds like a weird combination. I adored the theater-like look of the sets and the beige on beige colour scheme (my partner felt sick at the thought of beige afterward). It’s hard to put into words what I think of this movie, it’s definitely not a typical movie but it is for sure an interesting one, and I did like it a lot. If you enjoyed any of the aforementioned things I liken it to then check it out, if not then I suggest you miss this one out.
The second film I saw at the NZIFF and is definitely the winner of most enjoyable film I got to see. It starts with a painful and heartwarming amount of familiarity for me as we are introduced to the main character – a metalhead living in a small NZ town. Heavy metal had a huge influence on me through my teenage years. I heard my first Metallica song a month before my 13th birthday and for the next 5 years I spent most of my time in black jeans and black shirts emblazoned with the art of bands I listened to. Also at my screening there was someone handing out Deathgasm guitar picks which I thought was a really awesome touch.
This movie is definitely one created by metalheads for metalheads, it comes from someone who understands how the music feels to listen to and what an impact it has on people. The soundtrack is obviously of course killer and the whole film reminds you why you love the music so much. It also makes a lot of hilariously bad puns and jokes throughout, and who isn’t into that?
I didn’t read the description very thoroughly and thought it was going to be a zombie film, where in fact it was demonic zombies(there is a big difference). At the moment I am totally sick of ‘demon’ movies these days where the perpetrator is invisible and nothing more than an aggravated poltergeist. This is the only movie with demons that I have seen and that I approve of, and boy do I. The makeup and effects of this movie were really good, as of course they should be being a New Zealand film, the director is even originally a WETA CGI effects man by trade. The demon’s faces were some of the best and most interesting prosthetics I’ve seen in a long time, and the spraying blood throughout the film was gloriously excessive. Also I don’t want to spoil anything, but the sex toy fight scene might be the most hilariously epic fight scene in existence.
This movie was so fun and enjoyable to watch, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s full of light-heartedness and great jokes. It doesn’t take itself seriously, but stays true to it’s inspirations. Also if you are a metalhead or a fan of horror this is a must see, definitely not one to miss.
The Russian Woodpecker
If I could have only seen one film this festival I would have wanted it to be this one. This isn’t even a movie I would recommend to a specific demographic, everyone should see it. The Russian Woodpecker is the name given to a mysterious clicking noise that was being transmitted across airwaves from Ukraine from 1976 to the late 1980’s from a radar system known as DUGA-3.
 It starts of by taking us straight into the action of the 2014 Ukrainian riots against its government. This movie was only released this year and is thus very up to date. Then we learn more about Fedor Alexandrovich, a man directly affected by the Chernobyl disaster and our lead for the movie who shares with us his ideas and insights. Alexandrovich is an artist by trade and at first seems like an eccentric madman, but as is often the case with people like this, is revealed to be highly intelligent. He is also so obviously passionate about what he is doing that it comes across clearly to the audience, this is not just another ‘narrator over footage’ conspiracy documentary.
There are interviews with many former Soviet officials and scientists which all give their opinions (or not) regarding Alexandrovich’s claims. The lengths the people in this film go to get their answers in this film is so inspiring. Despite threats and injuries they continue to uncover the truth about Chernobyl and how this is related to the DUGA-3.
The documentary gives us a good understanding of not only the details of DUGA, but also the current social situations of Ukraine regarding Russia. We get a lot of footage of riots and protests as well as opinions of those working on the film. An understanding of a country’s situation is often glossed over by the media and is never given the time to be fully explained in news.
This documentary is thrilling and compelling, I found myself completely engrossed by its contents. Also it makes me eager to learn more about these countries in regards to what the film discusses, as I want to have a deeper understanding of it. This is a hugely important film and one I am trying to share with everyone I know. If you read this blog post, watch this movie.
I really enjoyed this year’s Film Festival although I did miss out on a few movies. The movies I saw I really enjoyed, and highly recommend all of them for different reasons. Bring on NZIFF 2016!

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