Jess Feast's debut feature documentary centres around the hip Berlin burlesque joint, White Trash Fast Food, and explores life in post-wall East Berlin: a place where libertines and die-hard communists co-exist but not always harmoniously. The Cowboy is Wally, an artist and chef, who escaped LA to live a life of freedom in Berlin. The Communist is Horst, an intelligent ex-journalist who lives upstairs from White Trash, and mourns for the old regime. Won Best Documentary by a young filmmaker at the Kassel Documentary Festival, 2007.
After a run of hit short films involving creatures on the run, Chicken marked the feature debut of director Grant Lahood. Brit Bryan Marshall stars as Dwight, a fading pop star who fakes his own death as a career move. Meanwhile a crazed fowl rights-activist (Cliff Curtis), angered at Dwight's promotions for fried chicken, plots revenge. Though the romantic black comedy tanked at the box office, the story and performances did receive some positive notice, with Metro reviewer and musician Rick Bryant finding it "very funny ... very enjoyable".
Henry Waghorn and his kindhearted son Henry run a chicken circus, although sometimes there are accidents. Then a smooth-tongued entrepreneur comes to visit, with secret plans to turn chickens into chicken legs. Egg and Bomb is a mini-epic of good versus bad which features explosions, chickens on roller skates, thwarted love and caffeine-related psychosis. This quirky animated short was directed by George Port, a former founder member of Peter Jackson's special effects powerhouse Weta.
After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Peter Jackson’s breakthrough; years in the making, it was the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm, to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang — who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers. Jackson took two acting roles in this ‘splatstick’ sensation.
Before he went Off the Rails Marcus Lush went off the beaten track to Egypt. He takes on a camel and donkey, drifts down The Nile aboard a felucca, samples the local fast food and deals with a dose of ‘Nile Belly'. Ancient treasures and stunning desert landscapes don't hide a more problematic recent history. But the warmth of the locals - Muslim or Christian - makes Lush a convert. When Lush tries the local Cairo barber he loses some eyelashes ("when in Rome") but nevertheless finds the whole Egypt experience to be an "eye opener."
James Anderson and Nick Ward are the brains behind Auckland based production company Two Heads. They've made a name for themselves producing fresh and quirky documentaries and TV series such as Santarchy, Making Tracks, The Cheerleaders and Funny Roots. Two Heads are also the creative force behind TV ONE’s hit show The Food Truck.
This 'alternative' version of New Zealand history was made by the team behind Eating Media Lunch. Channelling Kenneth Cumberland —presenter of heavyweight 80s series Landmarks— Jeremy Wells plumbs the TV archives to poke fun at New Zealand, and its people. Some excruciating hilarity is mined from artifacts of visitation to southern shores, from Bill Clinton to the Beatles. Muhammad Ali's fast food tastes down under are examined; the Dalai Lama finds bad karma in Christchurch; Charles and Diana visit in 1981; and mirth is mined from all things ovine.
Taika (Boy) Waititi's first feature is an offbeat comedy about two lonely misfits and their attempts to find love. Lily (Loren Taylor) is a shy fast-food cashier with a crush on clueless gaming geek Jarrod (Conchord Jemaine Clement). When Lily crashes Jarrod's fancy dress party wearing a shark costume and impresses the self-styled ‘Eagle Lord' with her gaming prowess — excerpted here — she gets her man. But their budding romance is sorely tested by Jarrod's obsession with a childhood nemesis. Empire called the film, "a comic delight destined for cult adoration."
Russell Campbell has been analysing film and television for more than four decades. A longtime lecturer in film at Victoria University, Campbell’s books include Observations, a volume on New Zealand documentary — a field in which he has extensive first-hand experience.
Jess Feast is a documentary maker whose work covers everything from Berlin and ballet to the Flight of the Conchords. Cowboys & Communists examined cultural conflicts in post-cold war Berlin via a US-themed bar and residents of the tower block it’s housed in. 2013 breakout hit Gardening with Soul follows a year in the life of a vivacious nonagenarian nun and won the Best Documentary Moa (NZ Film) award.