When temperatures drop in the winter months, it can be hard to leave home until chocolate supplies run seriously low. Winter is also NZ International Film Festival time, at a host of venues across Aotearoa. In 2017 Kiwi filmmakers have contributed an impressive run of documentaries, as evidenced by the trailers available below. Catch tantalising glimpses of films profiling Kim Dotcom, Helen Clark, naturalist Sheila Natusch and naked as nature rockers Head Like A Hole; plus docos on extreme sports, gay experience, jewellers, Tibetan émigrés, and horror attraction Spookers.
Annie Goldson’s documentary examines the story of Kim Dotcom, the German-born hacker turned internet mogul who is holed up in a New Zealand mansion fighting extradition to the United States. In the US he’s wanted for alleged infringement of copyright laws committed by Megaupload, the online storage hub he founded. Goldson mines archive material (including the NZ police raid of his mansion) and interviews, to explore intellectual property, privacy, profit and piracy in the digital age. The film won rave reviews after its world premiere at multimedia festival South by Southwest.
Long fascinated by the idea of community, Florian Habicht (Love Story, Kaikohe Demolition) discovered one in an unexpected place while making his eighth feature. Spookers is the name of a live horror attraction south of Auckland, adjoining what was once Kingseat psychiatric hospital. Habicht got to know a number of the performers working there. Alongside engaging and sometimes emotional interviews — and scenes of the staff at work, scaring the punters silly with zombie brides and chainsaws — he created scenes inspired by the performers' dreams and nightmares.
Gaylene Preston's documentary follows a year in the life of trail-blazing politician Helen Clark. During filming the ex New Zealand PM was head of the United Nations Development Programme, and bidding to become the UN’s first female Secretary-General. Preston was keen to capture the empowering character of the woman ranked by Forbes magazine among the 25 most powerful in the world. "Helen is a formidable woman and leader, and I’m honoured she’s given my team access to tell this story." The documentary is set to screen at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
Head Like A Hole (aka HLAH) were a clap of heavy metal thunder over the jangly chords of the early 90s New Zealand music scene. Known for unhinged, "apeshit" live shows and outrageous clothing-optional antics, their flame died out amidst drugs and acrimony before a 21st Century reformation. This all-access passion project from director Julian Boshier was a decade in the making, tagging along with Nigel 'Booga' Beazley (and partner Tamzin), Nigel Regan et al, as the still rocking members of this distinctive Kiwi rock’n’roll family enter middle age: spats, moshing n’all.
No Ordinary Sheila unfurls the life story of the adventurous, multi-talented Sheila Natusch: from first opening her eyes to nature while growing up on Stewart Island, as the daughter of a ranger and an artist; through befriending Janet Frame during teacher training, to the many books Natusch went on to write and/or illustrate. Filmmaker Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand) directs this portrait of a lover of nature and life, her joy unbowed by age. Natusch died on 10 August 2017, just days after watching the film as part of a packed house at the 2017 Wellington Film Festival.
With his third feature, director Paul Oremland is also one of the subjects. Oremland’s quest is to track down 100 men that he’s met through sex over 40 years, taking him on a global journey from Raglan to London. Through interviews and personal reflection he charts changing attitudes to gay experience: exploring sex, joy, AIDS, friendship, and the value of monogamy versus polyamory. After debuting at American LGBTQ festival Frameline, the film screened at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.
With The Free Man, genre-hopping director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands) takes on the world of extreme sport. The globetrotting documentary is built around encounters between Kiwi freestyle skier Jossi Wells and The Flying Frenchies, known for their base jumps, wingsuit flying and tightrope walks at terrifying heights. As Wells gets direct experience in the art of walking a highline, director Fraser investigates what adrenaline junkies gain — and lose — when putting their lives on the line. The Free Man gets its Kiwi premiere during the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
This 2017 documentary is a personal portrait of Swiss-Kiwi goldsmith Kobi Bosshard. Regarded as a pioneer of contemporary New Zealand jewellery making, 78-year-old Kobi is the father of the film's co-director, Andrea Bosshard. Bosshard and Shane Loader (the duo behind award-winning movie The Great Maiden’s Blush) combine images of Kobi living and creating, with archival footage. As Kobi says, "the work we do comes out of the life we live, so we have to have a life to start with." Kobi premiered at the Wellington edition of the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
In 2001 New Zealander Paul Wolffram was in Papua New Guinea studying music for his PhD, when he began making films about the Lak people he was staying with. Fifteen years later he headed back for another film, utilising his connection with the Lak to undergo a gruelling initiation into the world of Buai magic. The experience involved dehydration, fasting and isolation over the course of five days, with the intent of enhancing creative powers. What Lies that Way is set to get its world premiere at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Team Tibet tells the story of Thuten Kesang, who came to New Zealand in 1967, exiled from his Tibetan homeland, his family and his culture. Kesang was Aotearoa’s first Tibetan refugee. Filmed over 22 years by globetrotting filmmaker Robin Greenberg (Return of the Free China Junk), Kesang recounts his story, from his parents’ arrest in the wake of the 1959 uprising, to his advocacy for Tibetan environmental and political issues. He has become a point of contact for the global Tibetan community. The documentary was set to premiere at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
Where There is Life follows the journey of Margaret Lee, her husband Stephen and their daughter Imogen, after Margaret is diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in late 2010. Directed by Gwen Isaac, the documentary intimately follows a family struggling with the impact of the degenerative condition, as they confront the question "how should we live when we are dying?" Imogen was 10 when a defiant Margaret was diagnosed, and Stephen became her full-time carer. The film gets three screenings in August 2017, in the Wellington leg of the NZ International Film Festival.
Seven Rivers Walking - Haere Mārire looks at the rivers that meander across and define the Canterbury Plains. With the cleanliness of Aotearoa's waterways being a contemporary talking point, the film looks at the impacts of farming and industry on the rivers that supply livelihoods and drinking water to the people of Canterbury. Co-directors Gaylene Barnes and Kathleen Gallagher follow a group of Cantabrians who hike and raft the length of the rivers, and talk to locals en route about the significance of the region's waterways. The film debuts at the 2017 Christchurch Film Festival.