Cheong Cheol Yong (internews)
New Zealand's 5-month-long film fantasy has a world of great films on tap
When New Zealand's biggest film fest, the 2004 New Zealand International Film Festival, opened on the 9th, the beginning of a five-month-long movie marathon hit the road.
Known as a non-competitive film festival, the annual Film Festival is not held in one city but rotates to all areas of New Zealand.
This year, it will be held in 15 different cities, three more than last year. Starting out in Auckland, it will be held in big cities such as Wellington, Christchurch, in suburbs such as Nelson and Gisborne, and end in a small city in North called Whangarei. The festival will close on November 28.
Since the New Zealand International Film Festival is a rotating festival, each festival is named after the city sponsoring the event. The Auckland International Film Festival opened first and will be the largest. Because of its long history and tradition, it is synonymous with the New Zealand International Film Festival.
The Auckland film fest began in 1970 as simply a section of the festival, but its size expanded each year. It is currently is the country's biggest film event, attracting 100,000 people.
The 36th Auckland Film Festival will present "In My Father's Den" and 130 full-length films, documentaries, short-length films and animations from 38 countries.
Documentary films attracting public attention
Documentary films are receiving the most public attention this year. Expanding gradually since 1999, 30 will be featured this year.
The leading documentary piece is Michael Moore's hotly controversial documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11". Hitting No. 1 by the first week of its release, which is rare for a documentary film, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is on fire across the Pacific Ocean in New Zealand.
"Fahrenheit 911" will be screened on July 20 through the New Zealand International Film Festival, about a week before general release July 29. Ticket sales for the movie broke New Zealand records, as they were sold out by June 28.
"Super Size Me", another documentary that was a sensation at Sundance Film Festival, is also garnering much attention. Because obesity is becoming a serious social issue in New Zealand, this piece -- also known as "McDonald's Worst Nightmare" -- is in the spotlight.
A documentary "Imelda", which is based on the life of the wife of Philippines' President Marcos is also the talk of the town. This production was supposed to be released on July 6 in Manila, but it was banned at the request of "the woman with 3,000 pairs of shoes".
Born in the Philippines, American director Ramona S. Diaz received awards for "Imelda" at the Sundance Film Festival, and she plans to attend the Auckland International Film Festival as an invited guest to converse with audiences about her film.
Rebirth of martial arts films
There are just as many martial art films as documentaries at this year's festival. Director Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series, representing modern martial art films, are at the center of movie fans' attention this year.
Director Zhang Yimou's orthodox chivalry film "Hero" and Thai director Prachya Pinkaew
's modern action film "Ong-Bak" are also hot.
The Bucheon International Film Festival, which opens July 15, has arranged for a Shaw Brothers retrospective again this year. Director Cheong Chang Hwa, who once worked as a director at "Shaw Brothers" in Paris, recently opened his retrospective which highlights interest in martial art films worldwide.
Recent martial arts films are mostly rooted in chivalry films produced during the 1960s and 70s like those from Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers Studios.
In this year's Auckland International Film Festival, by adding heyday Hong Kong chivalry films to the section called "Out of the Past", organizers are attempting a "rediscovery" and "rebirth" of martial art films, which have never been evaluated properly in the past 100 years of film history.
Chang Cheh is an outstanding director that Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers produced in the 1960s and 70s. Chang's production "Vengeance"(1970) and "The Blood Brothers" (1973), and director Lau Kar-Leung's five heyday chivalry film including "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" (1978) are films that are posed for a "rebirth" through this film festival.
Advancing Korean films
For a Korean living in New Zealand, it is a delight to hear that five Korean films will be featured in this film festival, the most ever. Considering that Korean films were officially introduced to New Zealand only recently, this is an amazing development.
Even before winning the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Film Festival last May, "Old Boy"
was singled out by festival organizer Anthony Timpson as "the best piece to be presented at this year's Auckland International Film Festival". Timpson wrote the following in the film festival catalogue:
"I am shocked that this film stopped at receiving the Grand Prix Award without winning the Palme d'Or. Director Tarantino was a judge, but could there be any other modern film that would suit his taste more than this one? If so, I'd like to see it".
Director Kim Ki-duk
was the recipient of the Director Award for "Samaria
" at the Berlin Film Festival this past February. His film "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring
" is the festival sponsor's recommended piece.
There is a package tour ticket system where five carefully selected movies can be viewed with one ticket. Out of numerous films presented in the film festival, "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring
" is included twice.
Director Hong Sang-soo
became familiar to film fans here when his "The Power of Kangwon Province
", "Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors
", and "On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate
" played at past festivals. He came back this year with his film "Woman is the Future of Man
"Out of all active directors in Korea, he is most witty and extremely meticulous", said one film festival organizer.
Director Bong Joon-ho
's "Memories of Murder"
, depicting a serial murder and Kang Woo-seok
's film "Silmido
", depicting the underground activists against North Korea, a sensitive issue in Korea's political history, will be presented at the festival.
These two films proved to be Korean box office powerhouses last year and again this year, but it is hard to predict how appealing they will be to audiences in New Zealand.
Although the five Korean films screened at the Auckland International Film Festival are known in Korea for their box office records and outstanding qualities, it is too early to predict whether they will reap similar accolades here.
Walter Salles's "Motorcycle Diaries", Patrice Leconte's "Intimate Strangers"
, Gabriel Salvatore's "I'm Not Scared", and Kitano Takeshi's "Zatoichi", are some of the latest hit movies directed by esteemed directors which will be presented at this year's film festival.
If you would like more information and detailed schedule for New Zealand International Film Festival you can refer to the related Web site, www.enzedff.co.nz.
Cheong Cheol Yong emigrated to New Zealand in 2001. He is currently working as a foreign correspondent.