Category Archives: festivals

Doc Edge 18 | Spielberg

United States | 2018 | 147 min | English | Susan Lacy

Stephen Spielberg had always wanted to be a director, but when he watched Lawrence of Arabia at age sixteen he decided to give up on his dream because the perfection of that film had set the bar too high. How, he thought, am I ever going to make anything that good? Thank God, he changed his mind.

No director has ever made so many films that are universally loved. Especially if you grew up in the 90s, Spielberg movies were a huge part of your childhood. Blockbuster hits like Jaws, Jurassic Park, and E.T. made him a household name. The documentary Spielberg, directed by Susan Lacy, explores the person behind the Hollywood living legend. It provides illuminating insights into Spielberg’s relationships, personality and life experiences.

This documentary is extremely interesting in a surprising way. You know all his movies, so you almost feel as if you have grown up with Spielberg and that you know who he is. Spielberg may be a movie-making machine, but the documentary does a great job of revealing how human he really is.

The famous director talks openly about how nervous he gets each day he walks on set and his insecurities when he was young. Making films was a way he could focus and escape from his anxiety – a kind of therapy. “When I had too much time to think, all those scary whispers would start up. It was not fun to be me in between ideas or projects”, says Spielberg. When you understand his personal life, including that he was bullied as a child and the divorce of his parents, you realise how he has weaved those themes of the underdog and family ties into his movies.

It is amazing to see someone so revered reveal such vulnerable and sensitive aspects of himself. However, one would have to be sensitive to be able to create films grounded in humanity that speak to the audience the way Spielberg’s do. The documentary features interviews with his peers, such as directors and producers Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese and Kathleen Kennedy. All say that Spielberg has a natural, intuitive talent for the art of telling stories through images like no one else. That is why he has such popular appeal.

The producer Walter Parkes said it best: “Stephen is arguably the most commercial director in the history of motion pictures. And I think it’s because he has a deep understanding of how the language of cinema elicits an emotional reaction in an audience.” Spielberg’s road to success was by no means smooth and paved with moments of doubt, but he persisted because he knew that film was his calling and there was nothing else for him.

Spielberg has come a long way from sneaking into Universal Studios to learn how to make films. Fascinating and endearing, the documentary Spielberg is an intimate look at one of the greatest directors of all time.

5 Stars

 

Spielberg is showing at the following times in Auckland as part of the Documentary Edge Festival 2018:

Rangatira/Q Theatre: 3 June, 6.30pm.

Doc Edge 18 | Dealin’ with the Devil

Dealin’ with the Devil – New Zealand / 2017 / 102 mins / English / Phil Davison

Phil Davison, accomplished New Zealand song-writer and blues aficionado, tells the story of his influential friend and musical mentor Ralph Bennett-Eades, as he makes the harrowing descent to his untimely death, through the sultry and often dark sound of the blues.

Phil’s background as a Film Editing lecturer clearly shows, as he uses effective and visually stimulating animations, including a scene of aliens coming down from their galaxy to jam with his alter-ego Dr Marigaux – genuine Dr of Theology, within the barren walls of his ramshackle home in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

The ‘Blues’ – characterized by it’s lyrics, bass lines and instrumentation.  All things that Davison certainly brings to this documentary through soulful genre and his unique mode of story-telling, as he takes us on a journey of human reflection and personal heartbreak through animation and music.

He references such greats as; BB King, Muddy Waters and Johnny Lee Hooker as he taps into the life of his loved companion Ralph and the journey his life took after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.   Not forgetting a notable mention to his trusty guitar named Hazel.

A vibrant, colourful man and like most humans, flawed.  The film speaks of Ralph’s decision to make a deal with God to start playing Gospel, and in doing so he would relinquish the blues, if only he should be allowed to keep living.  ‘Dealing with the Devil’ so-to-speak, while his closest friends speak of his final days and the darkness that would often creep in after his fatal diagnosis, and Ralph’s inner-most fear of the ‘Man in Black’ …

Phil Davison, himself a talented and inwardly-thinking musician, sings the blues in his definitively hoarse, morose and poetic style. But with doses of dry humour that make the journey that little more entertaining.  The tracks ‘Embryonic Blues’ and ‘Hotel’ being such examples of his signature style of story-telling.

He films this documentary right up until Eades’s final days on his death-bed, echoing the sound of the deepest roots of the Mississippi as he sings of redemption and salvation, right here, in our backyard of N.Z  – while the fiddles and guitars of his backing group unite in the name of Gospel, this performance being a tribute to his dear friend and mentor, and a promise to him, he vowed to keep.

‘Dealing With The Devil’,  was at times quite an undertaking to follow, with the sadness and decline of someone suffering from an incurable illness.   However, I enjoyed the philosophical essence of the film as a whole, and found it absorbing with it’s visual content, as well as it’s welcoming moments of humour, that provided refreshment from the dark subject matter.  With an uplifting sense of peace towards the end, it is a loving tribute to a man who has lived his life to the brim and his wish to leave a lasting legacy that truly reflects who he was/is.

Ralph Bennett Eades had a wicked sense of humour as he clearly demonstrates,  even from his death-bed, with a mischievous hoax that defies gravity …

***3.5 Stars!

 

 

 

 

“Dealin with the Devil’ – is now showing in Auckland at the following times:

Loft / Thu 31 May 8:30PM
Rangatira / Fri 1 June 4:30PM

 

Doc Edge 18 | George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut

United Kingdom | 2018 | 113 min | English | George Michael, David Austin

As glamorous, provocative, sexy and recognizable as the subject of this documentary herself; Kate Moss (global supermodel) presents the film, in a swinging director’s chair all George Michael fans will recognize from the infamous ‘Fast Love’ video.

A'still' from the opening of the documentary film.

Singer Adele’s haunting rendition of ‘Fast Love’ plays as the credits roll out to us from the screen, of all who have contributed to the production of ‘George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut’, most poignantly the man himself, who died not long before the final takes were edited. On Christmas day 2016.

The film launches straight into the early stages of George’s burgeoning career.  From short-lived beginnings in a start-up SKA band called ‘The Executive’s’ with his formative music partner Andrew Ridgely, to the formation of WHAM in 1981.  George’s earlier life and upbringing are somewhat missing in the introduction as to how this superstar came into being, while it focuses instead, on the man post WHAM, the subsequent trappings and downside of fame and fortune, as his solo career reaches unprecedented heights.

It describes the parallel’s of the upbeat, whimsical sound of WHAM, to the seriousness of the political situation in the U.K at the time, during the late Thatcher years.  A band whose success was insurmountable with hits from their 1983 debut album ‘Fantastic’; ‘Club Tropicana’ and ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’.  Which was later shadowed only, when George’s own image and personal achievement surpassed that of the ban

George Michael was a man very aware of his superstar status (a fact which is also evident in his decision to narrate the majority of this story himself).  He also reveals that his motivations from early-on, were driven by his desire for fame and recognition, and with a film that features running commentary from the toast of pop-culture, fashion & music’s finest; Stevie Wonder, Jean Paul-Gaultier, Nile Rodgers, Naomi Campbell and Mary J Blige, to name but a few …  His successful pursuit for stardom and the impact he left among his  dearest friends are not left in question.

We are then taken on a musical history tour throughout his solo years, as he decides he needs to create a new character alongside his equally as famous contemporaries; Madonna, Prince etc …   From 1984’s  ‘Careless Whisper’ to the soulfully beautiful ‘One More Try’ (1987).  He experiences unrivaled fame in the U.S as the audience resonates with the sound of this t’deep, honest and profound lyricist’.

His R&B connections ran even further to collaborations with such soul greats as; Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett and of course, Stevie Wonder.

Freedom: The Directors Cut,  also touches on the heartbreak and low-points throughout George’s most formative years.  With the heart-breaking loss of his first love to AID’s, his clash with the management at SONY records driven by his need to break-free and refusal to longer self-promote, to the death of his beloved mother …  It also describes the loneliness and emptiness that comes from such unimaginable levels of fame.   Yet with such heartbreak emerges such artistic brilliance, with his 1996 album entitled: ‘Older’ that follows the equally as symbolic ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990).   A record which he proclaims to be his “Greatest achievement yet”.

The film, is a tribute to George Michael’s hall of fame of hits, and their often very deep relevance to his situation at the time. eg – ‘Jesus To A Child’ (a ’94 ode to his lover Anselmo Feleppa).

However, as much of George Michael fan as I may be,  I just did not quite understand the visual mash-up at the end, with it’s juxtaposition of videos and highlights throughout his extensive and colourful career.  I suppose to me, it may have seemed slightly self-indulgent.  Yet perhaps it was necessary, to create a lasting image as vivid and captivating as the artist himself.

*** 3 Stars

George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut – is part of the Doc Edge Film Festival 2018.

Screening in Auckland:

Loft / Tues 29 May,  8.15 PM
Rangatira / Sun 03 June,  4.00 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NZICF 18 | Arj Barker: Organic

Typically terrible Auckland traffic.  Running late for show, unexplained absence of my plus 1 …  All variables that may equate to a possibly unfortunate evening …

Luckily my Saturday night offered me salvation in the form of laid-back, renowned comic genius named Arj Barker and his show from the NZ International Comedy Festival 2018 – ‘Organic’.

An opening with air-craft safety demonstrations, Arj demonstrates his seasoned prowess and farcical technique, with topical comedic artistry.  With popular monikers and references to identifiable cities such as; ‘Boring Brisbane’ and Auckland – ‘The City of Sails’,  he uses his loll Californian drawl to his advantage.  Which is also evident in his relaxed dress, style of comedy, as well as his delivery …

Hilarious comparisons between marriage and murder.  The life-cycle of gluten and the consequential lack of pleasure whilst adopting an anti-wheat lifestyle, Arj taps into the raw and organic nature of our everyday lives and provides us with astute and observational humour in the process.

“You step in shit, at least you still have one good shoe … ”  Just one of the many amusing slogans/life affirming quotes (which incidentally you are able to purchase in sticker form after the show) that Arj Barker hits us with, throughout his witty and wild ramblings.

To me, his strength lies in his ability to coerce the audience in visualizing a specific (and sometimes ludicrous) scenario, albeit without props, but through pure wit and imagination.  His comparisons between death and marriage, through the medium of music; a’la Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and Chopin’s ironically titled “Funeral March”, were admittedly on-point and certainly hit the funny frontal-cortex of many an audiences brain.

Concluding with an inspiring musical composition that ties together the theme of the show; organic living, produce and of course the soul of the apple …  All in tune with his signature Californian rhyming,

Arj Barker knocks the last organic apple off the tree and leaves us all wanting more!

 

*** Arj Barker: Organic is now playing for 2 more nights Friday 19th -Saturday 20th May

been | Aldous Harding and Perfume Genius

The Auckland Arts Festival this year have offered a really impressive lineup of musical guests. On Thursday night the Auckland crowd was treated to offerings from kindred spirits, the extraordinary Perfume Genius and the stunning Aldous Harding at Silo Park.

 

Silo Park was home to Laneway Festival in previous years and it always had a great vibe to it right by the water. So it was nice for the Auckland Arts Festival to utilize the space for the musical events, combining it with a food and drink space and an art installation. Perfume Genius  was last in Auckland a few years ago and performed at Kings Arms to an enthusiastic crowd. Aldous Harding graced Laneway Festival here in Auckland only last month to some great reviews.

 

Perfume Genius kick started the evening’s festivities with such a stellar set. Drawing from his backlog and his latest acclaimed release No Shape. Performing classics such as Normal Song, Queen and the first single from the latest album, Slip Away he was such a delight to watch. Having just completed a string of concert dates in Australia, Perfume Genius wrapped up his tour here in Auckland to great applause.

   

It’s so electric watching an artist get lost in their music, gyrating and writhing with such fervour. Perfume Genius is truly a queer icon, allowing us to partake in such an indulgent and yet touching set. It was wonderful to have Aldous Harding share the stage for a beautiful performance of Normal Song.

   

Aldous Harding followed Perfume Genius with her own mesmerizing set. A bewitching performance that was perhaps better suited in a more intimate setting indoors. Performing songs from her latest release Party that included Imagining My Man, Horizon and Swell Does the Skull. There’s definitely no denying Harding’s talent. Her lyrics are delivered with such conviction and emotion it’s hard not to be moved by her. Her words enunciated in the dark of the night staying with you after a while.

 

Images taken by Chris Zwaagdyk.

FRINGE 18: Judge, Jury & Cookie Monster

Judge, Jury & Cookie Monster (created and directed by John Burrows) opens in dramatic fashion to the theme tune of Law & Order and the background voice of ‘that’ infamous Sesame Street character.  The stage is set like that of a criminal courtroom and stage show all at the same time, with the audience itself becoming the jury.

Throw in a plethora of widely known brands and allegoric puns surrounding baked goods, alongside popular daytime TV game-show references – and a night of irreverent slapstick ensues!

It’s main players: Courtney Eggleton, Kirsty Bruce, Lucas Haugh, Rishab Kapoor, Will Moffatt, Sneha Shetty and Kyle Shields become the: Shewsburys, Graham Crackers, Belgian’s and Swiss Cremes – a cameo panel of the accused and the accuser, each presented with the alleged crime and interrogated with the most ridiculous of motives.

‘Judge Jury & Cookie Monster’ uses the most entertaining and unusual of interactive theatrics to solve the crime, in the spirit of such game shows as: Deal or No Deal, The Chase and the contemporary social card game, ‘Crimes against Humanity’, as a process of elimination and acquittal of suspects one-by-one ….

A Krypton-Factor styled task to re-enact a probable crime-scene scenario, was extremely amusing and reminiscent of a skit from ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’, showcasing particularly clever mechanics by one very laterally thinking jury member.

Drawing us all to the conclusion of the show (and in turn the case itself).  Judge Jury & Cookie Monster sedge-ways into a conversation between the plaintiff and the judge, that exposes a most unexpected background story, and subsequently, the most unpredictable of outcomes.

With a surprise guest plaintiff each performance night and fantastic moments of comedic improvisation, you are guaranteed an evening of unbridled excitement, and if you’re so lucky, a complimentary cookie upon leaving the courtroom, being just the icing on the cake!

 

Now showing at the Q Theatre ~ 27th February – 3th March

been | St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2018 – Auckland

You know the buzzy feeling you get after a concert or music festival that lasts for a few days after?! Yea that is my current situation.

Auckland was treated to perhaps what felt like the hottest day on Monday with a sweltering 28 degrees Celsius! Being from Papua New Guinea you would think I would be accustomed to the heat but far from it! I avoided getting to the festival until much later when it was slightly cooler. And it seems it may have been a smart move with reports on Twitter about massive queues at the festival entrance and people waiting for up to an hour and 30 minutes to get in. By the time I made my way there, there were no queues at the entrance thankfully.

The organizers have created something special with hosting Laneway Festival right in the middle of Auckland City at Albert Park. The lush trees and gardens make such a huge difference to the whole vibe of the festival, definitely was feeling it on the day.

So onto the music. Who did I manage to see? Well quite a good number of quality acts for sure. Not knowing much about this year’s lineup and what to expect, I came away being a fan of pretty much most of the bands I saw.

Noah Slee – Image credit David Watson

Having read up on Noah Slee I thought I’d check out his set and to see what was up on offer. Slee is based in Berlin and hails from Tonga via Glenn Eden, West Auckland. He definitely tried to work the crowd up with some pretty sweet summer neo-soul tunes and mixed in Erykah Badu and Sergio Mendez tracks to the crowd’s delight. Slee had some great energy and finished off his set with one of his popular tracks Radar.

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals – Image credit David Watson

When I got to the main Rotunda stage 10 minutes early for Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals I was not expecting it to be completely packed out. Actually I haven’t listened much to Anderson .Paak but oh boy I was in for such a treat! Anderson had such great energy and the crowd absolutely loved it, I loved it!!! Mixing up some jazz, hip-hop, R&B, the whole ensemble had such a great vibe and everyone felt it. So I now completely understand why there was a massive crowd gathering around the stage way ahead of his scheduled performance.

TOKiMONSTA – Image credit David Watson

TOKiMONSTA served up some killer beats at the Thunderdome stage. It felt like it was the perfect time for it, riding on the high from Anderson .Paak. I wanted to stay for the whole set but ended up rushing back to Rotunda stage to catch the start of Bonobo.

Szjerdene + Bonobo- Image credit David Watson

Playing at the main stage Bonobo brought a live band with him which was great. Also featured was vocalist Szjerdene who has provided vocals on a number of Bonobo tracks including the sublime Transits. A few issues with Szjerdene’s mic meant it was hard for us to hear her which was a shame. Again, I wanted to stay until the end for the set but really wanted to catch The War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs – Image credit Connor Crawford

The War on Drugs played on the Princess Street Stage and it was a great way to end my night at Laneway Festival. After winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album earlier in the day, Adam Granduciel and the rest of the band must have been on such a buzz. Their set was amazing and I was left wanting more. Playing tracks from Lost In The Dream and their latest Grammy award winning album A Deeper Understanding, it was a definite festival highlight for me.

The War on Drugs – Image credit Connor Crawford

Featured image: Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern – Taken by Max Lemesh