Tag Archives: Documentary Edge

seen | Bronx Obama

An amazing but tricky documentary – as a Puerto Rican from the Bronx cashes in on Obama becoming President through the fortune of his looks. This doco offers some interesting insights into Obama’s win and what that meant for different communities in America. There is something ironic about one man’s attempt to transform his and his families life through his shear luck of looking very similar to Obama – Louis Ortiz the Obama lookalike never completed formal education but is smart and great at pulling the President’s expressions. This film has an awesome soundtrack and some sharp cuts, but an uneasy political undertone of desperation as someone turns themselves into a commodity based on their appearance alone. A far cry from the society of equal opportunities and equality of access that Obama strived for. Definitely worth a watch – a fine balance of thought provoking and entertaining.

USA: 2014 / 92 mins

Director: Ryan Murdock

Mac+Mae rating: ****

Showing times: 


2:00 PM
Q Theatre


8:15 PM
Q Theatre


10:15 AM

Q Theatre

seen | The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear is the first film by Tinatin Gurchiani, a promising Georgian filmmaker whose background in psychology and art shows through in this documentary. The 2012 film has done the rounds of international festivals, taking out a host of awards, most notably the Directing prize at Sundance, and appearing on our own shores in the recent Documentary Edge Festival.

The films premise is simple; its results less so. Gurchiani put out a casting call for youth interested in being in her film. She wanted to document life in Georgia through the stories of these young people, and she has done quite a remarkable job. Most people are presented first standing alone in the eye of camera, in front of a grimy concrete wall. They answer progressively personal questions with progressively personal answers. It is a method that elicits an honest type of confession. She follows some of them out of the audition space, where we meet their families and see them in their day-to-day roles.

Gurchiani covers a lot of ground in this documentary. She juxtaposes urban and rural life, the hopeful elderly and despondant youth, the echoes of a recalcitrant past and the insistent approach of an uncertain future. Georgia appears to be caught between its Soviet past and something that is new, but not quite in view yet.

Many peoples’ stories are fit into this film’s 101 minutes. There are stories of pain and poverty, of future hopes and past horrors, of unrequited love and unwanted affections. There are funny parts, but this is by no means a funny or lighthearted film. It is, however, eye opening and a little inspiring. Gurchiani shows us a world very different to our own, inhabited by people not so different to ourselves.

The Documentary Film Festival is now over, but you can see the trailer for The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwKlRTrkJM4


seen | The Waiting Room

“We’re a public hospital. We’re the safety net of society. We’re an institution of last resort for so many people.”

In The Waiting Room, Peter Nicks takes viewers into the waiting room of Highland Public Hospital, Oakland. Shot over a 24 hour shift, this compelling documentary manages to capture both the enormity of the hospital’s enterprise (taking in 250 patients each day) and the intensely personal experiences that play out within it.

We meet a host of characters at Highland: the homeless addict who comes in so often the staff know him by name; twelve year old Deja, whose Dad is scared to tears she’s going to die, like his other child; the carpet layer, who keeps working through excruciating pain caused by spinal spurs. The staff also step in front of the camera, negotiating hospital bureaucracy and juggling their inadequate resources to help out as many people as they can in their twelve hour shifts.

Through these people, Nicks exposes the many shortcomings of the American healthcare system, where people without insurance are shunted from one facility to the next, getting sicker and poorer with every step. Nicks should be commended for the honesty in this film. He never victimises people for the sake of the story, but makes it clear that they are inevitably victims of a society that will make no concessions for them. Nicks portrays his characters with compassion, showing their misfortune, but also their resilience. As well as being serious and thought provoking, The Waiting Room is an engrossing watch.

This film is part of a larger project that is pulling together stories from the various people who wind up in Highland Hospital, with the aim of creating a platform for their thoughts to be made public and prominent.

For more information about the The Waiting Room Storytelling Project, see http://www.whatruwaitingfor.com

‘The Waiting Room’ is showing on Monday 15 and Thursday 18 as part of the Documentary Edge Festival. For information on viewing times, visit http://www.documentaryedge.org.nz/2013/ak/film/waiting-room

heard | Doc Edge Fest 2013 – International Heavyweights

The Documentary Edge International Film Festival, returns to Auckland and Wellington this April-May with a stunning programme of over 40 local and international films.

The 2013 titles include Academy Award nominations, Cannes and Sundance films, a host of international festival awards and newly completed New Zealand films. This year’s Culture Vultures section also boasts an impressive selection of music-based documentaries while Spotlight programming on the American Dream and Sports reflect the current themes and conversations in the world we live in.   The first five titles to be released from the 2013 programme are:

Unraveled (USA, 2011) – Other than Bernie Madoff, attorney Marc Drier collar criminal perpetuated the largest white collar fraud (USD 750 Million) in America. Personable and charismatic, Drier reflects while under house arrest, on how a split second decision spiralled out of control and eventually unravelled around him. This is a chilling and disarming essay of white collar fraud.

How to Survive a Plague (USA, 2012) – Nominated for an Academy Award at this year’s Oscars. Blisteringly powerful, David France’s film transports us back to a vital time of unbridled death, political indifference, and staggering resilience and constructs a commanding template for grassroots activism.  Inspiring and hopeful.  “The Best Documentary of the Year. Extraordinarily Moving, Singular and Powerful” Mark Warren, Esquire.

The Russian Winter (USA, 2012) – Part tour diary, part biopic Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and producer for the Fugees – John Forte’s 9-week, 5-city tour across Russia sees him re-evaluate the remarkable journey that takes him from Brownsville, Brooklyn to Phillips Exeter Academy, through early success, a tragic stumble into a 14 year prison sentence, and a miraculous and inspiring second chance.

Salma (UK/India, 2013) – When Salma, a young girl in South India, reached puberty, her parents locked her away. Millions of girls all over the world share the same fate.   A documentary highlight at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Salma is the remarkable story of a woman who defies her village to become a legendary activist, politician and poet. Shot by award winner Kim Longinotto, Salma charts the transformation of a frightened, isolated girl into an unlikely hero.

Her Master’s Voice (UK/USA, 2012) – Screened at SXSW 2012, internationally acclaimed ventriloquist Nina Conti, takes the bereaved puppets of her mentor and erstwhile lover Ken Campbell on a pilgrimage to ‘Venthaven’ the resting place for puppets of dead ventriloquists. She gets to know her latex and wooden travelling partners along the way, and with them deconstructs herself and her lost love in this ventriloquial docu-mocumentary requiem.

Documentary Edge International Film Festival will run its Auckland season at Q Theatre, the first film festival to be run at the popular Auckland venue. The Wellington season returns to Reading Cinemas, and this year an additional venue, The Film Archive, has been added.

The NZ International Documentary Festival 2013 runs:
Auckland – 11th – 21st April, Q Theatre, Queen Street
Wellington – 9th – 19th May, Reading Cinemas Courtney and The Film Archive

FULL PROGRAMME TO BE ANNOUNCED MARCH 1click here for more info.


New Zealand 2012

Duration: 68min.
Director Grant Lahood. Producer John Keir.
Mani Bruce Mitchell

Intersexion touches on a subject that very few people are aware about, though it is an uncommon subject to speak about casually, it is still an important and common issue that exists beyond the male and female gender roles. Classed as an abnormal condition, the definition of intersex is where a person or animal is born without a clear distinction of either gender.

One in two thousand children are born intersex-ed (which is quite a staggering number if you think about it) and are often labelled ‘I‘ on birth certificates and other documents while struggling to fit into the social constructs of the gender ‘norm’.

The film interviews several Intersex-ed individuals that reveal their deepest and perhaps darkest secrets of themselves and their family, while they each bravely go on to recall the physical and emotional trauma in their upbringing and learning the truth about themselves. They also expose the harsh realities in medicine, the facade in bringing hope that they could help ‘cure’ the problem often through cosmetic surgery and instructions to lie and cover up the truth. As the film goes on, one can not help but feel the underlining tones of shame that these people and their families were made to feel, yet one can also admire their determination and strength on their road to overcome their differences through self exploration.

Follow  Mani Bruce Mitchell on his/her journey to America, Ireland, Germany, South Africa and Australia to find and share the stories of those that share his/her unique trait. Go on to discover their roller coaster ride through medical history, theories and treatments used to ‘treat’ intersex babies, learn of their abuse, their mutilation, their anger, secrecy, battles, triumphs to self discovery and pride.


Intersexion is showing as part of NZ Documentary Edge Festival 2012

For more details, session times and booking visit here


Wednesday, 2nd May: 8:45pm
Event Cinemas, New Market

Tuesday, 8th May: 12:45pm
Event Cinemas, New Market


Friday, 18th May: 9:00pm
Angelika at Reading Cinemas Courtenay

Wednesday, 23rd May: 7:00pm
Angelika at Reading Cinemas Courtenay

Tuesday, 29th May: 12:45pm
Angelika at Reading Cinemas Courtenay


Crooked Beauty is a film that makes you question your own sanity. In a raw but composed narrative Jacks McNamara leads us through her experience of mental illness. She talks about beauty (it grows through the cracks in the pavement), about normality (in Western capitalist society, compared to the real world), about the felicitous, insightful perspective gained through a lens of mental illness, and about the unbearable pain that follows close behind.

The score is sparse, the silence confronting. Most of the film is in black and white and the photography illuminates the heightened perception she tells us of. We only see Jacks’ face for the first few minutes; beyond this her voice alone guides us: fitting, considering it’s her mind that is the subject.

She uses her story to critique the common medical system and challenges viewers to reconsider what depression might actually entail. Is it really that strange, she asks, for people to live outside of a world dictated by routines and protocols? As a student of both anthropology and creative writing I was amazed by the way Crooked Beauty weaves poetry and theory into a compelling story.

I want someone to turn this film into an installation: I want to walk through it and move between it’s spaces at my own will; to pick things up and ask strangers questions; to rearrange the order of things, not because they are wrong but because any idea of rightness is illusionary – is mad, you could say.

Crooked Beauty does everything a good documentary should. It ignites your curiosity and a sense of injustice; it gives you insight into a world that not all are familiar with; it begins, in a precocious voice, to develop the language of compassion Jacks’ hopes to begin.

Go and see it, then go and think about it.


Crooked Beauty is showing as part of the Documentary Edge Festival.

For more information see the website here.


Friday 4 May 12:45pm

Friday 11 May 6:15pm


Friday 25 May 12:45pm

Tuesday 29 12:15pm

Friday 1 June 5:45pm


Dead Men Talking

Any last words before you die?

This is the basic concept of a unique reality show in the Chinese province of Henan entitled “Interviews Before Execution”. Catering to the macabre fascination humans have for death, its audience of forty million viewers makes it one of the most watched programmes in the province.

China has never kept its faith in the effectiveness of the death penalty a secret. Fifty-five crimes carry the death penalty, and it is estimated that there are thousands of executions per year (statistics are, however, one thing that China does keep secret).

Dead Men Talking is directed by Robin Newell and follows Ding Yu, the presenter and producer of “Interviews Before Execution”, as she interviews prisoners on death row about the circumstances of their crimes and how the knowledge of their impending death affects them, sometimes just minutes before their sentences are carried out.

All of the interviewees always seem remorseful; one even says he is “in agony”, as if death would be a welcome relief. Ding Yu comments that at the end of the interview, they become calm because they have said their piece.

However, the general manager of the channel that the programme airs on feels that the show is a great concept due to their social responsibility to warn people of the consequences of their crimes, as opposed to decrying the unjust nature of the death penalty and showcasing the plight of their families. This, in fact, is one of the government’s main objects of the death penalty- deterrence. En route to their execution, prisoners are made to wear a placard stating their crime in an open truck for all to see.

A main focus of the documentary is the emotional effect the show has on Ding Yu herself. Out of journalistic principle, she never treats her interview subjects like criminals and says that whenever she feels sympathy, she reminds herself of their crimes. However, certain people stand out in her mind.

Death row inmate Bao Rongting asks her name. He says he asked her because he respects everyone, as they are all human beings. It is later revealed he was convicted of killing his mother and raping her dead body, despite his open homosexuality. As he is being led to his execution, he asks her if he’s going to heaven. Before prisoners are executed, they have to sign a paper testifying that all the facts of their crime are correct, perversely signing their own death warrant. Moments before his execution, he asks to shake her hand but she merely brushes one finger over his palm, conflicted about what to do in front of a homosexual and someone about to take their last breath.

A scene of Ding Yu and her crew choosing livestock and fish, which are slaughtered and packaged for their next meal, juxtaposes his execution. In the market, a little girl recognizes Ding Yu from her show, indicating the normalcy of he death penalty in China.

Dead Men Talking is a unique and educational look at the death penalty and its consequences in a country that takes an alternative view to our own Western society. Although many of the subjects and their families are very emotional, the objective nature of the documentary is well preserved.

*Screening at the Documentary Edge Festival 2012

*Website: http://bit.ly/GQ0W1l



Fri 27/4 12.45pm – EC Tue 1/5 5.45pm – EC Tue 8/5 5.15pm – EC Wed 9/5 7.30pm – EC


Fri 18/5 12.45pm – RC Tue 22/5 6.00pm – RC Wed 30/5 5.45pm – RC