Friday, July 27, 2007

The Case for the Wellington Film Festival 2007

The Wellington International Film Festival is up there with Christmas in any movie-lover’s calendar as a festive season where people gather in a spirit of friendship to enjoy the good and the not-so-good international film offerings brought to Wellington by the Santa Claus-like head of the Festival Committee.

Of course, I am rarely here for these cinematic feasts as I don’t like winter.

This year though, I am about the place, and have scheduled two films on my “must see“ list. One I have already seen; the other is coming very soon.

The first film on my viewing calendar was the Homesong Stories, an Australian film starring the luminous Joan Chen and featuring, pre and post screening, a personal appearance by the writer of the film.

The film itself was an emotional affair, exploring the like of the writer and his mother, and the ups and downs of culture clashes arising from their Hong Kong origins and his mother’s self destructive behaviour. As the film was based on the writer’s memories of his childhood, some of the stories raised were left unresolved, the motivations of all of the characters were not always clear, and there were the occasional moments of sickening sentimentality, though these were few and far between. Overall, it was an interesting, entertaining film, showing a side of Australian life far removed from the white, homogenised Home & Away beaches. And Joan Chen, sumptuously dressed in beautiful Chinese outfits, was outstanding.

The true test of the film came after the screening when the writer answered questions from the audience. As so much of the life of his formative years had been exposed, some of the “unanswered questions” left by the film were asked directly to the source. It was an odd sensation, quizzing this man on his life and motivations. The film was so personal and covered such intimiate topics, that it had almost given the audience carte blanche to ask anything – but, come the time to actually pose those questions, I found that my own feelings of self restraint and boundaries meant I couldn’t ask the writer the questions I could so easily pose the person next to me. Others in the audience felt no such restrictions, and so asked away. One question did elicit a short pause and the response, “Well, that is a deeply personal question…”, but considering the subject matter of the film and the fact the writer was willing to use so much of his own life as fodder for the film industry, I found such a reaction almost hypocritical – like a Paris Hilton, upset with the same media coverage she otherwise so embraces.

So: one down; one more to go. And then the festival is over – and I will wait for the films I failed to obtain tickets for to (hopefully) get a general release…

Verdict: 4 Pork Buns out of 6

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