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Feast of films on at MTG

NZIFF 2023 TM Merkel highres

The New Zealand International Film Festival opened at MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri this week. Opening night, Anatomy of a Fall, explored a question of guilt and innocence, and the truth behind the death of husband and father, Samuel – did he fall or was he pushed? This film explores untidy relationships and family dynamics set again the backdrop of a courtroom. Sadly I couldn’t attend the opening night due to another commitment so I’m looking forward to seeing this on Sunday 13 August.  

As always the film festival offers a rich array of films with a little bit of something for everyone. There are quite a number of documentary films this year, one of my favourite genres. Many are covering stories of individuals including: musicians, composers, politicians, scientists, artists and artisans. One such individual is local Hawke’s Bay farmer Bill Youren who championed freedom of speech, political ideals and looking for commonalities as a way to connect across cultures. Building Bridges: Bill Youren’s Vision of Peace tells the story of this extraordinary man who was ahead of his time. Youren became a champion for China in New Zealand and the artefacts he collection were on display at MTG in the Bring China Home exhibition. 

Close to Vermeer is high on my must watch list. Following the backroom dramas, negotiations, discoveries and surprises in pulling together the world’s largest Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, I’m really looking forward to this film. Another documentary which looks fascinating is Beyond Utopia which explores harrowing stories of escape from North Korea and the challenges of resettling in a new homeland.

Alongside a raft of documentaries, there are also a smaller number of films based on true stories. The 19th Century abduction of a young Jewish boy by the Catholic Church is shared in Kidnapped, while Radical tells the story of an inspirational teacher fighting to keep children in school in Mexico. Reality covers the story of a part-time intelligence contractor who leaked classified documents on Russian interference in the 2016 American election and Saint Omer looks at the challenging and complex story of a mother accused of infanticide.

Alongside all these documentary and real life inspired films there are of course plenty of the expected creative, environmental, futuristic, coming of age, and romantic tales the film festivals serve up. Many film festival favourite actors and producers are included so check out the schedule to find your favourites. With so many films this year, 34 in total, most are only shown once – so make sure you get in to see your top picks. The festival runs through to 27 August and you can find information on the films and schedule on the MTG website or brochures are available at the museum and in many cafes around Napier, Hastings and Havelock North. 

I’m certainly planning to see a fair few films this year and hope to see some of you there too.

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper 12 August 2023 and written by Laura Vodanovich, Director at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Image: NZIFF film Merkel showing at MTG Wed 16 August.

14 August 2023

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