NZIFF 2020 mini-reviews (E – J)

Our writers have been watching a ton of films playing as part of Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2021.

This year’s festival features plenty of gems (even if they might not all be available throughout Aotearoa). Our team of keen reviewers has been busy watching, and rendering their verdicts.

All 2021 mini-reviews:
Latest reviews | A – D | E – J | K – M | N – R | S – Z

See also:
* All our Q&As with this year’s filmmakers
* All our other NZIFF coverage

Fiona Clark: Unafraid

Seeing just a tiny percentage of Fiona Clark’s extraordinarily diverse back catalogue, I was reminded how lucky we are to have some of the battles fought for marginalised causes documented with the unique perspective of someone who lived amongst it. With infinite care and empathy for her subjects, ranging from the 70s Trans and Gay Lib scene to the impact on local Iwi from ongoing systemic environmental destruction from industrial and farming discharge into the Waitara River near her home in Taranaki, Fiona instigates change and acceptance by hard working can-do example. Lula Cucchiara captures an intimate portrait of this fascinating NZ photography icon and the communities she both supports and participates actively in. SARAH VOON

Fiona Clark’s endearing personality shines through in this documentary portrait—rivalling her exemplary photography when it comes to the most memorable aspects of this wonderful film. Imagine with dismay people being shocked by Clark’s emotionally vibrant and technically superb photography of queer culture; marvel at when Aotearoa had only two TV channels but still sustained a 90-minute weekly arts programme (Kaleidoscope); and adore the relationship between Clark and her subjects (and Clark and her parents, sob). Finding myself a dairy factory to live in ASAP. STEVE NEWALL

A charming portrait of an extraordinary photographer and her lifelong documentation of Aotearoa’s marginalised communities. Centred around the infamous 1970s censorship of her queer nightlife photographs, the film expands to include her lesser-known arenas—photographing the local bodybuilding community, converting an abandoned dairy factory into an eclectic home and office, collaborating with tangata whenua around community environmental causes, documenting the AIDS crisis, and recovering from a debilitating accident—to paint a picture of a life lived with character and dignity. A delightful record of an exceptional artist from director Lula Cucchiara. AMANDA JANE ROBINSON

This film had better be on your list, because it’s bloody great. A much overdue, and beautifully rendered, look into the life of one of Aotearoa’s greatest contemporary photographers and queer activists. Director Lula Cucchiara’s storytelling is thoughtful and warm, and led by the fierce and funny personality of Fiona Clark herself. Clark’s extraordinary photographic work and her activism sit at the heart of the narrative—somewhere I’m sure the artist would be pleased to see it. The colours, the tone and the soundtrack of the documentary (featuring the likes of PHF and the Vibraslaps) do this remarkable life justice—go and watch it. RACHEL ASHBY


The most emotionally significant use of animation I’ve seen in years. Masking his identity without sacrificing intimacy, the filmmaking allows Amin to comfortably tell his gripping and heart-choking story of growing up as a refugee on the run, reaching deep into his psyche to express the fears and anguish he’s bottled up for decades. Included one unbelievably satisfying moment that melted me into a blubbering puddle of joy. LIAM MAGUREN

A Hero

Winner of this year’s Cannes Grand Prix, this tense, spiraling drama about a man on two-day leave from debtor’s prison is further proof that director Asghar Farhadi never misses. Moral dilemmas abound as dignity and deception weave a tight, tangled web. A gripping watch from one of Iran’s finest auteurs. AMANDA JANE ROBINSON

I’m Your Man

Germany’s entry for next year’s Academy Awards shows that sci-fi isn’t solely the preserve of black trenchcoats or black mirrors with this gentle, mainstream rom-com about a consultant reluctantly “testing” a companion robot. Dan Stevens’s German is fluent, his accent explained by Berlin award-winner Maren Eggerts’ character’s preference in men being a little exotic to a German, but not too far away, ie British. An English-language remake could go gangbusters—even if the whole thing doesn’t quite click. STEVE NEWALL

All 2021 mini-reviews:
Latest reviews | A – D | E – J | K – M | N – R | S – Z