The Lovers and the Despot (2016) MIFF Review


In 1978, a famous South Korean actress and her director ex-husband were kidnapped and taken to North Korea to make films for Kim Jong-il. Eight years later, they managed to escape. That’s the story.

I’d heard the story told on This American Life some time ago, and I think that’s what made the documentary less engaging for me – I knew the story, I’d heard it told from their points of view, and so I knew where it was going. However, what I was fascinated with was the footage from the North Korean films – a few years ago, MIFF had a series of North Korean films, and it is very interesting to see what has been produced from that country.

Captain Fantastic (2016) MIFF Review


Ben (Viggo Mortensen) lives in the deep forest with his six children, educating them, teaching them to fight, to hunt, to live off the land and to be critical of society. Then they get word that the kids’ mother has died and they go on a road trip to meet the family and honour her last wishes.

Ben drove me insane. I get what he was doing and I get why he was doing it, but it seriously annoyed me because it was clear that when it went wrong, it would really blow up in his face big time. Yet… yet I really enjoyed it. The kids were pretty awesome, it was genuinely funny and also kind of cheesy and delightful.

High-Rise (2015) Film Review


Set in a strange kind of 1970s-Clockwork-Orange-style world is an apartment building. It rises in the middle of a large car park seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Laing (Tom Hiddleston) has just moved in, and is unsure of where he fits between the lower floor dwellers who are in overcrowded apartments struggling to get even basic rubbish collection, and the elite up the top. And then things get… weird.

I can’t really say what happens in this film. There are so many strange things, and it is so bizarrely stylised and beautiful, and some keys parts seem to have been skipped. And yet I really liked this film. I liked its weirdness and that I wasn’t quite sure where it was going and what was happening, and even where it ended. Strange, odd and fabulous.

Tickled (2016) MIFF Review


David Farrier is a journalist – the type of journalist who does short television reports on the quirky and unusual in New Zealand. So when he hears about a competitive tickling competition, he is intrigued, and only more so when his enquiries are met with a number of mysterious, homophobic and aggressive correspondences from the organisation. Then threats of legal action, including three representatives flown over from the US to put him and co-film maker Dylan Reeve off the story. And then the story becomes so much more than tickling.

If you like strange stories that veer off in unexpected directions, check this out. It’s funny, but also strange and, at times, hilariously unbelievable.

Seoul Station (2016) MIFF Review


This is the animated film which pairs with Train to Busan, both set in Seoul during a zombie outbreak. Seoul Station sees the outbreak starting amongst a group of homeless people who live at the station. Quickly, we are following two storylines – the annoying weeping girl who is being searched for by her boyfriend and father. Wait, let me go back a step. The girl is a runaway ex-prostitute and her boyfriend is addicted to internet cafes and not getting a job. He wants her to go back on the street, she is annoyed with him and walks away. Her dad turns up looking for her, but before they can be reunited, zombies happen. And while she tries to stay alive, her father is stuck with her annoying and fairly useless boyfriend trying to find her.

Such annoying characters who are crying all the time, very loudly. And a somewhat stupid plot (though with some cool twists). And I don’t really do scary films. Any yet… There was something really great about this film. It was fun, it was daggy, it was just ace fun times.

Train to Busan (2016) MIFF Review


Fund manager Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) has little time for his daughter, but does not want to give her up to his estranged wife. But the adorable child convinces him that, for her birthday, she wants to go to her mother, and so the two of them get on the train. But, unknown to them, there has been an outbreak of a mysterious disease – essentially, people are rapidly becoming zombies. And one of them managed to get on the train… it’ a problem for the rich and selfish businessman, the high school baseball team, the elderly sisters, the pregnant woman and her husband and, of course, Seok and his daughter.

I don’t think this is necessarily that different to most zombie films. Not that I’ve seen a lot… yet this one didn’t scare me like some others have in the past. I mean, I jumped and squealed a couple of times. But mostly it was a lot of violence and a lot of giggling – zombies can actually be really funny, given half a chance.

Train to Busan is paired with Seoul Station – both set in the world of a zombie outbreak in Seoul and surrounding areas.

Miss Sharon Jones (2015) MIFF Review


If you don’t know the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, stop reading this, go to iTunes or your music platform of choice and listen to all of her music. All of it. Now. She is just amazing – I’ve been enjoying her live shows for years, so when I saw this doco was playing at MIFF, there was no chance I was going to miss it. And it broke my heart a little.

As I hadn’t read the blurb, I assumed it would be about her background – where she came from, how she got involved with Daptone Records, that type of thing. Instead, it followed her shortly after she had surgery for pancreatic cancer, and how she recovers and returns to performing. I don’t know how well it would go for someone who doesn’t know Sharon Jones and her music, but for a fan, it’s hardgoing but worth it.

Audrie & Daisy (2016) MIFF Review


It seems to be increasingly common that teenage girls are being sexually assaulted and having evidence of this then spread via social media or text message. Boys too, I’m sure, and not just teenagers. Audrie and Daisy focuses on two such cases; one girl went on to take her own life, and the other battled for a long time to get some kind of legal action taken around the situation.

The way the documentary was put together, it was able to capture the gravity of what happened without sensationalising it, and for this reason I think it would be good for use in schools. It recognises that the girls had been under the influence and therefore, in some people’s mind, they had contributed to what happened to them. When this attitude is shown by those in law enforcement, especially the man (whose two young daughters are shown in the film) who is supposed to be investigating this sexual assault, the film audience reacted audibly – and a room full of people making sounds of disgust gave me some hope that the world may, one day, be okay.

Ants on a Shrimp: Noma in Tokyo (2016) MIFF Review


What do you do when your Copenhagen Restaurant continues to win accolades for being the best restaurant in the world and is known for amazing experimental dishes and fresh flavours? Pack it all up and take it to Tokyo, of course! This documentary shows Rene Redzepi and his staff as they plan a six-week residency in a Tokyo hotel.

It was interesting to see them discovering new ingredients, trying new menu items, but I felt that there wasn’t really enough focus of the food – though it is perhaps hard to put into words, I’d have love to have heard the various chefs talking about why they used the ingredients in the way they did. What was created by adding ants to that shrimp? How did the creative process actually unfold? I’m glad we got a good look at the final product, though I would have loved a taster…