The centre-piece event of every year for me is the New Zealand International Film Festival. It's two weeks of film-gorging as I get my face in front of as many new and interesting films as I can. I volunteer as an usher each year, I watch up to 5 movies a day and, lately, I've been blogging my daily experiences. It's an intense fortnight and one I absolutely relish.
There is, however, a smaller film festival that runs for two weeks around Easter (in Wellington). It's only at the one theatre, the Paramount, instead of the larger festival's six, and plays an interesting grab-bag of films; some returning from the previous year's Film Festival, others entirely new and unheard of. This is the World Cinema Showcase and I love it.
I almost feel like the Showcase doesn't get enough love. Certainly not from the casual Film Festival crowd - those people who only go to films at the Film Festival dahling; it's somehow seen as "lesser" or some such bullcrap. But true film-lovers know, the Showcase is where it's at.
The Showcase, as you may expect, is a more low-key affair. There's no allocated seating and it is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. Of course, when there's a popular film playing, such as I'm Not Here not long after Heath Ledger's death, it can be a bit of a madhouse. But the vibe, generally speaking, is genial and easy-going.
The Showcase is also a brilliant opportunity to catch a number of films that may not make it into the larger Film Festival for one reason or another (timing, the sheer size of the Festival) and have a question mark over their theatrical release. Last year alone I was able to catch the documentaries Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Restrepo, Bill Cunningham New York and the excellent Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I was also able to finally see the questionably questionable "documentary" Catfish. The Showcase in 2010 finally brought the much-talked about and eventual Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker to New Zealand audiences. That year also brought us the phenomenal Bronson from Nicolas Wending Refn, with Tom Hardy breaking out in the central role.The list of fantastic films I've seen at the Showcase could just keep on going: Princess Mononoke (my first Miyazaki film), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Buster Keaton's hilarious classic The General, JCVD and more.
Yeah, the Film Festival is the centre-piece film event of the year but I believe the Showcase is an equally valid entry in the calendar. It arrives at that sweet spot in the year, just when all the serious-minded awards type films are petering out but before the popcorn blockbusters are in full swing.
It's perfectly placed and perfectly sized. It serves to cleanse the palate and whet the appetite. The Showcase programme is out this Thursday and I can't wait to start flipping through it and sorting out my Easter viewing.