Boasting a lineup of some of the most acclaimed films of the past 12 months, the new In The Shade festival kicks off in Auckland this week. Stewart Sowman-Lund learns more.
January in the movies is often a dumping ground for disappointing Hollywood blockbusters or the latest crappy horror remake (even if the new Scream is actually pretty good after all). It’s also, conversely, often the time when New Zealand audiences finally get to see the most viable Oscar nominees for the first time, months after they debut at film festivals in the UK. foreigner. There’s no guarantee they’ll all make it to our screens, and if they do, they often don’t go much further than local art house cinema.
This year, things are going to be easier for Auckland-based moviegoers hoping to finish their Oscars dash in time for awards season. A new two-week film festival, called In The Shade, kicks off later this week, featuring a terrific lineup of some of 2021’s most acclaimed films. Split between Avondale’s iconic Hollywood Cinema and the home of the art house, the Academy Cinema in Auckland’s CBD, the festival launches in the shadow of last year’s Covid-19 lockdown which saw the annual International Film Festival cancel its Auckland season and lose your manager after only two years.
So what makes In The Shade’s lineup so good? Well, if it’s not Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, the current favorite currently on Netflix, the next best Oscar-winning movie will likely be In The Shade. There’s Licorice Pizza, the acclaimed new coming-of-age film from Paul Thomas Anderson, and Nightmare Alley, a gothic thriller from Guillermo del Toro (whose latest film, The Shape of Water, won the best film). Also screening is the acclaimed Japanese film Drive My Car, a likely shoo-in for best international film, having won a string of critics’ awards in recent weeks. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, the true story of the famous TV evangelist, was due to premiere at last year’s film festival before the Auckland season was cancelled. In total, about fifty films are showing.
Festival spokeswoman Courtney Mayhew said the event was staged at record speed and was the result of “blind optimism” during last year’s lockdown. “A few people got together who work in different areas of the film industry and chatted during Auckland’s lockdown,” she says. “We saw the writing on the wall of what was inevitably going to happen and what turned into 100 days of lockdown. We knew so many big blockbusters were being pushed back and were going to take up a lot of screen space and there would be some great films that didn’t quite reach Auckland audiences.
In total, less than a month passed between the decision to organize the festival and its announcement to the public.
While the International Film Festival had Bill Gosden as a recognizable face behind the scenes for 40 years, In The Shade has a degree of mystery surrounding its backers. The organizers are simply described as a collective of moviegoers called Dos Ojos. “Dos Ojos is a secretive collective of film lovers who wanted to organize a cool summer film festival in Tāmaki Makaurau,” the festival’s website says. No names are publicly listed and when you click on the Dos Ojos logo you are rickrolled – directed to a YouTube video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Mayhew doesn’t say much more, only sharing that the group are passionate about film and wanted to organize an event accessible to all of Auckland.
“This past year has been so different, it’s kind of like we’ve now been released from the cage and people remember what it’s like to hang out with people,” she says. “We loved the idea of bringing the people of Auckland together.”
The band also hope that In The Shade will become an annual fixture on the Auckland events calendar. “We’re dipping our toes into it. Dos Ojos would like it to be an ongoing thing, but there’s no expectation there,” Mayhew says. “Let’s just see what happens.
Five must-sees at In The Shade
Possibly the most critically acclaimed film to hit theaters, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film gets its New Zealand premiere at In The Shade. Starring newcomers Alana Haim (yes, Haim sisters) and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman) alongside Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn, this coming-of-age comedy-drama unfolds in the San Fernando Valley has been a consistent favorite of awards season and a staple of critics’ top 10 lists.
“It’s lively, which some people might think they don’t appreciate, but it’s an incredibly intimate portrait,” says Mayhew. Flee is not only animated, it is also a documentary. In beautiful detail, it follows Amin Nawabi as he tells his story of leaving his home country of Afghanistan to immigrate to Denmark as a refugee.
A romantic drama starring Mia Wasikowska and Tim Roth. “It’s the one you can take your mom to,” Mayhew says.
Dark horse in the race for the Oscars but an absolute favorite of critics, this Japanese drama is based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami. Don’t let the three-hour runtime put you off: by any measure, it’s definitely worth committing to. It has so far won numerous awards since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last July.
Perhaps the most “Hollywood” offering to In The Shade, the latest stars of Guillermo del Toro, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette. The second adaptation of the 1946 novel of the same name, this flashier and more modern take is on its way to becoming a noir classic.
In The Shade will launch on Wednesday, January 19 and run until the end of the month. To learn more, visit the website here.
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