Muse by Craig Ranapia

14

NZIFF 2013: Lights, Camera, Irony....

If you'd like to pop over to Public Address and read Russell's too bloody right-eous indignation  over the latest polish on the turd that is the government’s convention centre deal with SkyCity, I'm happy to wait.  But there's nothing preventing your daily irony requirement being filled by the story breaking on the opening day of the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland, ahead of around eighty screenings at the SkyCity Theatre over the next two and a half weeks.

One of those screenings is the world premiere of the feature version of Annie Goldson and Kay Ellmers' He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan. on Sunday, August 4 at 1.30pm (The shorter version that screened on Maori Television the night before Anzac Day is legit and online here.)

In May 2011, the New Zealand Prime Minister launched an extraordinary attack on journalist Jon Stephenson. The experienced reporter was a kook, not to be taken seriously, said John Key, in response to revelations in Stephenson’s extensive, first-hand account for Metro of New Zealand’s role in Afghanistan. It included evidence that a unit of New Zealand Special Forces may have arrested and transferred prisoners to Afghan authorities in the knowledge they might be tortured, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

As the numerous testimonies in He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan make clear, Stephenson’s work is in truth characterised by its integrity. Stephenson, now a correspondent in Kabul for US newspaper group McClatchy, has in numerous trips to the country eschewed the ‘embed’ approach, preferring to report outside the stage-managed programmes of the military communications machine.

Co-directed and produced by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One) and significantly expanded from the earlier version screened on Māori Television, He Toki Huna tells the wider story of New Zealand’s role in a war that began as an attempt to ‘smoke out’ those who harboured Al-Qaeda terrorists, but quickly became mired in a drawn-out counterinsurgency. It also looks at the strategies used to control the media message.


It would be fair to speculate the New Zealand Defense Force -- at least the sections not currently occupied by journalist Jon Stephenson's defamation action -- aren't block booking this one for a works outing.   It's also exceedingly unlikely John Key, Helen Clark, Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman or his three predecessors will be signing autographs in the lobby afterwards.

Nor should they.  Films like He Toki Huna are exactly what the Film Festival are supposed to be about.  But it's open to question whether SkyCity would be so keen if the theatre ended up part of the convention centre.

7 Cancellation of Events

7.1 Where the Crown Liaison learns of an Event enquiry:

a) by being notified by the SKYCITY Liaison of an Event enquiry in respect of which SKYCITY has doubts as to its suitability (in accordance with the Event Appropriateness Guidelines section of the Booking Management section of Appendix B (Operational Obligations)); or

b) from a source other than from the SKYCITY Liaison, and notifies the SKYCITY Liaison that the Crown Liaison has a concern,

SKYCITY will not accept any booking for that Event without the Crown’s approval, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed.

Event Appropriateness Guidelines

In considering the acceptance of bookings for Events to be held at the NZICC, SKYCITY must use good judgement in considering first the type and style of Events that are best suited to the NZICC and secondly Events that would not reasonably be expected to be materially prejudicial to international relations or to national security interests of New Zealand and would not reasonably be expected to materially affect the reputation or brand of the NZICC.

 Where SKYCITY has any doubt as to the suitability of an Event (including where the NZICC brand, or New Zealand’s international relations, could reasonably be expected to materially and adversely be affected by the subject matter or any sponsor of the Event) the SKYCITY Liaison may consult with the Crown Liaison as soon as practicable, in advance of confirming the business, to seek the Crown’s approval to such Event.

 

The one part of that I do agree with is that SkyCity does need to use good judgement.  I don't believe for a moment the NZIFF, or it's longtime director Bill Gosden, would let SkyCity or any number of shadowy "liaisons" make programming decisions.  But Gosden and his programmers certainly have better things to do with their time (and severely limited resources) than try and steer films that might offend nebulously defined political sensibilities away from a venue the NZIFF - and its patrons - contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to on a regular basis.  SkyCity is a business, right?

There's also a broader argument the New Zealand International Film Festival has its own brand and reputation to protect.  A good start would be NZFF director Bill Gosden publicly seeking a written assurance from SkyCity that future venue hire will not be contingent on the schedule being subject to the veto of a "Crown Liaison".

And to stiffen everyone's resolve, here's the trailer to NZIFF-bound documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (also playing at SkyCity. Twice.)  Just to materially damage our international relations with those bigoted arsebags our valued trading partners in Putin's sociopathic kleptocracy Russia. 

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