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Doc NZ: Rioting Monks and Islamic Homosexuals

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Failed Rockers, Rioting Monks and Islamic Homosexuals to Feature at Documentary Festival

From rare footage of the Saffron revolution, to the plight of being gay in Islam, to the discovery of a dreadlocked comedy sensation, world-class documentaries will soon arrive at Auckland, Wellington Christchurch and Dunedin. The 4th DOCNZ Festival kicks off on February 25 and the line-up this year looks set to continue the tradition of putting the best of reality onto our screens. While the final programme of 40 plus films will be released in January, the following five documentaries have already been confirmed:

Burma VJ – Reporting from a Closed Country recently won the supreme award at the world’s largest documentary festival in Amsterdam. The film has also been selected for competition at the upcoming Sundance festival. Chronicling the 2007 popular uprising in Burma that was brutally repressed and suppressed, Danish director Anders Østergaard uses footage compiled by undercover video journalists who risked life and limb to film protests, beatings and worse. The Burmese junta cut itself off from the rest of the world during the unrest, and several of the camera operators who contributed to this project have been imprisoned for their efforts.

Rock’n’Roll Nerd shows the transformation of a failed musician into a bona fide comedy celebrity. Filmed over three years, this fly-on-the-wall film starts in Melbourne in 2005 where Tim Minchin, member of an obscure band, tries to get noticed by giving musical comedy a go. Director Rhian Skirving had no idea Minchin’s wordy songs, deft piano-playing and wild hair would score a ticket to Edinburgh and a Perrier Newcomer Award. Minchin, a regular on television and now in talks with HBO about his own series, visits Auckland in March to perform at the Auckland Festival 2009.

El Olvido is Netherlands-based veteran director Heddy Honigmann’s latest offering. The film is an ode to the city of her birth: Lima, Peru. Eschewing a focus on political upheaval or dirty wars or disasters that seem to be the staple of coverage of South America, Honigmann instead talks to street-children, bartenders and street performers who either view history with a rueful eye or instead choose to forget entirely. The film recently won the Silver Dove at Germany’s doco fest, DOK Leipzig.

A Jihad for Love explores the clash between religion and sexuality, particularly the story of homosexuality in the Muslim world. Parvez Sharma directs this United States production that covers a couple of Lesbians caught between Cairo and Paris, a gay South African imam who hopes to reform Islam, and the New York Times wrote that the film “develops something of a nail-biting narrative as it follows a clique of Iranian men who flee to central Turkey in hopes of applying for political asylum in Canada.” Producer Sandi DuBowski will be attending New Zealand as part of the DOCNZ Festival.

All White in Barking takes a look at race issues in the borough of Barking, where immigration has wrought a more rapid change in demographics than any other part of the United Kingdom. Commissioned as part of the BBC’s White season – a series of documentaries looking at the white working class – director Marc Isaacs interviews a range of old and new residents. Jeff and Susan say they would prefer to live near “their own kind”, but have dinner with the Nigerians next door and find both the company and cuisine pleasant. Despite the controversial subject matter Variety wrote that the film was a “communal portrait infused with compassion.”

The film resonates universally as it deals with a common theme in all countries where immigration has transformed previously homogenous and parochial communities.

The 2009 DOCNZ Festival takes place in Auckland (26 February – 8 March), Wellington (12 – 22 March) and Christchurch/Dunedin (26 March – 5 April).


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