Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Cinema ★★★★

Tim Wong’s feature length film-essay waxes lyrical on the idea of a New Zealand cinematic ‘culture’ outside of that projected to the world by our Hollywood successes and perpetuated by our national airline and even our government. Brought to life in the rich narrative entonement of author Eleanor Catton, Wong’s film surveys a broad array of New Zealand cinema from the earliest works produced here right through to films from the current decade. Out of the Mist raises many questions about what the driving commonalities in our films might be, and how these might have changed in recent years. Wong and co (wisely, imo) opt not to try and answer these questions in any kind of definitive way but rather to provoke conversations about and around our 'national cinema'. As eluded to by Wong in a post screening Q&A not since Sam Neill’s 1995 documentary Cinema of Unease has significant work been produced on the topic. Out of the Mist foregrounds key but often overlooked figures/films that have played a role in forming our cinematic identity—long time NZIFF director Bill Gosden’s exhortation to take note of film titles is sage advice for anyone wanting to increase familiarity with the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of New Zealand’s film history—and highlights a selection of up and coming filmmakers who are taking the conversation onward in new and interesting directions such as Alyx Duncan and Gabriel White.

As a piece cinema Out of the Mist takes its structure from the written essay that birthed it. Wong and editor Peter O’Donoghue have built a captivating flow of borrowed images and sequences to create rich tapestry of the constructed picturesque and the squalid; putting the lie to the predominant ‘Middle-Earthing’ of our national image. This is a film that will warrant sustained chewing: revisiting, digging into the source materials and visiting again, discussing with friends and colleagues and so on.

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