There is a new REMIX out that has an excellent bfm co-presented Indie Rock CD for free with it, also it contains 6 stories by me in there so I reckon you should all buy it and help keep me in employment.
These pieces below appeared in last months issue.
In My Father's Den comes highly recommended - an actually excellent NZ film that is not tourism calender writ large or sentimental pap (sorry Whale Rider - you suck)
The Moore thing, although not bad, is now hopelessly out of date - but I post it here because, well, I can.
Michael Moore is a man who has made a career out of being the guy people cannot ignore. With his ample girth, ever-present cap and scruffy average-Joe persona he has become an unlikely counter-cultural hero, forever jamming himself and public debate where the powers that be would rather they weren’t.
And far from being the voice of dissent out in the cold Moore has succeeded in bringing the world-according-to-Michael mainstream.Moore’s latest offering, the political documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, has broken all of the records his last documentary, Bowling for Columbine, set. The film has cleared US$100 Million just within America, picked up the Palme D’Or at Cannes and is going a long way toward setting the agenda for the upcoming American Presidential election. All unprecedented stuff for a documentary, especially in a country where only half the population bother voting.
Michael Moore has emerged as a new kind of patriot for an America weary of seeing their boys come home in body bags and disheartened by the cost in blood and money of occupying Iraq. At least that is the image that he has carefully constructed for himself. More and more people are questioning his motives and even his honesty. Although there have always been critics of Michael Moore’s style and politics the severity of the current anti-Moore backlash is something new.
Michael Moore’s last film, Bowling for Columbine, won the best documentary Oscar at the Academy Awards. Soon after it was the focus of a campaign to have that award stripped. It turned out that Mr Moore had played hard and fast with the truth in certain parts of the film. Even the title, which referred to the belief that the Columbine High School killers went bowling prior to their massacre, turned out to be based on a falsehood. In spite of, or perhaps because of this controversy Bowling for Columbine went on to gross more than any other documentary ever had at the box-office, and helped make docos cool again.
But while it was accumulating receipts, Michael Moore was accumulating detractors. Nowadays for every standing ovation he receives at Cannes there are articles and entire web communities dedicated to discrediting him. But how did it all get to this? Can we trust the guy?
As a response to the debacle over detail in Bowling for Columbine Moore has set out to make sure this isn’t about to happen to his latest offering. Moore has gone so far as to claim: "Fahrenheit 9/11 is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time.” All the same a database of 59 deceits has been compiled by David Kopel, research director at the pro-market Independence Institute. Michael Moore’s war room has responded to many of these claims but, regardless of which side has more points in this slugging match, the question remains: with all this smoke around are people missing what Moore is actually saying?
The criticisms Moore levels at the Bush administration in Farenheit 9/11 are in many cases the same as those he makes in his two recent bestselling books Dude Where’s My Country and Stupid White Men. In the main the material may not be new but the power of the big screen and the attendant media circus certainly is. Often, however, the reporting only focuses on the associated hoop-la, the wars of ego and the claims and counter-claims that follow the film. Mike’s messages are lost amongst all this white noise. And he does have some powerful, and some, by now, well canvassed messages.
Some you’ve heard often – Bush stole the election with a rigged Supreme Court, claiming to go to war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction was dishonest, that big business has close ties to military spending and the Republican Party. These reasonably well known points are artfully made, and rarely is political propaganda this entertaining. The parts Moore excels in are those where he uses his selective editing to make very funny character assassinations – he rips into Bush for his manner, work-ethic, business acumen, eloquence and overall ability to run the show.
The best sections are those that show the extent of Saudi Arabian influence in Washington. Although this section is riddled with factual errors the overall points stand absolute. Saudi Arabia’s powerful families, Osama bin Ladens included, have long and deep links to Washington’s elite, especially the Bush family, and this needs scrutiny. And scrutiny is exactly what Moore delivers. Not air-tight, not masterfully- exposed-for-the-first-time, but brought to the public eye in a way you can be assured Bush would rather it wasn’t.
The film never purports to be objective or balanced, and in reality it need not be. It is a political polemic. Point-of-View filmmaking writ large. As long as it is not treated as gospel or picture-made-truth, then it is a valuable and necessary addition to the political landscape. Although, of course, it helps if you have a balanced diet. In the film Moore presents mainstream media as incompetent and cowed, unable to bring the truth as he can. And this is really the whole root of the Michael Moore conundrum. If you look at the mainstream media as junk food then Michael Moore would be like cashews – delicious, natural, more-ish. But you have to remember that a diet of junk food and cashews will make you just as sick, or just as ill-informed in this sense, as a diet of only junk food.
In My Father's Den
Emily Barclay looks at once excited, drained and surprisingly different to her character Celia. Last night, lit-up two stories high in Auckland’s Civic Theatre, Emily enchanted the audience for the New Zealand premiere of In My Fathers Den.
In a film laden with heavy intensity, dealing in the way dark histories seek people out, Emily provided, through Celia, a moving shaft of light, innocence and hope. And last nights premiere had gone very well indeed. Prime Minister Helen Clark helped introduce the film and every creative trough-keeper and drawer was in rapturous attendance.
Not bad all in all for a film full of firsts. In My Fathers Den was the first New Zealand film chosen to open the Sydney film festival. It was an honour that is of special note as it is the first feature film from director Brad McGann. The film, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Maurice Gee, is also the first major film lead for Emily Barclay.
Not that this is a case of overnight success for the 19 yr old Aucklander. Emily has always wanted to be an actor. In learning and honing her craft Emily has run the normal gamut of New Zealand TV work with parts in Spin Doctors, and Mercy Peak and also, in what is fast becoming the other mainstay of New Zealand’s acting community - bad American TV work.
So although comparisons can be drawn between recent kiwi success Whale Rider and In My Fathers Den - both are adaptations of books by iconic New Zealand authors and both rest largely on the performances of their young female leads - they are different in that Emily was not plucked from obscurity like Kiesha Castle-Hughes. In fact she has been working towards a role like this for years. “I fell in love with acting when I was thirteen and have wanted to be an actor since” although the roles aren’t always as good as the one writer/director Brad McGann wrote for this film “I’d rather people don’t see some of the early stuff, if they’d like to think I’m an unknown that’s fine by me.”
The scale of the film snuck up on Emily. “At the time of the first audition we were not told it was a joint New Zealand/British production” but she did know she wanted to be involved, “I was really impressed from the start with how well written and fully constructed the characters were.” Work ended up involving extensive auditioning, rehearsals, a semester away from University study, two months filming outside of Otago, a trip to Sydney for the festival there and now the publicity gauntlet.
But it was the character that drew her in “I loved the fact that she wasn’t your typical on screen 16 year old girl - she was strong, interesting, intelligent - it was really important to do her justice.” Emily plays Celia, an outward-looking, yet isolated girl with a number of secrets to be discovered. Celia and the den of the title are central elements in a movie full of mystery; they bind everyone, and the film itself, together. To say how would be to say too much, and in playing the role Emily never gives anything away. It is a controlled, tight performance - similar in a way to the small town setting and mindset that informs so much of the film.Emily was able to bring an understanding of this constriction - even being a very free and open person herself. “Living in New Zealand many people have the idea that they want to get away, see the world, just living in NZ, in a small country, gives you an insight into a small town mentality.”
And were there similarities between you and Celia? “She had a strong sense of who she was, Celia is a character that it is easy to empathise with because her situations are real and the things she deals with are prominent issues in our society” further than empathy though, Emily was “attracted to the brightness, but the darkness underneath, the thinking about things deeply and the frustration of trying to break out and understand the world.” There aren’t many roles that want all this from a 16-year-old female character, and there aren’t many actors pulling them off.
To a large degree the movie depends on the relationship between Celia and Paul Prior (Matthew McFadyen), an international war photographer and one time boyfriend to Celia’s mother. Paul, back in New Zealand for his father’s funeral, accepts a request to teach at the local school and has Celia in his class. Their friendship, while seemingly familiar - with the male older teacher/younger female student - steers clear of cliché or easy categorisation and is the richest element of the film. “With the relationship with Paul it was important to avoid the Lolita type relationship - we needed to show the complexities of her character, being a 16yr old girl in a small town of course she will be drawn to him but it was more than a girl’s crush on a man of the world. That might be there but more importantly it was an intellectual connection and an intellectual escape route.”
Being able to tap into a rich acting tradition via this cast of accomplished international players was one of the highlights of working on In My Fathers Den. Matthew McFadyen comes in for special praise and is a pick for big things to come: “ Matthew was so supportive and inspiring. The ability of very well trained actors to keep so much going, and to carry the whole film with them, but to stay natural take after take was an inspiration.” Look out for Matthew in future, word is that is “he has been cast as D’arcy in a remake of Pride and Prejudice” and with the general predilection for D’arcy among women he is sure to go far “I mean how else do you explain Colin Firth?”
In a way, and without giving anything away, Celia in the film embodies many of New Zealand’s guilty secrets. The film is a beautifully rendered nightmare, a picture-perfect recrimination. It manages to be populated with things rather ignored but stays well clear of being prying, sentimental or sensationalist And much of this is because, according to Director Brad McGann “Emily brought a whole lease of life to Celia, although they are different Emily managed to make them one and the same.”
And finally, what next for Emily Barclay? Having loved acting for 7 years are you still going strong? “Yes, basically I want to keep being involved in the creation of films - jesus I hope that doesn’t sound wanky - but I figure I’m lucky to have found something I love doing”
- thanks to REMIX Media - where these first appeared.