Auckland film festival – a few of interest

An Insignificant Man

By Khushboo Ranka & Vinay Shukla

An Insignificant man is a political documentary that moves with pace and purpose through the campaign of Indian activist Arvind Kejriwal and the Common Man’s Party he formed to fight against corruption and for basic rights such as making water free, in the 2013 Delhi elections.

The two major parties in India that Kejriwal takes on, the governing BJP and Congress, tried to censor the film. India’s classification board required permission from establishment parties to use references of them in the film. Neither were forthcoming.

The film is a pure observational documentary that edits 400 hours of footage of rallies, election doorknocking, meetings, media appearances, conferences, social media posts and funerals to paint a tapestry of Kejriwal’s campaign and politics in India. It is skilfully edited so that it never feels like it needs a voice-over or interview to explain or analyse a situation.

The film skips through lots of volunteers as they campaign, while keeping Kejriwal at its heart. Its inside-access lays bare the contradictions of campaigning for a more democratic political process while being stubbornly opposed to the party’s volunteer membership.

It is inspiring to watch the Common Man’s Party gain traction with the masses and makes you want to explore Indian politics.

I am not your negro

Directed by Raoul Peck

This Oscar-nominated documentary draws an astonishing, challenging and utterly contemporary examination of race in the United States entirely from the writings and interview footage of civil rights icon James Baldwin.

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web 2017

Directed by Annie Goldson

As Annie Goldson’s impressively detailed documentary clearly sets out the battle between Dotcom and the US Government and entertainment industry, it goes to the heart of ownership, privacy and piracy in the digital age.


Bringing an egocentric but telling perspective to the subject of North Korea’s isolation, Claude Lanzmann (Shoah) revisits Pyongyang to explore the significance of a romantic encounter that has haunted him for 60 years.

Politics, an Instruction Manual 2016

Política, manual de instrucciones Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa GAME CHANGERS

Fernando León de Aranoa’s fly-on-the-wall doco reveals the inner workings of the populist Spanish collective that took on the austerity movement and helped break the mould of Spanish politics.

Risk 2016

Directed by Laura Poitras

Dramatically revised since its 2016 Cannes premiere, Laura Poitras’ years-in-the-making, all-access documentary about Julian Assange provides a deeply revealing portrait of a man who would change the world.By Laura Poitras

In terms of gaining access to stories and people that have made international headlines, Laura Poitras is one of world’s leading documentary filmmakers. She has been called “an enemy of the US” by the FBI.

Her previous documentary, the Academy Award-winning Citizen Four, was predominantly filmed in the hotel room of Edward Snowden when he leaked the NSA files. Her latest film, Risk, filmed since early 2011, observes Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

The film is engaging, tense and tightly edits several years of footage of Assange and key people in WikiLeaks, from the extradition trial and fleeing to the Ecuadorian embassy to the use of the internet in the Arab Spring and the Snowden saga.

Apart from a few musings from Poitras, which she calls her production journals, the film is very observational and explores wider issues through the people and their stories behind the headlines.

There are many candid moments, such as Assange discussing with WikiLeaks staff and friends what he will say publicly and what he thinks privately about the rape allegations against him and his views on what is needed for the world to change.

It is engaging to watch and will add fuel to the fire around debates on Assange’s political and ethical contradiction

Winnie 2017

Directed by Pascale Lamche GAME CHANGERS

Winner of a Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival, this fascinating portrait allows South Africa’s ‘mother of the nation’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to give her account of her bitterly contested role in history.

Working in Protest 2017

Directed by Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley GAME CHANGERS

This immersive doco covers 17 years of protest and activism in America from thwarted processions by the KKK and events celebrating the Confederate Flag, to the Occupy Wall Street movement and rallies for Trump.

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley will be in attendance for a Q+A following both screenings.

The Young Karl Marx
By Raoul Peck

Marx and Engels’ first encounter in the film is one its most memorable scenes. It starts tensely and is filled with barbs, before moving to a pub where the two discuss politics over several games of chess and many pints. It’s a sequence that showcases the film’s style and its flaws.

The film spends most of its time following characters discussing socialism, with dialogue the film’s key ingredient. At times it felt like watching a stage play with lots of close-ups. The film feels designed to create the greatest sense of realism possible, as if you are watching a recording or re-enactment of Marx and Engels arguing for the League of the Just to become the Communist League at its 1847 congress.

Its dialogue switches between multiple languages as Marx traverses Europe and Britain, in often quite slow scenes set in lecture halls. Visually it is very flat, which ties in with the film’s focus on dialogue.

With its conflict constructed around men in suits debating ideas, it is a film that will probably struggle to engage people with Marxism who don’t already understand it.

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