Australian maverick Rolf de Heer’s new post-apocalyptic meditation reveals the full spectrum of humanity: from the shadows of discriminatory violence to sparks of redeeming kindness, all told through the journey of one lone traveller, “BlackWoman".
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Sitting in the Civic in 2006, watching Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes with my father, was like stepping off a cliff into a quiet stream on a piece of burnt bark calibrated perfectly to our collective weight. We looked at each other as the credits rolled, knowing we’d both been steered to a new place of possibility—sixty thousand years ago, uninterrupted. Seventeen years later, and almost a decade since his last film (Charlie’s Country, NZIFF 2014), Rolf de Heer returns now with The Survival of Kindness, the recent past and future in his allegorical command.
Relationships, clarity of vision and an element of surrendering to dreamtime allow for these types of cinematic displays to come to life without artifice. The Survival of Kindness is largely dialogue free and features a stunning and translucent performance by Mwajemi Hussein. Like Ten Canoes, there is a collaboration where a director’s idea creates a frame, but Hussein wears the sun, commands rhythm of hand and breath against a neck manacle through the night, with only a throat cough to fuel her. Her name is BlackWoman, and what starts with the slicing up of territory cake, moves to BlackWoman’s reality: a metal cage on sun-baked sand. She isn’t a stranger in a strange land, but a woman surviving on her post-apocalyptic motherland.
Rolf de Heer has journeyed further than most, and in The Survival of Kindness he creates his fullest reverie of horror, resulting in industrial incursions, stream-trickled whispers between strangers and bone dust. A haunting diagnosis of the abeyance of kindness where land and stars bare silent witness, but their collective mourning is felt in every sequence. — Tearepa Kahi
An open captioning session will screen with an NZSL interpreted Q+A in Auckland at ASB Waterfront Theatre, on Saturday 5 August and in Wellington at Deluxe Cinemas, Embassy Theatre, on Tuesday 8 August.
Find out more about our accessbility screenings at our NZIFF Access page HERE.