Director Roseanne Liang explains the ways in which she feels at home at NZIFF.
I feel for the NZIFF the same way I feel about a three-scoop Milo with chocolate milk on a wintry night – a deep sense of joy, gratitude and home. I’ve been going since I was a teenager. The first decade I’d take pride in marathoning three films a day; the second decade, I breastfed my month-old at The Civic during Miyazaki’s Ponyo, determined that babies would not curb my festival habits. Babies: 0. NZIFF: 1.
The community of Auckland filmmakers are a hermity bunch, shuttering ourselves in our project hidey-holes most of the year, but the NZIFF is a kind of Christmas. We bump into each other and embrace, brimming with the spirit of cinema, excitedly comparing reviews, schedules, promise to catch up – not realising that this is the catch up, one of the many gifts NZIFF makes possible.
One time, as the lights came up at The Civic, a long-lost acquaintance hailed me in the back rows of the stalls (where I love to sit). I couldn’t speak because the film was Waltz with Bashir, and the last scenes of the film had crushed my soul and caused me to sob uncontrollably. It felt strange to be so emotionally exposed, and yet apt. The NZIFF feels like a history of me – my emotion, my craft, my people, my taste. When I go each year, it’s as if I’m communing not only with other film lovers, but myself as a film lover, across decades. The deep reverence that I, and many others, feel for the Festival can only be credited to Bill Gosden and his team. Bill literally stood by me for every packed Q+A session of Banana in a Nutshell, an autobiographical documentary that I had submitted to him at the eleventh hour. Bill programmed my short film Take 3 to open the Auckland Festival with Sima Urale’s Apron Strings – a dream come true. I can’t remember a film festival where I didn’t glimpse Bill quietly watching from the shadows, walking determinedly from one venue to the next, lurking like a benevolent fairy godmother. One thing is clear to me: he is an inveterate, incorrigible cinephile, and the work he has done with his team year in, year out to bring us riches near and far, has enabled such fervour in all of us. Thank you and god bless the NZIFF. Long may it reign.