Last Thursday, The New Zealand International Film Festival unveiled its Wellington line-up by showing Best of Enemies, a very good documentary based on archival footage. With such a start, film lovers can’t wait to see the fine-selected films NZIFF promises us! Expectations are high!
Risky film choice
Indeed, the NZIFF came out of its cave after months of intense preparation by launching its Wellington program last week with an interesting film choice. Bill Gosden, Director of the festival, reminds us: “In a world of an almost endless choice of movies, clips and TV series, it’s extremely important to select films more carefully than ever.” With so much access to moving image these days, there must be a very good reason for the audience to come into a dark room and enjoy the cinema experience.
Best of Enemies takes us back in the 60s when a series of political debates had been held by two popular culture figures on American TV, Gore Vidal and William F. Junior Buckley. With this aching as the premis behind the film, I thought it might be a ‘fall asleep on your sit, especially after some Pinot Gris glasses from the welcome-buffet’ kind of situation…. BUT to my surprise, it worked perfectly!
US documentary (presented at the Sundance Festival last January) gave us no rest at The Paramount Cinema: it shook our minds & made us laugh irresistibly!
Battle of wits sets off a brainy but amusing festival
In a era of heightened social discontent & political uncertainty, (the never-ending Vietnam war, Martin Luther King & Bobby Kennedy’s deaths, demonstrations by over looked communities etc), ABC News is avidly looking for a new TV program to regain viewers. American citizens don’t want to watch ‘basic information programs’ anymore, they expect something that’ll reflect their animated lives; they want discussions, strong opinions – something new & disruptive. Luckily TV channel had a bright idea: why not confront two of the wittiest & cleverest protagonists of that time, liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Jr Buckley?! The verbal 10-rounder was created into a TV series between the two enemies (they REALLY hated each other!) and marked a spot in history.
Both with unique & compelling personalities, they were ground breaking as they brought political debate to a main stream TV-show.
Directors Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville have nothing more to prove. They are both notorious American music documentary makers – Neville won the Best Documentary Award for 20 Feet from Stardom last year, a hit film that investigates backup singers’ lives. Before that, the two men were journalists. Their former job, a good reflection of their inquisitive mind, lead them to bring these debates into a new light and, in my eyes, they succeed brilliantly.
Best of Enemies is a gem of editing that reflects perfectly the crescendo of intellectual competition between two strong personalities. But that also shows us shrewdly how they both tried to attract the audience’s attention by any means, using their best acting skills. That’s what entertain us the most in the film: they were not only professional talkers, but also gifted actors. I’d go as far as to say, they were on par with their Witt and expression as any stand-up comedian I’ve seen, well at least most of the time!
The quality of the ABC footage is combined with well-chosen pictures of that time. All this is counterbalanced by contemporary interviews that make the link between the debates and our present time. Even if TV-influence has changed a lot in the modern day, this work makes us think about how we should reconsider public debates and to what extend our society has become an “entertainment-based” society.
Nice start for the NZIFF! Don’t miss this film in Wellington, or keep an eye out and catch it when it is released in your country!
PS: the documentary is most likely to be presented at the Academy Awards 2016
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