Family Matters

Family; whether you love them or hate them, you’re stuck with them. They sure know how to push your buttons, annoy and embarrass the hell out of you. Hopefully the times you have a good laugh, share a moment, or just eat together make those other times when you want to kill them (mostly) disappear.

Here are three whanau-featuring highlights from our 2015 programme, as selected by one of our programmers, Clayton Barnett. Whether you’re a father, grandmother, step-son, half-sister, cousin, aunt or whatever, you’ll find something you can relate to here.

Shabu-Shabu Spirit

The torment of meeting your fiancé’s parents for the first time is not lost in translation in this artfully shot Japanese short. Shabu-shabu is a hot-pot dish with a complicated array of etiquette expectations around its consumption.

In this comedic short, the father of the bride-to-be uses shabu-shabu as a litmus test to ensure his daughter will be looked after. If you thought going round to a roast with your in-laws was rough, imagine having to remember all the etiquette involved in this Japanese meal! Producer/director Yuki Saito has a great cinematographic eye. The father’s inner thoughts are brilliantly brought to life in stylistic exploitation-movie fashion with garish colours, crash zooms and spaghetti-western sound effects. Family dynamics have never been so tasty.

Petit Frere (Little Brother)

Petit Frère – Little Brother (2014) from Travelling distribution on Vimeo.

Being an only child myself, this short gave me a case of the feels. A real insight into the competitive cajoling and tight bonds between brothers, Petit Frere delivers the whole gamut of emotions. The two leads – Etienne Galloy and Eric K. Boulianne – will have you pulling your hair out and holding back snorts of laughter as they swing effortlessly between playful, offensive and tender.

This French-Canadian film wears its influences on its sleeve, coming over all cinema verite with natural black and white photography and easy-going authentic dialogue. It looks fantastic and sounds even better – the eclectic jazzy soundtrack is a highlight.

Balsa Wood

New Zealand-born director Dominique Lecchi nails how our family can bug us but we still love them just the same. In an ode to her Filipino-Italian heritage, Lecchi takes a light-hearted look at mixed-race family dysfunction in a way that many of us can relate to. For only her first short she shows a whimsical Wes Anderson-like touch to set design and shot composition. It’s a laconic pace that understands the slow hell that family gatherings can be, and how even though you might not think you fit in, there are always unexpected ways to remind you that you belong.