Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Cinema

Directed by Tim Wong

Starring Eleanor Catton

Two decades on from Cinema of Unease, Tim Wong’s ambitious film essay contemplates the prevailing image of a national cinema while privileging some of the images and image-makers displaced by the popular view of filmmaking in New Zealand. Narrated by Eleanor Catton.


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  • ★★★½ review by Conor Bateman on Letterboxd

    Tim Wong, editor-in-chief of long-running New Zealand arts review and film journal The Lumière Reader, has made his first foray into feature filmmaking with, perhaps fittingly, an essay film. Very much in the vein of Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself and some of the work of Mark Cousins, Wong’s Out of the Mist cycles through engaging and eclectic film clips, pulling from feature fiction and documentary, shorts and a wealth of experimental cinema to posit an alternate canon in New Zealand film history. Rather than dwell too often on the negative impacts of the Lord of the Rings series being the most mainstream influence on the image of New Zealand in popular culture, instead Wong and Catton walk us through the way in which early colonialist art and photography hampered any accurate depictions of the culture or landscape of the country and how this had a trickle down effect on the national cinema.

    Full review: fourthreefilm.com/2015/07/out-of-the-mist/

  • ★★★★½ review by Mark Field on Letterboxd

    Having been out of the country for most of the last 18 months I was so pleased to find this available to watch online. A superb and brilliant documentary about the themes and currents in New Zealand's cinematic history reminds me that I have a lot of films to catch up on.

  • ★★★★ review by slyman on Letterboxd

    "If words can fail us, so can images."

    I now have a whole host of New Zealand films to look up and watch.

    Two word review: Veil lifted

  • ★★★★ review by Jacob Powell on Letterboxd

    Tim Wong’s feature length film-essay waxes lyrical on the idea of a New Zealand cinematic ‘culture’ outside of that projected to the world by our Hollywood successes and perpetuated by our national airline and even our government. Brought to life in the rich narrative entonement of author Eleanor Catton, Wong’s film surveys a broad array of New Zealand cinema from the earliest works produced here right through to films from the current decade. Out of the Mist raises many questions about what the driving commonalities in our films might be, and how these might have changed in recent years. Wong and co (wisely, imo) opt not to try and answer these questions in any kind of definitive way but rather to provoke conversations about and around our 'national cinema'. As eluded to by Wong in a post screening Q&A not since Sam Neill’s 1995 documentary Cinema of Unease has significant work been produced on the topic. Out of the Mist foregrounds key but often overlooked figures/films that have played a role in forming our cinematic identity—long time NZIFF director Bill Gosden’s exhortation to take note of film titles is sage advice for anyone wanting to increase familiarity with the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of New Zealand’s film history—and highlights a selection of up and coming filmmakers who are taking the conversation onward in new and interesting directions such as Alyx Duncan and Gabriel White.

    As a piece cinema Out of the Mist takes its structure from the written essay that birthed it. Wong and editor Peter O’Donoghue have built a captivating flow of borrowed images and sequences to create rich tapestry of the constructed picturesque and the squalid; putting the lie to the predominant ‘Middle-Earthing’ of our national image. This is a film that will warrant sustained chewing: revisiting, digging into the source materials and visiting again, discussing with friends and colleagues and so on.

  • ★★★★ review by Chris Hormann on Letterboxd

    An important document of NZ's film history, taking the road less-travelled to highlight some of the less heralded works of our cinema. A companion piece, rather than a competitor to Sam Neill's Cinema of Unease, Tim Wong covers broad themes but especially highlights the modern day focus on our natural landscape (or "landscape for hire" for overseas movie projects) against a more realistic view of the land. An excellent alternate route to the one through Middle Earth.

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