New Zealand “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”: Charmlingly Offbeat

Something about summer – more relaxed, more socializing…the best summer movies are usually happier and lighter.

Often, summer movies can be light on substance. But this isn’t the case with “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. Make no mistake; it is a comedy, and you will laugh. But it’s not a site-gag film; it has substance.  Here’s how the NY Times review begins:

““Hunt for the Wilderpeople” takes a troika of familiar story types — the plucky kid, the crusty geezer, the nurturing bosom — and strips them of cliché. Charming and funny, it is a drama masquerading as a comedy about an unloved boy whom nobody wants until someone says, Yes, I’ll love him. Much of the humor comes from the child, who’s at once a pip and a gloriously expressive ambassador for the director Taika Waititi’s cleareyed take on human nature and movies. Mr. Waititi knows that we love to cry at sad and bad times, but he also knows that people in pain need to get on with their lives.”

This is director Taika Waititi’s third film, but he is increasingly a filmmaker to watch:

“Mr. Waititi’s expansive sense of human beings in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” allows his characters to endure loss and hardship without forcing them to be wholly limited by their suffering, as marginalized people too often are in fiction … He’s still finding his way, but he’s already a director who — as he does in a shot of a friendly, undefeated child pausing to wave at a pursuer — can distill a worldview into a single, perfect cinematic moment.”

Here’s the full review from the New York Times:

“The Music Of Strangers” – Title doesn’t convey the warmth and beauty of this film.

Last night, we had our first screening of “The Music of Strangers”, a doc about Yo-Yo Ma’s interesting musical journey with an amazing group of international artists.

At the beginning of the film, Ma shares that his career started when he was very young – 5 or 6 – and he never “chose” to become a musician. As he got older, he began his own search for meaning in his career. The result was reaching out to a variety of musicians from countries that are part of the former “Silk Road”, which basically spans central and southern asia. This ensemble first got together in 2000 – as an experiment. After 9/11, they were drawn to continue their exploration and collaboration. The ensemble is quite large and we don’t meet every musician. But the ones we do meet are very talented and deeply affecting, telling their stories as an artist, and as a citizen of the world. This charismatic film takes you on quite a journey – to many places, and it is pure joy to watch these artists make music under very unusual circumstances.  It’s difficult to convey how uplifting and enjoyable the film is and what an intimate portrait we see.

We have one more showing, this Sunday, August 14 at 4 pm.  Don’t miss this gorgeous film.  Use the link below to see the trailer.

The Music of Strangers

MoS-1-poster ”The Music of Strangers” shows a side of Yo-Yo Ma you may not know: as founder of The Silk Road Ensemble. Ma organized this collective of musicians from around the world in 2000. The idea: bring great musicians together from around the globe to create something fresh.

“Beautifully shot, deeply philosophical Documentary” The Washington Post

“I don ‘t think Yo-Yo sees himself as a cellist…He sees himself as someone who wants to change the world, and half the time he happens to be carrying a cello”. Wall Street Journal

Join us for an opening night reception and discussion after the Thursday night screening, led by Musician and Music teacher Richard Fron.

Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble: 8/11 @ 7 and 8/14 @ 4 pm

For our debut long weekend at Spring Street Gallery, we are also showing “The Music of Strangers”, the hypnotic, fascinating documentary about The Silk Road Ensemble. Founded in 2000 by Y0-Yo Ma, this group is a very international collaboration of  musicians from many countries, all of them virtuoso, many on culturally-important instruments that aren’t so widely known in the “western” world.

This collaboration is musical, but also political; these artists are transcending boundaries to bring us together.

This documentary is not just talking heads; we follow the Silk Road Ensemble to a number of performances around the world, and the music in the film is gorgeous.  ”If the screen went dark during “The Music of Strangers,” that would be a disappointment. But if the sound failed, that would be a tragedy. While this documentary, subtitled “Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble,” is lovely to watch, it’s even more beautiful to hear.” (New York Times review)

To find out more about this unique organization, here’s a link to their website:


Taika Waititi Is A Very Funny Man

Who’s Taika Waititi?

A very interesting young-ish  (40) filmmaker. We’re screening his film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” this weekend (Friday, Sunday and Monday).  Waititi is a native New Zealander, and started out as a visual artist.  ”Hunt” is his third independent film, but you have seen some of his work if you ever watched Flight of the Conchords, the very funny HBO show that ran several seasons in the early 2000′s.  If you watched Conchords, you’ll recognize Rhys Darby (he played the Conchords manager). Also starring Sam Neill (also a Kiwi).

We decided to screen this film because it is a rare breed:  Very funny, yet poignant.  Adults will enjoy it, and so will teens and even pre-teens. A “road comedy” with a very original take and an offbeat cast. Waititi adapted a Barry Crump book of the same name into this indie feature that debuted at Sundance last winter.  It is just out, and taking off.  You can see it first here.

By the way, here are a few links of interest:

Interview with Waititi at Sundance:

Even better, here’s Waititi giving a Ted Talk on creativity (also very funny).

Don’t miss this film.  Run time – 1:41.

Summer Film Frenzy begins Thursday, Aug. 11

We kick off our August Film Frenzy this Thursday with “The Music of Strangers”, a beautiful documentary about The Silk Road Ensemble, an amazing group of international musicians (virtuosos all), assembled by Yo Yo Ma. From filmmaker Morgan Neville,  director of the Academy Award winning documentary  ”20 Feet From Stardom” (which we screened two years ago…), The Music of Strangers takes you on a journey around the world, and shows you a side of Yo Yo Ma you haven’t seen. Ma is the artistic director of Silkroad, an organization he founded to promote cross-cultural performance and collaborations at the edge where education, business and the arts come together to transform the world. More than 80 works have been commissioned specifically for the Silk Road Ensemble, which tours annually.  The film and the music are very entertaining, and you will meet other virtuoso artists who play instruments you may not be familiar with. “Beautifully shot, deeply philosophical Documentary”       Washington Post “I don’t think Yo Yo sees himself as a cellist…He sees himself as someone who wants to change the world, and half the time he happens to be carrying a cello”.          Wall Street Journal Two screenings of  Music of Strangers:   When?          Thursday, August 11, at 7 pm, with opening reception and discussion to follow. Sunday, August 14th at 4 pm, with discussion to follow. Where?        Spring  Street Gallery, 110 Spring Street, Saratoga Spring NY (At Regent St.) Tickets are $8/$6 for members and students with ID

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