Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When a City Falls

Directed by Gerard Smythe

On Sunday I went to my parents house. I went because they rang me up and wanted to talk to me about some things. Something to do with my birthday maybe and something else. My nana was there. Nana is a really small old lady with a big nose and every month she shrinks a little. One day she will fit in the palm of my hand and she will still shriek 'CLEAN YOUR ROOM' like normal except she won't be able to pat my butt anymore because she will be too small. I did some readings for university on my laptop on my favourite chair in the lounge and Nana's dog came up to me and wanted a pat and I obliged. Nana's dog is called Narni (I dunno my cousin named it) and she is a Miniature Schnauzer and a bit fat. She yelps a lot and chases my cat, Simba. Simba is like "oh for fucks sake, bitch" and hides in the linen closet. After Nana left Mum asked if I wanted to go to the movies with her and Dad. We went to When a City Falls which is about the Chch earthquakes. Five seconds into the movie Dad started crying. I ate some hot, honey-roasted peanuts.

The movie was good I think. It was sad and all of that obviously but it wasn't really melodramatic. I guess I'm kind of biased though because I live in Christchurch and had to deal with it. The film shows 'humans being ripped apart but then coming together' - there's a big emphasis on the 'people of chch/new zealand/overseas helping each other out' - but I felt sort of alienated I think at the time from other New Zealanders because I felt like they just 'didn't get it'. I felt so far away from everything at the same time as being so close to my city/the people/the land here at the same time as being frightened of it. When I was watching this film I started thinking about people outside of Christchurch and how they cared and I understood that they may not have been there to experience it but they felt somehow connected to it anyway. I guess I ended up identifying with the people I felt so far away from/resented even, at the time. 

It paid attention to the loss of nice historic buildings and the financial aftermath for residents and people being nice and things. My favourite part was when Garry Moore and James Lunday talk about their visions regarding urban design and James goes to San Francisco and Portland and New Orleans (and takes Smythe with him). San Francisco had an earthquake with lots of liquefaction but instead of running away from it they built a city (a massive stadium even) on it, after they prepared the ground nicely again. Basically what they want is to encourage inner city living, bicycle and foot traffic, and discourage suburban sprawl. 

As a 'documentary' the film was fairly objective I think in terms of portraying the general chaos and devastation etc throughout Canterbury. It let the people and the land tell the story. A memorable moment was the handheld camera on the Basilica on Barbadoes Street and Smythe's reaction to the impact the earthquake had on it. 

Another interesting thing was the behaviour of the audience. People were very vocal and muttering things to each other, humming and haa-ing and agreeing and tsk-ing and laughing and so on throughout the whole thing. It was quite nice. No one got told to 'shh'. Lots of people cried. 

I think this is an important film for New Zealanders to see. John Key's in it too, and he's not glorified. In fact he bungles up a lot things such as getting into either a truck or a golf cart and general conversation. Bob Parker reminds me a lot like Clarence Royce/Clay Davis from The Wire. 

Seems like a good flick to catch with yr parents or something. Also Reading Cinema snacks are much cheaper than Hoyts.


  1. i went to see this last night. made me feel real homesick. also real tragic, esp the parts with people i sort of knew or recognised

  2. btw it's weird that you mention how you feel like people don't get it because it kind of feels like that for me too. but on the other side because i haven't lived in chch for more than three years. like, it's real horrible that i knew people who died, and that my parents' place has to be demolished and i'll never like walk down high st or whatever again and all that, but there's definitely a serious disconnect betw me and christchurch now because i wasn't there for "the big one", like it feels almost kind of hostile when i go back now