There’s lots to love about the contemporary flowering of the female gaze in New Zealand: the powerful indigenous works Vai and Waru with their multiple directors; the intersectionality and humour of The Breaker Upperers, Same But Different and webseries from Flat3, Hanelle Harris, Ness Simons and The Candle Wasters; and the meditations of Vermilion and The Great Maiden’s Blush.
And there’s Hang Time, a ‘little’, low-budget, wine film, where Casey Zilbert turns her gaze on masculinity, in a clear-eyed, compassionate, courageous – and often raucous – comedy. Inspired by Hemingway’s Fiesta, it documents the weekend after Harry’s fiancee cancels their wedding at the last moment, by voicemail (‘It’s not that I don’t wanna marry you. I do. I really do. I just know in my heart that I, I shouldn’t.’), and Harry and his equally unhappy mate Ants hang out at the wedding venue, a vineyard, with their friend Jess and the nuptial food and wine.
I’m not the target audience for Hang Time. Others, who are in that audience, have called it ‘very funny and sweet and real’ and ‘a confident, competent and easy-to-like Kiwi movie’, all true. But my heart was engaged – and warmed – by Hang Time’s central questions about (white) men within patriarchy. Here, although ’I know you’re going to be an amazing mum one day, Jess. You’ve had all this practice with Harry and me’, Jess doesn’t mother Harry and Ants, even though ‘…you guys are family. Family that sticks together no matter what’; she’s got her own stuff going on, with her work and her sister Bella. Interventions from Bella and Hemingway-esque Uncle Jake move things forward, but ultimately it’s up to Harry and Ants.
I loved the quality of Hang Time’s details, too, like its glance at consent and affectionate references to a Solo Mothers Appreciation Club. And its close attention to every element: fine acting, gorgeous scenery captured in beautiful camera work, sharp editing, the music, sophisticated colour work that references New Zealand visual art; and two associated webseries. In the 21st century I’m thrilled that – however tight the budget – digital natives both entertain us and enhance our understanding of the complexities of being human.