James & Isey

Director Florian Habicht / 2021 / New Zealand

Ahead of her 100th birthday, Isey and her devoted son James prepare for the party of a lifetime.

Ngāti Manu woman Isey Cross lives with her youngest son, James, on a farm in Kawakawa, a small town on New Zealand’s North Island. Cheeky and vivacious, the 99-year-old is preparing to celebrate her centenary when award-winning Kiwi filmmaker Florian Habicht (Spookers, MIFF 2017; Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets, MIFF 2014) turns up with a camera. Over the next seven days, as James organises the festivities, Habicht captures their devoted bond – to each other and to the spirit world – as well as their infectious joie de vivre.

Habicht does more than just invite audiences to spend an incredible week with this charismatic duo and their friends, however: he also traces significant events and milestones in Aotearoa over the 100 years of Isey’s lifetime. The result is a cheerful and big-hearted observational documentary that recounts the inextricably linked stories of person and place.

“It’s a rare film that can be this free of sentiment and saccharine while still positively rolling in romanticism, nostalgia and pure, honestly given aroha … An unclassifiable triumph of heart and instinct over the odds.” – Stuff.co.nz

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