Thomas Giblin, our film aficionado, rounds up some of the films we should be seeing at this year’s festival.
Another year has rolled around and with it the renamed Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival returns although in a different format. Instead of crowding cinemas around the country, viewers will be able to watch the programmed films from the comfort of their own homes via nziff.co.nz. Although a different viewing experience than what we expected, fortunately, there are supplementary screenings for those with an itch to see films on the big screen.
With seventy-nine feature films and seven collections of short films choosing what to see can be overwhelming, especially for those with limited time and money, so here are my suggestions of what films to see.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV return to the NZIFF after their 2015 feature Western with a tender portrait of lost souls in a Las Vegas dive bar. An experiment in nonfiction filmmaking, it is described as an “absorbing portrait of drinking life” of those who find solace with the regulars who are patrons of The Roaring 20s. It demands viewing for its humanity is evident from the trailer alone and looks to be a gentle reminder to treasure the places we consider home.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching All These Sleepless Nights or Chronicle of a Summer!
Pablo Larrin’s Ema is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen. I’ve watched it on the small screen, and it doesn’t do it justice. Pulsating with shades of red, green and purple while set to Nicolas Jaar’s ethereal score it is a film that must be experienced. It might also just be my favourite film of 2020.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching Climax or Suspiria (1997 or 2018)!
Esteemed actress Halina Reijn turned writer-director in her feature debut looks to have given new life to the phrase ‘Cat and Mouse’. Carice van Houten stars as the therapist whose attraction to a sex offender patient blurs the line between ethics and personal desire. Gorerouglsy lensed by Jasper Wolf Instinct is set to be a film that provokes discussion and is not afraid to explore our deepest darkest secrets.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching The Guilty, Zodiac or Rope!
Last and First Men
The posthumous debut feature by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson looks to be a remarkable piece of Sci-Fi from one of our generations greatest composers. Narrated by the otherworldly Tilda Swinton, it draws inspiration from Olaf Stapledon’s 1930’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of humanity from the current day to two billion years from now all in gorgeous 16mm black-and-white making Last and First Men a must-see.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching Brazil or Columbus!
The Long Walk
Mattie Do, Lao’s first and only female filmmaker, makes her third feature with a genre-blending film about an old man and a ghost who helps him travel through time. Described as “Mysterious, meditative and lingering” The Long Walk is a film that will hopefully be one that will stay with you long after its end both due to its complexity and its ethereal themes.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching A Ghost Story or Dragon Inn!
Dutch director Mees Peijnenburg who is tipped as one to watch teams up with Jasper Wolf for his feature film debut. Peijnenburg by all accounts in Paradise Drifters has created an energetic and raw film about a group of dutch youths delivering an unspecified object to Marseille. In doing so, he highlights many of the societal ills facing Europe today in stunning fashion.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching La Haine and Spring Breakers!
To Live to Sing
Chinese-Canadian filmmaker, Johnny Ma, in his second feature film, captures a rapidly modernizing China and its effects on a Sichuan Opera troupe. Featuring larger than life characters and fantastical imagery it looks to be bittersweet endeavour but one that will ultimately open our hearts.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching Still Life or Up!
A fantastical reimagining of Peter Pan and Wendy in Neverland by the director of the Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild Benh Zeitlin looks to be an experience for all ages. Given high praise by filmmaker Sean Baker (Tangerine, Florida Project) who calls it his “film of the year” Wendy is set to be a film that will light up your imagination as if you were a kid again.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching My Life as a Courgette or My Neighbor Totoro!
The tagline of this film is ‘Facelifts, Boobs, and Zombies’ that alone should sell the film to you.
If you like the sound of this, consider watching The Evil Dead or Bad Taste!