Samantha Gianotti offers a handful of picks from this year’s NZIFF schedule
This year marks the fiftieth year of the New Zealand International Film Festival, with a schedule bursting with movies from the most prestigious film festivals the globe over. Including Q&A opportunities with filmmakers, a host of restored films from across the festival’s half-century history, and nifty venues across the country, the NZIFF is the best time of the year for fledgling and proficient film fans alike. Take a gander at the festival’s (bloody thick) programme to see the more than 160 films that the festival boasts—or, for those fans of cliff notes, No Fear Shakespeare, and book-to-film adaptations, here is an easy list of a few flicks you might want to look out for at this year’s fest.
Dir. Sebastián Lelio
Based on Naomi Alderman’s novel, Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams occupy the two central roles in this drama set in the confines of an Orthodox Jewish Community that Rachel Weisz’ character, Ronit, has long been distanced from. The love story between the two leading ladies is coloured by the pull of obligations to one’s community, family, and to one’s self, and marks director Lelio’s English-language debut following on from the success of his previous feature (that played at last year’s NZIFF) A Fantastic Woman.
Disobedience is screening on July 20th, 21st and 24th and August 1st.
Dir. Paul Schrader
Having co-written screenplays for the likes of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, First Reformed is the latest instalment in Paul Schrader’s anthology of films about men in crisis. Ethan Hawke takes up the mantle (and clerical collar) of Reverend Toller, in a performance that is being praised far and wide, a man bruised by grief and struggling to carry a young woman (played by Amanda Seyfried) through similar difficulties. First Reformed is being called one of the year’s best, and one of Schrader’s most masterful outings yet.
First Reformed is screening on July 20th, 25th and August 2nd.
Dir. Lee Chang-dong
This South Korean drama was a serious contender for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and while it lost out, the film took home the FIPRESCI Award, and has topped critics’ lists since its release. Inspired by the short story “Barn Burning”, Lee Chang-dong’s interpretation centres on a love triangle and the emotions that run rampant between those involved—a slow-burning story of intimacy and intrigue.
Burning is screening on July 28th , 30th and August 4th.
Dir. Kore-eda Hirokazu
This year’s Palme d’Or winner is surely going to pluck at the ol’ heartstrings, documenting the importance of family, the difficulties of a family unit, and the places where we might find family bonds outside of basic blood ties. In what is being described as a profoundly human film, Hirokazu is being praised for the film’s near-perfection, with deep reserves of compassion abounding.
Shoplifters is screening on July 21st, 23rd and 29th.
Dir. Panos Costamos
Nicolas Cage’s on-screen presence is surely enough of a draw for anyone, but besides the return of Cage at his rage-iest, Mandy boasts a host of scintillating visuals and a synth-heavy score to accompany Saint Nic as he seeks vengeance for the murder of his beloved (Andrea Riseborough). Mandy appears to be blood-soaked, bewildering and just a little batshit, with many predicting that it is a cult classic simply waiting to be initiated.
Mandy is screening on July 26th, 31st and August 3rd.
Top Tips For a Tip Top Festival Experience
Create a Wishlist
Using the “wishlist” function on the NZIFF website allows you to not keep track of the (probably) numerous flicks you want to venture to, with the option to alert you when tickets to a session you’ve selected are selling quickly, and ensuring you don’t double book yourself or find yourself trying to attend sessions that inconveniently overlap.
The festival takes place in venues all over Auckland, from the historical grandeur of the central city’s Civic Centre to the groovy, iridescent ASB Waterfront Theatre. Your viewing environment can wholly impact upon the atmosphere of your screening, so why not seek out a theatre you’re yet to visit, like the Hollywood Avondale (with its intriguing layout and delicious-looking pastries), or the Academy, a cinema tucked beneath the Auckland City Library that feels entirely removed from the bustle of Auckland City’s arterial roads.
Student tickets for the festival tend to hover around the $15.50 mark—the ten-trip pass will cost you a cool $155, and while it’s not necessarily a win in terms of savings, it does lock you in to purchasing ten tickets over the course of the festival, or see your purchase go to waste, perhaps giving you that extra push you were needing to tick off your wishlist and get to that mid-morning screening before your afternoon lecture.
Be a Volunteer Usher
Each year, the NZIFF calls for volunteer ushers to help facilitate screenings across the festival’s various venues and keep their operations running silky smooth. Volunteer ushers get to rub shoulders with other film buffs, and watch films as part of their job. While ushering applications have closed for this year’s fest, it’s something to think on before the festival’s 2019 run rolls around.