Jun 252012


The programmes for the Auckland and Wellington lega of the 2012 New Zealand International Film Festival has been launched and is now live at http://www.nzff.co.nz/auckland

New Zealanders are in for a real treat, with an amazing array of local and foreign films of all shapes and sizes on offer.

After the jump check out my picks from the programme, including links to films which I have seen and reviewed.

Below I’ve listed my pick of the films from the Auckland and Wellington programme. I will do another post for the smaller centres programme, in which I will list which centres my recommended films are playing at. There are many many more great films [on offer] than just those listed below, but I couldn’t list them all! I haven’t supplied plot synopsis, so you’ll need to head over to the NZFF website for those. For the films which I’ve seen and reviewed you’ll find a review link at the end of each entry.

Feature Films


Opening night film: Beasts of the Southern Wild is an original and magical journey into a corner of the world not often explored. The film is from first time director Benh Zeitlin, and has been highly regarded at major international film festivals. It won the Grand Jury and Cinematography Awards at Sundance, as well as the Camera d’Or for Best First Film at Cannes  [review].

Closing night film: Holy Motors was easily the most talked about film at Cannes, and it blew the audience away at it’s single Sydney Film Festival screening. A cinematic experience that simply cannot be missed. Give yourself over to the crazy, and go for the ride of the year with this film [review].

AmourThe 2012 Palm d’Or film from director Michael Haneke is a heart-breaking and life-affirming film which must be seen. Be warned this isn’t an easy watch (are any of Haneke’s films?), but you will be rewarded by a rich story, and some of the finest acting on the big-screen in 2012. Take someone to hug afterwards [review].

Bernie – A film in which the loveable Jack Black is a small town’s most polite and well-loved murderer? Sounds fantastic! With a cast that includes Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, this seems like a dark comedy best experienced with a loud and enthusiastic festival crowd. Bernie has received very positive reviews overseas – it currently sits at 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Caesar Must Die – Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlinale, Caesar Must Die sits at an interesting middle ground between a drama and documentary. Watch real Italian Prisoners rehearse and perform Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in a way that you’ve never seen the play imagined before – a gorgeous cinematic feast for the eyes and the soul [review].

Himizu – A timely drama about Japanese teens coping with everyday life in the post-disaster world. A mix of typical teen angst and rage, and the issues that living in a disaster zone brings. This film looks gut-wrenching (and a bit close to home for many), but it’s one I would seek out.

Killer Joe – This is a film I chose not to see at Sydney Film Festival, but after hearing the reactions of those who did see it, I really regret my decision. Reactions I heard ranged from “So freaking awesome but disgusting”, to  “McConaughey’s best performance by a mile”, and ” I’ll never eat fried chicken again”.

Liberal Arts – I suspect that this film will resonate with a large portion of a film festival audience (as it did with me) – there are a lot of us out there with humanities degrees who are struggling to find a balance between our dreams and our realities. A relatable, amusing, and thoroughly engaging comedy [review].

Monsieur Lazhar – This film has so much heart and had me teary-eyed throughout. The story of a teacher who takes over a class after the previous teacher has taken her own life. This film could easily have been overdone and filled with emotional blackmail, but instead it is subtle, underplayed, and uplifting. This beautiful film is worth seeing for the incredible performances of the talented child actors alone. This is a 5 star film for me.

Neighbouring Sounds – A simple film which gives the viewer an intimate look into the everyday lives of the residents of a block in urban Recife, Brazil. Not a lot happens in this film, but it is strangely compelling and engaging nonetheless. I think it’s down to the interesting characters – each which has a very unique personality and different relationship with the community they live in.

The Angel’s Share – Winner of the 2012 Jury Prize at Cannes, director Ken Loach’s film is one which has gained a lot of praise and respect. I know very little about this film, but friends who have seen it have highly recommended that I check it out. It looks like a really charming and interesting British comedy.

The Cabin in the Woods – Everything you have heard about this film is true – it takes the horror genre and completely turns it on its head. A film that manages to both celebrate and poke fun at the genre. The most fun I’ve had in the cinema this year – see it at NZFF  as it might be your only chance to see it on the big screen. Also don’t read anything about it -the less you know going in, the better.

The Hunt – Mads Mikkelsen can do no wrong, and for The Hunt he picked up the 2012 Best Actor award at Cannes. After playing the King’s confidant and doctor in A Royal Affair, he stars in this film as an innocent man demonized by the false accusations of a small child. With subject matter like this, it’s bound to be a tough but rewarding watch.

The Sapphires – This Australian musical film caused quite the stir at Cannes, where it was promptly picked up for distribution by The Weinstein Company. This is the opening night film at the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival, so it’s pretty great that Kiwis are getting to see it before Australian film buffs. Could easily be the most uplifting, toe-tapping film of the festival.

The Taste of Money – From Veteran Korean film maker Sang-soo Im, comes a story of lust, money, power-plays, and corruption in the highest reaches of Korean society.

This Must Be The Place – I saw this film months ago, and I still can’t get the soundtrack out of my head. Cheyenne (played by Sean Penn) is an ageing ex-rocker on a mission across America to find the German who tortured his father at Auschwitz. The is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen this year – the American landscape has never looked so vivid and alive. I can’t really convey how much I loved this film – don’t miss this one [review].

Wish You Were HereThe best Australian film that I’ve seen in some time, and one which many Kiwis and Aussies can find something to relate to – going on your dream holiday and abandoning reality (despite the consequences) and giving over to your desires. Two couples go on a dream holiday to Cambodia, but only 3 people return. Fantastic performances, great music, and clever editing create a tense drama which will keep you on the edge of your seat [review]



¡Vivan las Antipodas! – This film looks beautiful beyond words, and for me that alone is enough of a reason to see it. See some of New Zealand’s beautiful scenery and nature on display, and celebrate the rich and varied planet that we are lucky enough to inhabit.

A Bitter Taste of Freedom – A murder that screams “cover up” and “government involvement”,  journalist Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed in 2006 after she wrote a series of ground-breaking and disturbing reports from Chechnya. I remember being shocked by the news at the time, and wondered how this could happen in this age. Journalists in many countries are not free at all.

First Position – This documentary about 6 young, talented dancers preparing for the most important dance of their lives sold out quickly at the Sydney Film Festival, and I regret not seeing it. An uplifting and moving film about the lengths people (even children) go to for their passions.

Into the Abyss – From veteran documentation Werner Herzog, comes a film about two young men who committed the most horrific of crimes and await their punishment on death row in Texas prison. This isn’t a film about redemption – this is a film about the many shades of the truth. Also screening is Death Row – the TV series Herzog made alongside the documentary film.

Maori Boy Genius – The uplifting and interesting story of Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti , a 16-year-old boy with a thirst for knowledge and the expectations of his extended family resting heavily on his shoulders, who travels to Yale to take part in an intensive political seminar.

Room 237 – A must for fans of The Shining or film fanatics of any king. A multi-layered and comprehensive (and also kooky) look into The Shining and what makes it the classic horror film of our time.

Side By Side – Keanu Reeves interviews film-makers from David Finicher, to Chrisopher Nolan, and various accomplished VFX editors, cinematographers,and more, about the changes happening in the film world, and their position on digital film and 3D. I really enjoyed this documentary and found it really interesting to hear the opposing views of some of my favourite film makers.

The Imposter – I watched the trailer for this film and instantly regretted not seeing it at Sydney Film Festival. A documentary that plays out more like a thriller-mystery, with a protagonist so ruthless and clever, you won’t believe what he gets away with is for real. I really hope I can see this one at MIFF.

Undefeated – The 2012 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary film has caused many a grown man around the world to cry. While the subject matter may seem cliché, I’ve been told that it’s brilliantly executed and emotionally rewarding. Another film I’m really sad I missed at Sydney Film Festival.

West of Memphis – The Paradise Lost Trilogy films absolutely floored me – I couldn’t believe what these young men went through at the hands of a corrupt and unjust legal system. This film documents the strong fight by the men’s loyal supporters and backers (including Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson) to get their convictions quashed and convict the real killer. I am really holding out for this one.


 Animation, Shorts & Others

From Up On Poppy Hill

Bonjour Tristesse – Restored to it’s technicolor glory and transferred to DCP, this French classic is one which I would love to see on the big-screen.

From Up on Poppy Hill – The latest animated feature film from Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. These films are utterly delightful, and are best viewed in Japanese on the big-screen. I am really looking forward to seeing this later in the year.

New Zealand’s Best 2012 – Six New Zealand short films have been selected for the inaugural NZIFF New Zealand’s Best Short Film Competition.

The Shining – The horror film. On the big screen. With a film festival audience. Enough said.


This list could have easily been 3 times longer, but I had to draw the line somewhere. These picks represent my tastes, so there are bound to be films that I’ve left out. I’d love to hear your comments and your picks for the “must sees” of the festival.

Tickets go on sale (for Auckland) on Friday 29 June. Good luck with your schedules everyone!