Jul 022013


The New Zealand International Film Festival programme for 2013 is a massive beast. The kind of beast you want to cuddle up with, and get to know. There are so many great films on offer, from new titles direct from Cannes, to small Indie American features and classics on the big screen. In an attempt to help (hopefully not hinder) with your film picks, Chris and I have picked 10 films we think/know are worth seeing at this year’s fest. Check out our picks after the jump.

Chris’s picks


If you only get to see one film at the New Zealand Film Festival, it has to be Wadjda. An intelligent, sweet, sad, scary and insightful film that embraces audiences, complex storytelling and wonderful female characters. Wadjda proves magical when seeing it with a large crowd. It’s for all ages and sizes; and if you leave the theatre and not feel that warm sensation that instantly makes you smile after seeing this film, then I will send a mortician to collect your body. [full review here]

Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch is one of the best storytellers we’ve got. His obsession with the cool and hopeless only makes his stories and style more tangible. Despite making what I believe was one of the worst films ever made in 2009 with The Limits Of Control, he returns with an apparently sweet philosophical tale involving vampires, played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Existential vampires questioning the universe while being clever, smart and cool? How can one resist?

Cheap Thrills
There are a large number of horror films playing the festival and of the few I’ve seen, Cheap Thrills  is the one for those who love their horror films inventive, original and insane. What begins as funny, soon turns to revolting yet always intriguing.  What lengths would you go to for money? You won’t predict how it goes and after about half an hour, you won’t want to. Featuring amazing performances from Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait) and David Koechner (Anchorman), choose the horror film that feeds your curiosity and blood lust yet has remnants of a brain. [full review here]

I’m So Excited
Pedro Almodovar has written and directed a disaster film, involving a potential plane crash and the people on board. Being Almodovar, almost everyone on board is crazy, camp and/or horny. There are very few more words that could be said to sell this one. Just go right ahead and buy the ticket now. No, really, now.

The Dance Of Reality
From director Alejandro Jodorowsky, famous for midnight movie hits such as The Holy Mountain and El Topo,  comes his first film in 23 years. The Dance Of Reality has an incredible yet strange trailer (what would you expect given the movies I’ve mentioned above), but somehow is extremely intriguing. What might be this year’s Holy Motors, The Dance of Reality looks to be a thought arousing and sensory experience that can only be conquered and explained with a large crowd, perfect for the New Zealand Film Festival. Sometimes cohesive and familiar storytelling just doesn’t cut it. Have some fun with something really different.


Sam’s Picks

dirty wars

Dirty Wars
When Jeremy Scahill, National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine decided to investigate a night-time raid in Afghanistan which killed 7 people (including a police commander and 2 pregnant women) he tugged on a very long and tangled piece of string, which lead right to the heart of the United State’s covert war operations. This film shocked me to my core and is an absolute must-see. Easily the best film I saw at the recent Sydney Film Festival. [full review here]

Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon takes on Shakespeare? That alone has me sold on this film. An energetic and lively take on a the classic story of two pairs of lovers and their very different takes on romance. The fact that the film is shot in black & white and has a modern setting, only serves to make this more appealing. During the festival, one can easily get bogged down with dark and emotionally challenging features. Add a bit of light to your line-up with this.

Stranger by the Lake
Winner of the Queer Palm award, and Best Director award for Director Alain Guiraudie at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Stranger by the Lake is at the top of my must-see list for 2013. The French drama sees Franck fall in love with Michel, a very handsome but potentially very dangerous man. There is something about a bit of danger which is oddly exciting…

Prince Avalanche
Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch are a two-man road crew, painting the yellow lines and putting in the posts in a remote area that has recently been devastated by wildfires. In the beautiful, broken landscape the two men are forced to interact, and despite their differences they slowly bond. This quiet film surprised me with its warmth and it’s humour. It contains one of the best drunken montages I have ever seen. Your stomach will ache from laughter and you’ll leave the cinema with a big smile on your face. [full review here]

The Spectacular Now
James Ponsoldt, director of 2012’s Smashed, is back with a coming-of-age story which impressed critics at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and saw Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley both pick up acting awards. In my opinion Smashed was the most honest portrayal of the often ignored middle class battle with alcoholism. I’m really intrigued to see what he will do with teen angst.
In addition to the five films above, I wanted to list some films I have seen and can recommend, as well as the films I would see if by magic I was at the festival.

Seen & can recommend: Like Someone in Love, Wadjda, The Act of Killing, Blackfish, The Rocket (Winner of audience award at Sydney Film Fest), Frances Ha, Mood Indigo (my favourite feature film from Sydney Film Fest),Twenty Feet from Stardom, Blancanieves, Upstream Color and Mud.

My dream NZIFF line-up: Ilo Ilo, The East, the Paradise film trilogy, Cutie and the Boxer, Behind the Candelabra, The Past, Like Father, Like Son, Silence in the House of God, The Great Beauty, Leviathan, A Touch of Sin, The Blood Brother, To the Wonder, A Hijacking , What Maise Knew and Magic Magic.
For everything NZIFF, visit the festival’s official website: http://www.nziff.co.nz/
We hope this helps! Happy New Zealand International Film Festivaling!