27 Jun 2017

What you should see at the NZ International Film Festival

3:16 pm on 27 June 2017

Overwhelmed with options? We're here to help.



Anna Billing's The Love Witch.

Anna Billing's The Love Witch. Photo: YouTube

It’s film festival season once more! And you know what that means: Another bitter winter spent braving the elements, evading snobby film men and milling aimlessly around The Civic/Embassy, all in pursuit of that rare beast, an edifying cinematic experience.

So what films are actually worth this harrowing ordeal? Only time will tell. But, while you wait for the inevitable mix of wonder and disappointment that awaits, luxuriate in the hope that the unknown allows and peruse with us our hot-take picks for 2017’s NZIFF.



Following up his sublime English language debut The Lobster, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is back with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Described in the festival programme as a “meticulously wrought chiller” (what we like to hear) the film reunites Lanthimos with Lobster star Colin Farrell, as well a featuring so-hot-right-now Nicole Kidman and (!) Alicia Silverstone.

Cryptically described as a tragic story of a surgeon under siege by a teenage stalker, it’s probably better to just not read anything and book tickets quickly cos the wanky crowd will be all over this one like a rash.  


Speaking of the wanky crowd, Austrian director Michael Haneke is back with Happy End, a family drama given the surprisingly upbeat label of “grim satire” in the film festival programme.

Starring everyone’s favourite scary French lady Isabelle Huppert and her Amour co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant, Happy End doesn’t look like much from the clip above but no doubt some bleak shit goes down before too long. Enjoy!


Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman are the it couple of the film festival! Paired once again, alongside Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, The Beguiled is the latest feature from Sophia “never heard of the Bechdel Test” Coppola and is likely to be one of the most popular at the festival.

A remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 Clint Eastwood epic, the story of a wounded soldier taken in by a girls school won Coppola the Best Director prize at Cannes and caused everyone to wonder if it’s ok to make a movie about the civil war without really mentioning slavery (answer: probably not).

Yet, in spite of Coppola’s penchant for the problematic, The Beguiled is said to be an interesting addition to the body of work of a director who fascinates (white people) as much as she frustrates (everyone else).


How rad is it that we’re getting The Love Witch? This crazy looking homage to 70s sexploitation and melodrama has had a ton of buzz on social media since it was released in the US last November and for a while it looked like lil’ ol’ Enzed was gonna get left out.

The product of a seven year DIY project by writer and director Anna Billing (who also did the soundtrack, sets and costumes), The Love Witch, tells the tale of a beautiful woman, who is also a witch, searching for love and leaving a trail of deceased suitors in her wake. As likely to piss off boring men as it is to delight cool women, I cannot wait to see The Love Witch.  


Spookers, along with My Year with Helen and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, heralds a corker of a year for New Zealand made documentaries in the festival.

Already fawned over by critics at the Sheffield Doc Fest and the Sydney Film Festival, Spookers sees filmmaker Florian Habicht turn his eye to the Auckland haunted house attraction of the same name.

As much about the inner lives of the unlikely community formed by the park’s performers as it is about the history of the Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital grounds where they work, Spookers is said to be a heartwarmer rather than a horror.


Dinners gone wrong are always good fodder for movies, and the class and race dynamic at the heart of Beatriz at Dinner seems to bode well for some great messy drama.

Starring Salma Hayak as Connie Britton’s holistic healer, things get weird when a house call becomes a dinner invitation. The trailer looks cool, the film looks stressful and John Lithgow makes a great douchebag.    


Though I in no way endorse alleged asshole Casey Affleck, A Ghost Story looks interesting and potentially cool. The story of a guy who, having died, comes back as a old school sheet-with-eyeholes ghost to haunt his partner and the house in which they lived, this looks pleasantly sad and mopey.

It also looks very slow and contains a seven minute pie eating scene that made a lot of people pretty mad. Art!


The Square won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year and for a lot of people that is enough to make it a pick on its own. Actually that’s really the main reason I’m including it.

It’s probably pretty good though and, whether or not you feel a satire of the Swedish art world pertains to you directly, the above clip does look very buzzy. Head along on opening night for a swish time with the cultural elite.


The New Zealand International Film Festival will run in 13 major city centres across New Zealand, including Auckland 14 Jul–6 Aug, Wellington 28 Jul–13 Aug and Christchurch 3 Aug–20 Aug.