New Zealand International Film Festival
August 7–23, 2015
This year’s New Zealand International Film Festival in Christchurch, 7-23 August, will be one of celebration.
The theatre has been especially equipped with more than $262,000 of state of the art projection equipment to host the festival – giving it the prestigious home it deserves.
A full programme of all films is available at nziff.co.nz
These are the films with screenings at the Isaac Theatre Royal:
NZ International Film Festival
The Director, Peedom, set out to capture the work of sherpas on Mount Everest during the 2014 climbing season but while her team were there in April 2014, the devastating avalanche that killed 16 sherpas hit. The documentary captures that tragedy but also looks at the relationship between cashed-up Everest expeditions and their guides – it is insightful,
An extraordinary and sensitive look at British songstress Amy Winehouse’s rise to fame and the drug addiction that claimed her life.
Eight animated movies for kids. NZIFF recommends this programme for children aged 9–12
Family, food, love, work, life and death are all on the menu in Our Little Sister. This irresistible, light-filled family drama brims with small moments and slips down as easily as the many meals it shares with us
Two transgender prostitute BFFs talk trash and storm the LA streets in this R-rated comedy of infidelity, retribution and sorely stretched friendship. Their taxi-driving biggest admirer is having a bad night too.
The Church of Scientology hates this film. When it was released in the US in March, the organisation immediately launched a media counter-offensive, inveighing against director Alex Gibney and the apostates who appear in it. Of course they did: as is laid bare in this affecting, gobsmacking documentary, Scientology’s retaliations know few bounds.
Enthralled, like its hero, by the turmoil, lyricism and sheer melodic grandeur of one of the most beloved works in the Romantic piano repertoire, Rebecca Tansley’s documentary recounts the voyage of Italian-born Auckland pianist Flavio Villani.
Over ten nights in August 1968, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr let rip. The clash of the commentators – the liberal iconoclast versus the public face of conservatism – would quickly become essential viewing. It was a masterstroke from ABC, the minnow of American network television.
The winner of the 2014 European Film Award for Best European Comedy, this Italian box office hit follows the growing pains of Arturo, a Palermo boy whose life, from conception onwards, is impacted in dramatic ways by the operations of the Mafia. For a romantic comedy, it delivers a disconcertingly effective protest at Cosa Nostra domination of Sicilian life – by portraying historic Mafia violence as idiotic.
Here’s something super special with all-ages appeal. Years in the making, Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated, handmade animated feature serves up a heady brew of Irish folklore in a dazzling procession of story book images. Its story of a motherless boy and his speechless little sister finding their place (and her voice) in a world of restless spirits is fraught with adventure and imbued with emotions anyone might recognise.
Marah Strauch’s spectacular documentary celebrates the reckless free spirit – or insanity, if you prefer – of Carl Boenish, the pioneering hero and cheerleader of BASE jumping.
“Bomb-torn Belfast in 1971 must have been like nowhere else on Earth – more like a rubble-strewn circle of hell. The film’s stark realism and bruising impact are enough in themselves, but the risk, and the real artistic payoff, is its bold sensory plunge into this Hadean inferno.
An almost Hitchcockian drama of mistaken identity set in Berlin immediately after WWII. Nelly, a jazz singer, injured while escaping from a concentration camp. Successful reconstructive surgery has rendered her barely recognisable to her few surviving acquaintances. Despite their warnings, she searches the blitzed city hoping to confront the missing husband who may have betrayed her to the Nazis in the first place. When he fails to recognise her, a bizarre new courtship ensues.
A hot romantic thriller filmed in a single mobile shot, Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria aces a dazzling experiment in narrative filmmaking.
New York fashion original Iris Apfel first came to prominence as an interior designer in the 1950s. She furnished nine White Houses in a row and lived an enviable globetrotting lifestyle. Veteran documentarian Albert Maysles follows the 93-year-old Iris on her rounds, turning what others might have made a mere caricature into a moving study of a headstrong, irreverent, compulsively quotable (‘colour can raise the dead’) woman towards the end of her extraordinary life.
Expat New Zealand director Virginia Heath collaborated with prolific Scottish indie folksinger King Creosote (Kenny Anderson) to pair archival footage with original songs and create this vibrant elegy for 20th century Scotland. Their film offers no interviews or voice-overs, relying instead on Anderson’s poetic songs to tell stories and embellish a myriad of documentary clips.
Centred on a warm and humorous performance by Brazilian actress and TV host Regina Casé, The Second Mother brings an edge of social critique to its heart-tugging tale of mother and child reunion.
An amiably off-kilter rom com circles around three characters and a Texas gym called Power 4 Life. Their regimes are upended by the arrival of a transplant from New York in dire need of a tone up in every department.
Lily Tomlin’s no cuddly movie granny in this richly loaded comedy of intergenerational female camaraderie – and exasperation. She’s retired, she’s broke, she’s just sent her young girlfriend packing and she is super cranky. When her teenage granddaughter turns up out of nowhere, Elle (Tomlin) gets the picture in no time: Sage is pregnant and whatever she decides to do, she’s counting on grandma to come out fighting for her.
When 60s super dude Steve McQueen wanted to make a movie of the 24-hour road race at Le Mans no one was going to stop him.
If you’ve not been there for yourself, prepare to be amazed by the profusion of massive murals, pop-up enterprises and inventive recreational options that have brought colour and vitality to Central Christchurch since the massive demolitions that followed the quake.
In this vivacious female ensemble comedy, two of the wives and all five known daughters of a womanising movie star congregate in the South Italian sun for a public celebration of his memory.
A spooky piece of speculative fiction that’s completely plausible, capable of both thinking big thoughts and providing pulp thrills.
Exhilarating in its candour and ironic verve, The Diary of a Teenage Girl recounts the visceral thrills and spills of 15-year-old Minnie as she throws herself into her first affair. Her secret lover: the ridiculously easy-going boyfriend of her mother.
NZIFF puts Paul Thomas Anderson’s inspired adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel onto New Zealand cinema screens at last. Joaquin Phoenix is woozily perfect as stoned LA beach bum and private investigator Doc Sportello, lured by his ex into a missing person enquiry that’s richly evocative in every detail, and evocatively incomprehensible in toto.
Seen at last in next-to-original form, Mark Christopher’s 1998 movie plugs us into late-70s discorama at its most delirious.
This film celebrates six women who have honoured the men they lost there by fighting, for longer than any of them could have anticipated, for justice, accountability and re-entry into the mine’s drift to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones.
Nominally a martial arts film of the swordplay genre, The Assassin, inspired by 9th-century Tang Dynasty fiction, is actually a breathtakingly contemplative historical drama.
Joshua Oppenheimer’s groundbreaking documentary The Act of Killing confronted viewers with a moral vacuum in which the perpetrators of the politically motivated massacres that roiled Indonesia in 1965 were only too happy to reenact their crimes. In the director’s own words, ‘I felt I’d wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power.’ The Look of Silence widens the frame to include the victims’ perspective.
A vivid, elegantly assembled portrait of the savvy guru with the cherubic face and penetrating gaze who brought meditation to the West. Although the name Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) may not ring a bell, his teachings had a lifelong influence on the likes of George Harrison and Steve Jobs…
Far from Men is a tense tale of honour and friendship that bears all the hallmarks of a classic frontier Western, not least in its vast Algerian desert setting.
This is a delicately crafted tale of a timid girl and her mysterious new friend by director Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Arrietty). Based on the 1967 children’s novel by British author Joan G. Robinson, its setting (and spirit world) have been elegantly transposed to an idyllic Japanese village that feels faintly Gothic and totally Ghibli.
An Amazonian shaman, the lone survivor of his tribe, is the commanding central presence in this hypnotic reversal of the jungle-explorer genre by Colombian director Ciro Guerra
With jaw-dropping cinematography… and direct access to the trials, drive and anxieties of its renowned mountain climbing subjects, Meru is a hybrid of gorgeous nature photography and riveting nonfictional storytelling.
“Declaredly inspired by Moretti’s own mother’s death during the editing of Habemus papam, Mia madre is one of the Roman director’s least showy films, but also one of those that most successfully rises above his personal tics and mannerisms to achieve a kind of universal pathos.” — Lee Marshall, Screendaily
God is a mean-spirited bastard lounging around his Brussels apartment in dressing gown and track-suit trousers, watching sport on TV and wreaking havoc on the world from his DOS-run PC. But ten-year-old daughter Éa has taken one too many strappings from the old man and resolves – with the help of her better known older brother – to liberate the world from the malign hand of Dad. Surreal silliness ensues.
A love story for the ages. Timothy Conigrave met John Caleo when they were schoolboys. Tim was an aspiring actor. John was captain of the football team. Their romance lasted 15 years and survived a good many injuries. John died at 33, felled by the plague that killed so many young gay men in the 80s. The film is deeply romantic, even in its tragic denouement, but feels keenly in touch with the lived experience of its subjects.
The far-flung brothers of a mob family are compelled to regroup after a bumptious young nephew stirs up a long-dormant feud. Black Souls is the antithesis of a sensationalist splatter movie. This isn’t entertainment; it’s life and death.”
“An almost perfect 90-minute hit of confident and inspired comedic commentary… Never before have the effects of new tech – and intergenerational envy – been articulated so amusingly.” — Catherine Shoard, The Guardian
Comfortably retired in Norfolk Kate and Geoff are preparing for their 45th-anniversary party, when a letter arrives which raises a ghost from the past. It concerns Geoff’s first girlfriend, Katya, who died in a mountain accident when the two of them were holidaying 50 years ago. Surprised by Geoff’s response, Kate becomes increasingly preoccupied by what she doesn’t know about that first affair, and how it shaped the man she married.
Gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples shines in a film that’s rich with six decades of music and song. Staples herself is the shining star of Mavis! A consummate storyteller, she reveals intimate tales of her life onstage and off – from shout-outs on the Southern gospel circuit in the 50s, freedom songs inspired by Martin Luther King Jr in the 60s, to chartbusting hits in the 70s and 80s and her recent album One True Vine.
In this wiser, gentler 21st-century spin on themes of thespian rivalry, Juliette Binoche brings her own stellar status to the role of lauded actress Maria Enders.
Salma Hayek eating a serpent’s heart; Toby Jones cuddling a giant flea. Python meets Pasolini in this horrific, hilarious – and very grown up – fairy tale anthology. These aren’t the fairy tales your parents told you in bed at night: if they were, you might still be lying awake.
Turbo Kid takes us back to the future, 1997 to be exact, where the evil overlord Zeus controls the only remaining supply of water in a post-nuclear dystopian wasteland. The comic book-obsessed Kid scavenges in the ruins for goods to trade with other survivors for water, but instead ends up finding a new bestie, a preternaturally enthusiastic girl named Apple.
Ethan Hawke directed this documentary, about Seymour Bernstein, a pianist, now in his late eighties, who, in 1977, renounced the duties and the anxieties of a public performer and became a piano teacher – by no means a lesser calling, as the film is at pains to prove.
In the world of Yorgos Lanthimos’ wily jet black satire of socially enforced coupledom, single adults are required to find a partner within 45 days or be transformed into the animal of their choice.
The second lavish film biography of Yves Saint Laurent in a single year, this ‘unauthorised’ version is the more sensuous affair, less concerned with ticking off the life story than with sampling the man’s excesses, his influences, his demons and the sheer delight of his creative triumphs.
A loving, curious or infectious guide to the city of Los Angeles and its eateries. The film illuminates a wealth of cultural experience and culinary adventure.
The Kid is perhaps Charlie Chaplin’s most potent marriage of comedy and high emotion. The story relates how an unmarried mother abandons a baby, who is found and unwillingly adopted by the Tramp.