12 Films Playing at NZIFF That We’ve Been Dying to See

It’s that time of year again when we elbow each other out of the way to get our greasy mitts (wait, that was 2016) on the NZ International Film Festival programme. Like all attentive film-lovers, we have been watching and wondering as to which cinematic treats we’ll get to enjoy this year. While there’s plenty to mine through in the programme, here are a dozen pics that we’ve been hanging out to see, and can happily report are included in 2017’s collection of movie riches.

Beatriz at Dinner

Ever since his candidacy for President of the United States, there’s been a sprint race between filmmakers to get the first good post-Trump film into cinemas. With Salma Hayek in the red corner and John Lithgow in the blue corner, this verbal boxing match looks to be that film. (Though I would argue Zootopia and Mad Max: Fury Road bet everyone to the punch.) -LIAM MAGUREN

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The Beguiled

Think remakes are dumb? We don’t, and neither does the Cannes Film Festival, awarding Sofia Coppola best director for her take on the 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name. Set in a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, the female teaching staff and their students are happy to take in a deserter – until varying tensions arise. You can probably guess what some of these involve (and if not, I refer you to the creep in the above pic). Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman take top billing (for the second time on this list of early highlights) alongside Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. -STEVE NEWALL

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Ethel & Ernest

You know why the beginning of Up is so effective? It is able to show two people growing up together from childhood to the twilight years. Unless someone is willing to pull off a lifelong Boyhood, live-action cannot do this as convincingly as animation can. That’s why I’m stoked that Ethel & Ernest is on the programme – it looks to show family life through the ages as it surpasses the darkest time of war. -LIAM MAGUREN

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Good Time

We’re already looking forward to closing night, which sounds bad I’ll admit, but that’s because Flicks.co.nz are bringing you what looks like one hell of a film to wrap up this year’s fest. Robert Pattinson stars in this New York crime drama, desperately trying to get his brother out of jail following a botched robbery. Selected for official competition at Cannes and boasting a killer score by Oneohtrix Point Never (including Iggy Pop on this track), Good Time looks set to live up to its title. -STEVE NEWALL

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I am Not Your Negro

James Baldwin’s unfinished book about racism in modern America transformed into this Oscar-nominated cinematic experience from director Raoul Peck. We’ve seen films explore America’s history of racism from many angles, but never through the unique wisdom and wizardry of Baldwin’s words. The trailer alone exemplifies the power of the author’s perspective, with every sentence throwing a bucket of cold truth on a socially numb face. -LIAM MAGUREN

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The Inland Road

I love good short films and multi-award-winning New Zealand screen veteran Jackie van Beek (What We Do in the Shadows, TV’s Funny Girls) has made a heap of them. Just Like the Others won Best Film at the 2009 Show Me Shorts while Uphill landed her the Best Actor award in 2014 (you can watch both of them on Lightbox). Simple maths dictates we should be ridiculously excited for van Beek’s long-awaited feature debut. -LIAM MAGUREN

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos follows up The Lobster, 2015’s opening night film of NZIFF, by casting Colin Farrell once again, opposite Nicole Kidman in what looks less comic or absurd than his previous effort. Instead, The Killing of a Sacred Deer looks to chill and thrill as the couple take a teenager into their home, but find their adoptee to have sinister tendencies. Psychological thriller/art-house horror, anyone? Yes, please. -STEVE NEWALL

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The Love Witch

At first glance appearing to be either parody or slavish recreation of ’70s occult sexploitation, The Love Witch actually sees multi-hyphenate Anna Biller offer a contemporary take on gender, romance, sex and witchcraft within the form of a period throwback. With an obsessive eye, the writer-director-producer-composer-production designer-art director-set decorator-costume designer looks to infuse this tale of a witch using spells and trial-and-error to snare the perfect man with lush, colourful, hilarious – and, yes, often plain hot – moments. -STEVE NEWALL

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A Monster Calls

I was so pumped to see this film scheduled for a nationwide release at the start of this year. Unfortunately, it dropped off, most likely due to a poor box office performance overseas. Instead of blaming the rest of the world for not giving this film a chance, I’m craving the opportunity to join a packed film festival audience in a collective puffy-face wheeze of emotion. -LIAM MAGUREN

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My Life as a Courgette

A family film about orphans. Sounds like an oxymoron, but family isn’t just about bloodline – it’s about who we bond with. That’s what Fast & Furious promotes and that’s what this Oscar-nominated stop-motion film explores in depth. I’ve been hearing the critical buzz for over a year now and we’ll finally be able to board the hype train to Wonderville. -LIAM MAGUREN

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After the enthralling fly-on-the-wall-in-the-eye-of-a-storm Citizenfour, documentarian Laura Poitras captures an even more polarising, if not flat-out unpopular, figure with her lens. For six years she shot Julian Assange, with extensive access to the Wikileaks founder, asylum seeker, and US presidential election meddler. Rather than the right place at the right time tenor of Citizenfour, I’m hoping to see an evolving perspective on Assange to unfold, much as opinions on the fellow have continued to shift among the world’s public. -STEVE NEWALL

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The Square

This won Cannes, so that should be enough. If it’s not, this is directed by Ruben Östlund, who made the sublime Force Majeure, and switches satirical setting from ski slopes to the contemporary art world. It all goes to show that sometimes you can win the Palme d’Or by taking the piss (if not the piste)… Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West star, if you needed any more info before picking up tickets. PS it’s also Opening Night! -STEVE NEWALL

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