A dozen feature-length films from Aotearoa announced for NZIFF 2021


Each year’s Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival selections include a host of homegrown gems – and 2021 looks to be no different.

Eight documentaries, two dramas and two retrospective films make up the Aotearoa feature-lengths playing at Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2021 (NZIFF), with seven of these having their world premieres at NZIFF 2021.

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This lineup includes feature debuts, the return of previously impressive NZIFF directors, and bona fide classics being re-presented in glorious big screen fashion. As for subjects, the dozen feature-lengths run the gamut—as the NZIFF media release puts it “Portraits of disruptors and change-makers, explorations of cures for climate change and cancer, reflections on revolutionary moments of modern history, and tales of deep-seated traditions are just some of the themes explored by the films to screen at the festival.”

The Aotearoa feature-lengths playing Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2021 are:

A Mild Touch of Cancer (Dir: Annie Goldson)
Ayukawa: The Weight of a Life (Dir: Tu Neill)
Fiona Clark: Unafraid (Dir: Lula Cucchiarra)
Mark Hunt: The Fight of His Life (Dir: Peter Bell Brook)
Millie Lies Low (Dir: Michelle Savill)
Mothers of the Revolution (Dir: Briar March)
Patu! (Dir: Merata Mita)
Rohe Kōreporepo – The Swamp, the Sacred Place (Dir: Kathleen Gallagher)
Signed, Theo Schoon (Dir: Luit Beiringa)
There’s No I in Threesome (Dir: Jan Oliver Lucks)
Whetū Mārama – Bright Star (Dirs: Toby Mills & Aileen O’Sullivan)
Woodenhead (Dir: Florian Habicht)

Here’s more information on 2021’s selections, taken from the NZIFF media release:

“NZIFF has a long history of supporting New Zealand filmmakers and we’re extremely proud to provide a platform that brings their world-class films to audiences around Aotearoa,” says NZIFF Director Marten Rabarts.

The New Zealand films announced today include eight documentaries, two dramas and two retrospective films. Seven films will have their world premieres at NZIFF 2021, including Michelle Savill’s drama Millie Lies Low. Co-written by Savill and Eli Kent (Coming Home in the Dark), Millie Lies Low follows a broke and anxiety-ridden architecture graduate, who, after missing her flight to New York, must keep up the pretence of being in the Big Apple while she lays low in her hometown.

Following its US premiere on HBO Max, Jan Oliver Lucks’ There Is No I in Threesome will have its theatrical world premiere. The film, which received critical acclaim from The New York Times, documents what happens when newly engaged Lucks and his fiancée decide to throw tradition out the window, opening up their relationship before they get married. What could go wrong?

Art and filmmaker Luit Bieringa re-examines the legacy of an often-contested Dutch immigrant artist in Signed, Theo Schoon, while Peter Bell Brook’s Mark Hunt: The Fight of His Life profiles the “Super Samoan” MMA fighter and, as previously announced, Lula Cucchiara presents an intimate portrait of a visual activist with Fiona Clark: Unafraid.

Forty years on from when it first began, Briar March’s Mothers of the Revolution tells the story of how, between 1981 and 2000, thousands of women, including New Zealanders, came together at Greenham Common near London, England to make a stand against nuclear proliferation and how they changed the world.

Also in 1981, on the other side of the world, pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita was documenting the mass civil disobedience that took place in New Zealand in protest of the South African rugby tour. A restored and remastered version of her landmark film Patu! will screen at the festival.

Tu Neill directs Ayukawa: The Weight of a Life, a sensitive study asking how a small Japanese town steeped in the tradition of whaling can adapt to a post-whaling world, while Toby Mills and Aileen O’Sullivan’s Whetū Mārama – Bright Star will take audiences on a journey back to a time when Polynesian voyagers navigated the vast Pacific by the stars and how the ancient practice was revived.

Kathleen Gallagher’s Rohe Kōreporepo – The Swamp, the Sacred Place examines the significance of rohe kōreporepo ecosystems to our wellbeing, environment, and mana. And Dr Annie Goldson’s A Mild Touch of Cancer looks at breakthrough cancer immunotherapy treatment through the experience of comedian-turned- businessman David Downs and other patients around the country.

NZIFF will also premiere a colourised version of 2021 Arts Foundation laureate, and the recipient of the Dame Gaylene Preston Award for Documentary Filmmakers, Florian Habicht’s debut feature, the modern cult classic Woodenhead.

You can, of course, find more info on the above titles at the NZIFF website.

NZIFF 2021 opens in Auckland on Thursday 28 October, followed by Christchurch on the following day, with Dunedin and Wellington to follow a week later.

The festival then touches down in Gore, Hamilton, Hawke’s Bay, Masterton, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Tauranga and Timaru throughout November and the first week of December.