Auckland Online Film Festival helps fill an NZIFF-shaped gap


Auckland film-lovers have set out to replicate the feel of a festival with a curated selection of films on streaming and VOD.

It’s at this time of year that we’d expected to put our cinematic stamina to the test. To race from Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival screening to screening, second-guess our film choices, squeeze in buzzed-about titles, stay on top of fatigue, try (and fail) to eat and drink well, all in the service of having good big screen festival experiences, not-so-good big screen festival experiences—but crucially BIG SCREEN FESTIVAL EXPERIENCES.

Being necessary thanks to COVID-19 didn’t make the cancellation of this year’s Auckland leg of NZIFF any less disappointing. Perhaps the only saving grace was that it came before spending hours swotting the programme and constructing the perfect screening schedule.

But let’s face it—not having NZIFF fucking sucks.

This was the gist of social media sentiment—some expressed more succinctly, some not even so much—following the bad news. Disappointment hadn’t shown any signs of abatement before Doug Dillaman popped up with an intriguing idea: a virtual festival (but not pay-per-view) with a programme of films available from a variety of sources (streaming, rental) that mimics the feel of NZIFF.

In a media release out today, Dillaman explains: “In the absence of NZIFF, I wanted to offer a stay-at-home alternative for Auckland film fans who are missing out. For so many of us, NZIFF is the most anticipated event of the year, and while this grassroots effort can’t hope to take its place, hopefully it can provide some consolation.”

Hosted on Letterboxd and utilising films streaming and on VOD services now, the Auckland Online Film Festival offers a curated selection of 195 features and 18 shorts to watch at home. Grouped like the real deal with focus sections, themed curations, and films from festivals around the globe, the AOFF represents an almost impossible, irresistible challenge of viewing—one that like the NZIFF proper, offers something for everyone.

One of thirteen guest curators alongside the likes of David Farrier, Gemma Gracewood, Sarah Watt, Tim Wong and Aaron Yap, is Flicks editor Steve Newall (hi, that’s me). Thinking about what we were missing in the form of screenings at Auckland’s Civic Theatre, I went on the prowl for films that would have befitted the Civic’s wonderful screen and lavish setting—one that’s truly synonymous with the modern NZIFF experience in Auckland.

My picks? David Lowery’s A24 fantasy The Green Knight; Ben Wheatley’s COVID-tinged, fungi-infused, occult horror In the Earth; Miranda July’s slept-on con-artist pic Kajillionaire; Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, mixed-race drama Passing; and Todd Haynes’ doco The Velvet Underground.

All would have felt at home on the Civic screen; all will feel at home now at your home.

Check out the other 190(!!) features listed on Letterboxd, including curations of African and Palestinian cinema, tributes to both the NZIFF’s late Bill Gosden and the cast of Succession, two music programmes supported by Flying Out Records, and heaps more—with crowd-pleasers and niche films sitting side-by-side, just as IRL programmers would have intended.

Read more about the AOFF in the media release below:

With 28 October marking the now-canceled launch in Auckland of the New Zealand International Film Festival, a group of passionate Auckland film lovers have created an online alternative: the Auckland Online Film Festival (AOFF).

Utilising existing streaming and VOD services, AOFF offers a curated selection of 195 features and 18 shorts to residents of Tāmaki Makaurau looking to fill an NZIFF-shaped gap in their hearts.

Selections include a collection of films from 2021 festivals across the globe, curations of African and Palestinian cinema, a tribute to the cast of Succession, two music programmes supported by Flying Out Records, focus sections on filmmaking, trauma, and forests, and much more.

Festival founder Doug Dillaman explains: “In the absence of NZIFF, I wanted to offer a stay-at-home alternative for Auckland film fans who are missing out. For so many of us, NZIFF is the most anticipated event of the year, and while this grassroots effort can’t hope to take its place, hopefully it can provide some consolation.”

Thirteen guest curators including Webworm editor David Farrier, NZ Listener film reviewer Sarah Watt, The Gosden Years co-editor Tim Wong, Flicks editor Steve Newall, Letterboxd editor Gemma Gracewood, and Terror-Fi festival director James Partridge offer curations that include a tribute to Bill Gosden, recent Indian and East Asian cinema, and a tribute to Auckland’s mighty movie palace, the Civic.

Dillaman notes: “Assembling a programme that offers diverse and exciting viewing options for all viewers is a real challenge, and I couldn’t have done it without these knowledgable experts that freely volunteered their time to help dig beyond the algorithms for those true gems that are hiding in plain sight and available from our couches.”

“Whether you’re looking for big names like The Green KnightSummer of Soul and Let Them All Talk, under the radar crowdpleasers like Film FestThe Stronghold, and The Legend of Cocaine Island, politically hard-hitting documentaries like La CausaFeels Good Man and Ghost Hunting, retro classics such as Il BoomThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Beat The Devil, international deep cuts like Costa Rica’s Viaje, India’s Thappad and Japan’s Ainu Mosir, Halloween horrors like Tumbbad, Martyrs Lane and In The Earth, or completely off-beam brainbreakers such as Don’t Let The Riverbeast Get You! and Fight of Fury, there’s something for absolutely everybody to help power us through these next few weeks of lockdown.”

Festival partner DocPlay offers AOFF participants a 30-day free trial, while VOD partner AroVision hosts an AOFF section on their website. https://ondemand.arovideo.co.nz/collection/aoff/

The festival officially runs from 28 October to the 14th of November.

Official festival hashtag: #aoff2021

For more festival information, including the complete programme, visit tinyurl.com/aoff2021