The 10 most exciting films of the 2016 NZIFF

The New Zealand International Film Festival launches in Auckland on July 14
The New Zealand International Film Festival launches in Auckland on July 14

The full programme for the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) has just been released and right now, the country's most passionate film nuts are poring over it.

Nearly 150 films will be screened in the Auckland leg of the festival, which opens on July 14 with Poi E: The Story of Our Song at the Civic Theatre.

It offers a robust New Zealand selection, an expanded animation sub-festival along with an impressive round-up of acclaimed foreign festival picks from the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Ken Loach, Wenrer Herzog, Richard Linklater, Pedro Almodovar, Molly Reynolds, Paul Verhoeven, Mélanie Laurent, Orson Welles, Asghar Farhadi, Alex Gibney and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

"The experiences we offer here vary enormously in their need to be popular, from expertly crafted crowd-ticklers or gripping dramas, to deeply felt eccentricities and passionate exposés," says festival director Bill Gosden.

"Every one of them stands to become that much richer for being experienced in the company of appreciative strangers."

The full programme can be viewed on the official NZIFF website. To help with selections, Newshub film reviewers Kate Rodger, Daniel Rutledge and Kim Choe have picked the 10 they're most excited about.

Poi E: The Story of Our SongJust the trailer alone for this, quite apart from the local industry buzz and the fact it's been chosen as the opening film for the festival, is a big indication that filmmaker Tearepa Kahi has a hit on his hands. There is such a great story here, and told as a docudrama with a tonne of delectable archive footage and great on-camera talent, I really cannot wait to see it. - KR

The Greasy StranglerDescribed as the "new event movie for the truly weird at heart", all evidence points towards this being a modern gross-out exploitation classic. For anyone who thinks the festival is all highfalutin' foreign fare, this farts in your face with its trailer -- a good tease for the allegedly disgusting and puerile, yet somehow divine, joys the feature possesses. - DR

The First Monday in May The world of high fashion is such a tantalising documentary subject, given its exclusivity, extravagance and debates about its worth. Ever since The September Issue gave us a glimpse behind Vogue doyenne Anna Wintour's oversized sunglasses, I've been hankering for another chance to be a voyeur to such luxury. The First Monday in May, which takes us behind the scenes of the madness that is the annual Met Gala, promises to be just that. - KC

PatersonOnly Lovers Left Alive was the last Jim Jarmusch film to leave me in awe, and now he's back with this Cannes favourite. We know it's set in Jersey, we know there's a bus driver and a poet, and we know Kylo Ren aka Adam Driver is the titular Paterson. To be honest I don't need to know anything at all about a Jarmusch film, I already know I'm in. - KR

Ants on a Shrimp: Noma in Tokyo Netflix's cinematic series Chef's Table created a new benchmark for food documentaries, and this insight into Rene Redzepi's Japanese experiment looks set to deliver on that. The trailer has the drama and intensity of an action flick, which might be overegging things slightly, but when you're dealing with one of the world's top chefs trying to impress diners half a world away from home, there's a lot at stake. - KC

After the StormHirokazu Koreeda has fast become one of my favourite NZIFF regulars, with each of his Japanese family dramas a beautiful exercise in elegance and wisdom. Nominated for Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, Hirokazu's latest is said to be supremely subtle -- even for him, master of nuance that he is -- and all the more exquisite for it. - DR

Midnight SpecialThere was just so much to excite me in this trailer and the film itself delivers. Young actor Jaeden Lieberher won me over opposite Bill Murray in St Vincent, he does the same here in a very different film. Jeff Nicols (Mud/Take Shelter) directing Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard should was enough, but adding the sci-fi element to this story meant I absolutely loved it. - KR

Weiner "This is the worst. Doing a documentary on my scandal." Once again, Anthony Weiner's regret shall be our entertainment. Weiner offers unprecedented access to the disgraced US Democratic Congressman's campaign to become Mayor of New York City. It should be a fascinating, head-shaking portrayal of a man desperate to be remembered for more than just dick-pics and other transgressions. - KC

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach, at 80, continues to deliver films which simply cannot be ignored. He just won his second Palme d'Or for this, and what a treat to have it here at the NZIFF. Loach mines the British welfare system and its crippling bureaucracy in the most personal of ways, as 59-year-old Daniel Blake turns to welfare for the first time in his life. I can feel the rage and the tears rising already; I will definitely not be missing this one. - KR

The HandmaidenChan Wook Park is making a triumphant return to the NZIFF with what sounds like a hypnotically stylish, devilishly sexy, wickedly violent lesbian thriller. The story is apparently packed with twists and turns so best to know as little as possible about it, just know it's worth going to simply as it is the first Korean film Park has made since his debut English-language work Stoker. - DR


A special mention must also go to Green Room, a terrifically tense and violent tale from the filmmaker behind 2013 NZIFF hit Blue Ruin. It stars Anton Yelchin in the lead, a gifted young actor who tragically died in Los Angeles on Sunday (local time).

Tickets to the festival go on sale this Friday. 


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