NZ International Film Festival: The 12 most exciting films

The 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival's full programme for Auckland was unveiled this week, with tickets set to go on sale tomorrow.

A whopping 155 feature-length films from 40 countries will screen during the festival's City of Sails leg, and many of them will sell out.

To help you choose which movies you buy tickets to first, here's the top 12 most unmissable films, as chosen by Newshub's Kate Rodger (KR), Daniel Rutledge (DR) and Amanda Jane Robinson (AJR).

Leave No Trace
Any new film from Debra Granik is worth girding your cinematic loins for, but Leave No Trace has even more reason to book your ticket - here, we get to witness the birth of a new Kiwi star. Wellington teen Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie has a career breakout role here opposite Ben Foster, in a film which drills down into a complex, challenging and unique father/daughter relationship.  KR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Climax.
Climax Photo credit: Wild Bunch

Gaspar Noé's latest has been described as "blazingly original" and "extremely disturbing", which excellently describes each and every one of his films so far. If you want to know just how powerful cinema can be, this is the person to show you - and Cannes critics reckon Climax is his best yet.  DR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Cold Water.
Cold Water Photo credit: Pan-Européenne

Cold Water
After 24 years brawling with poorly-managed music rights, Olivier Assayas' breakout film Cold Water has finally been restored and made available to audiences. I'll never tire of films about French teenagers in love, and this - from the director behind two of my favourite recent films, Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria - is at the top of my list.  AJR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Lean On Pete.
Lean on Pete Photo credit: A24

Lean On Pete
The last film from British filmmaker Andrew Haigh was 45 Years, and it broke me. I cannot wait to see what he does with our hearts and souls in his latest story, which is about a boy and his horse who first find each other, and then escape from their shackles.  KR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Shoplifters.
Shoplifters Photo credit: Gaga Corporation

Hirokazu Koreeda's regular entries into the festival have made for some of my absolute favourites in recent years. While I usually gravitate toward the more extreme films on the schedule, these prove that masterful exercises in subtlety and nuance are just as effecting. Koreeda's films are also a bit like catnip for admirers of Japanese culture. His latest is his most acclaimed yet, as the Cannes Palme d'Or winner.  DR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: The Rider.
The Rider Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

The Rider
This rigorous, lightly fictional Western follows a rodeo horseman who sustained a head injury after being stepped on by a bucking bronco. Said to be visually poetic and lyrical but without sentimentality, Chloe Zhao's second feature is a quietly thrilling prospect.  AJR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: First Reformed.
First Reformed Photo credit: A24

First Reformed
I'll confess that all I need is Ethan Hawke on the bill and I'm in, and this film is very much hailed as one of writer/director Paul Schrader's most intensely compelling yet. Given he's the man behind Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that's saying something. Sign me up.  KR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: You Were Never Really Here.
You Were Never Really Here Photo credit: Amazon Studios

You Were Never Really Here
Finally we get to experience Lynn Ramsay's follow-up to We Need to Talk About Kevin after it stunned at Cannes last year. Seconds into the hypnotic trailer, with Joaquin Phoenix as a scowling hitman, I was all in. I'm stoked we get to see this at the mighty Civic Theatre.  DR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Disobedience.
Disobedience Photo credit: Bleecker Street

Set inside the conservative community of Orthodox Judaism, Sebastián Lelio's first English language feature sees Ronit (Rachel Weisz) and Esti (Rachel McAdams) stirring a long-buried intimacy. I can't wait to see the way religion, family, grief and desire intertwine and unravel within this context.  AJR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Burning.
Burning Photo credit: CGV Arthouse

​We have some delectable morsels being served up this year from Cannes, and no more delicious than Palme d'Or nominee​ Burning. From South Korean filmmaker Lee Change-dong, the notoriously hard-to-please Cannes reviewers anointed this love-triangle as nothing short of a masterpiece, and who am I to ignore them?  KR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Liquid Sky.
Liquid Sky Photo credit: Cinevista

Liquid Sky
When the festival announced it was celebrating turning 50 by replaying an eclectic selection of past favourites, I was most drawn to this freaky looking oddity. It appears to be humanity's greatest decade, the '80s, encapsulated - set in a gender fluid New York club scene with fashionista warfare, New Wave beats, hard drugs... and alien invaders.  DR

NZ International Film Festival 2018: Madeline’s Madeline.
Madeline's Madeline Photo credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Madeline's Madeline
This Sundance favourite from emerging auteur Josephine Decker was constructed especially for its teenage lead (Helena Howard) through three years of improvisational workshops. I'm deeply looking forward to the result of this process, the beauty and horror of adolescence devised by someone so close to that time.  AJR


More information on the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival, including session times, where to buy tickets and which films are travelling to other parts of the country, is available on the official festival website.