Our top 10 picks of the NZ International Film Festival 2019

The most important time of the year for Kiwi movie lovers is almost upon us, as the 2019 New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off in less than a fortnight.

With such a staggering amount of films about to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming - so we've put together a list of the 10 most unmissable.

Keep in mind that festival films play just two or three times and many sell out, so if you really want to go to one, get tickets via the official website ASAP.

These recommendations come from Kate Rodger (KR) and Daniel Rutledge (DR).

Still from 2019 film LES MISERABLES.
Photo credit: Wild Bunch

Les Misérables

This is not the Les Mis you sang along to, but it certainly riffs on Victor Hugo's narrative, winning the Jury Prize at Cannes for its gritty no holds barred approach to urban warfare on the streets of working class Paris. The performances are being lauded as stand-out, as the story bursts from the screen across a few short days. This one is nestled right near the top of my must-see list this year.

The Nightingale still.
Photo credit: Transmission Films

The Nightingale

The Babadook filmmaker is back with a "brutal revenge saga is an unrelenting reckoning with white male oppression not for the faint of heart". I'm so in. Beware the trigger warnings, however; this genuinely sounds like it'll be a tough watch. - DR

Sorry We Missed You still.
Photo credit: BBC Films

Sorry We Missed You

You had me at "Ken". I live by the film festival mantra that I will NEVER miss a Ken Loach film on the NZIFF schedule. His last festival outing, I,Daniel Blake, stays with me still; here he dives back in, this time into the lives and under the skin of the working class struggles of a Newcastle family of four. - KR

The Day Shall Come still.
Photo credit: FILM4

The Day Shall Come

Chris Morris is a true master of satire, using clever, jet-black humour to make us laugh at the absurdity of modern life. This, his latest, is described as "an outrageous, farcical take on the FBI and their terrorist witch-hunts". And it stars Anna Kendrick. Hell yes. - DR

For My Father's Kingdom still.
Photo credit: Kingstone Productions

For My Father's Kingdom

This debut outing from New Zealand filmmakers Vea Mafile'o and Jeremiah Tauamiti is an intimate and very personal journey into the Christian heart of Tongan culture and the impact of traditions on the families who live by them. Full of heart, filial conflict and profound love, this film is an incredibly thought-provoking insight into our rich Pasifika heritage. - KR

For Sama still.
Photo credit: Channel 4

For Sama

As disturbing as The Nightingale looks, this 'you-are-there' documentary made during the war on the people of Aleppo looks like it'll likely be the most harrowing film at the festival this year. It might also be the most important. The filmmaker made it over five years for her daughter and it's described as "a wrenching personal take on conflict".- DR

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut still.
Photo credit: United Artists

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut

Any and every chance to watch Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic masterpiece on the big screen in all its sensory glory should be greedily grabbed by both hands, and this newly cut and restored release is no exception. There are frames of this film embedded onto my consciousness like a branding, and I can't wait to experience them again. - KR

Beats rave movie still.
Photo credit: Rosetta Productions


The UK's '90s rave scene is such ripe content for awesome films but sadly we haven't seen many great ones. But then... "Coming on like Shane Meadows at 140BPM, Beats is a truly heartfelt rites-of-passage tale - an immersive, intoxicating portrayal of the rave scene at its peak," writes Empire magazine. Sold. - DR

Jesse Eisenberg in The Art of Self-Defense.
Photo credit: Bleecker Street Media

The Art of Self-Defense

I'm not gonna lie, this trailer sends me into a gale of giggles every time I watch it, reminding me of the joy of timing when it comes to black comedy. This toast of SXSW has Jesse Eisenberg enrolling for karate classes under the dubious tutelage of Alessandro Nivoli's 'Sensei'; and even his name brings back the giggles! I love how hilariously unhinged it feels and can't wait to watch it unfold. - KR

Apollo 11 CNN still.
Photo credit: CNN

Apollo 11

The moon landing is one of those things that seems far more amazing than we often seem to make out. Shouldn't we be talking about something that mind-blowing more often? This documentary plays at the festival as the moon landing turns 50 and is described by Time Out as "the most perfect movie that will ever be made about its subject". - DR

The festival launches in Auckland on July 18 and moves to Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Nelson, Masterton, Timaru, Hawke's Bay and Gore.


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