NZ International Film Festival losing staff, cutting regional programme

This year's festival logo.
This year's festival logo. Photo credit: Supplied

The organisers of New Zealand's biggest international film festival are downplaying the departure of five senior staff, last-minute venue cancellations and drastic cuts to this year's programme.

The Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) is slashing the number of participating towns and cities from 15 to just four, and cancelling three-quarters of its venues.

This year's festival, which runs from 31 July to 1 September, will screen only in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Regional centres that usually screen key festival films - Hamilton, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Timaru - will miss out on this year's programme.

The festival recently lost five programmers - shortly before new NZIFF artistic director Paolo Bertolin was announced this week.

Bertolin is a respected international film programmer, critic and producer.

Separately, NZIFF announced a severely curtailed programme this week.

It also emerged the festival had only just informed some venues that it was cancelling screenings.

Festival chairperson Catherine Fitzgerald said the departing staff were "hugely valued" and many had been with the festival for decades.

The lasting impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the festival could be underestimated, she said.

"I don't know why people have started to think that COVID was just a blip.

"COVID has rocked all aspects of our society, and, frankly, has impacted every year - 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 - all differently [and] we have been rolling with [the] punches."