Arts Spotlight: Let’s Get Festive

Samantha Gianotti offers a handful of picks from this year’s NZIFF schedule

This year marks the fiftieth year of the New Zealand International Film Festival, with a schedule bursting with movies from the most prestigious film festivals the globe over. Including Q&A opportunities with filmmakers, a host of restored films from across the festival’s half-century history, and nifty venues across the country, the NZIFF is the best time of the year for fledgling and proficient film fans alike. Take a gander at the festival’s (bloody thick) programme to see the more than 160 films that the festival boasts—or, for those fans of cliff notes, No Fear Shakespeare, and book-to-film adaptations, here is an easy list of a few flicks you might want to look out for at this year’s fest.

Disobedience

Dir. Sebastián Lelio

Based on Naomi Alderman’s novel, Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams occupy the two central roles in this drama set in the confines of an Orthodox Jewish Community that Rachel Weisz’ character, Ronit, has long been distanced from. The love story between the two leading ladies is coloured by the pull of obligations to one’s community, family, and to one’s self, and marks director Lelio’s English-language debut following on from the success of his previous feature (that played at last year’s NZIFF) A Fantastic Woman.

Disobedience is screening on July 20th, 21st and 24th and August 1st.

First Reformed

Dir. Paul Schrader

Having co-written screenplays for the likes of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, First Reformed is the latest instalment in Paul Schrader’s anthology of films about men in crisis. Ethan Hawke takes up the mantle (and clerical collar) of Reverend Toller, in a performance that is being praised far and wide, a man bruised by grief and struggling to carry a young woman (played by Amanda Seyfried) through similar difficulties. First Reformed is being called one of the year’s best, and one of Schrader’s most masterful outings yet.

First Reformed is screening on July 20th, 25th and August 2nd.

Burning

Dir. Lee Chang-dong

This South Korean drama was a serious contender for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and while it lost out, the film took home the FIPRESCI Award, and has topped critics’ lists since its release. Inspired by the short story “Barn Burning”, Lee Chang-dong’s interpretation centres on a love triangle and the emotions that run rampant between those involved—a slow-burning story of intimacy and intrigue.

Burning is screening on July 28th , 30th and August 4th.

Shoplifters

Dir. Kore-eda Hirokazu

This year’s Palme d’Or winner is surely going to pluck at the ol’ heartstrings, documenting the importance of family, the difficulties of a family unit, and the places where we might find family bonds outside of basic blood ties. In what is being described as a profoundly human film, Hirokazu is being praised for the film’s near-perfection, with deep reserves of compassion abounding.

Shoplifters is screening on July 21st, 23rd and 29th.

Mandy

Dir. Panos Costamos

Nicolas Cage’s on-screen presence is surely enough of a draw for anyone, but besides the return of Cage at his rage-iest, Mandy boasts a host of scintillating visuals and a synth-heavy score to accompany Saint Nic as he seeks vengeance for the murder of his beloved (Andrea Riseborough). Mandy appears to be blood-soaked, bewildering and just a little batshit, with many predicting that it is a cult classic simply waiting to be initiated.

Mandy is screening on July 26th, 31st and August 3rd.