Top picks for the NZIFF 2018

Laura Macfehin highlights her top 20 choices at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival!

The film festival is in full bloom in Auckland, soon to be moving down the line and the array of films as usual is impressive if not overwhelming!  I’ve narrowed down my top 20 choices, and there is something for just about everyone in there.

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She Shears photo by Rebecca McMillan Photography

There are some fantastic homegrown choices year.  She Shears, by Jack Nicol, focuses the stories of five women who shear sheep.  Centred around their past and present involvement the Golden Shears, New Zealand’s national championships and the world’s top sheep shearing competition.

New Zealand does short films well– and I like them a little on the unsettling side.  Eight Uneasy Pieces features eight New Zealand short films full of disquiet.  In particular I am keen to catch Cul de Sac by Jake Mahaffy and Under the Bridge by Lauren Porteus.

Merata: How Mum De-colonised the Screen by Heperi Mita promises to be both deeply personal and profoundly political; an examination of his mother’s life, art and activism.

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Merata Contact Sheet by Gil Hanly

Five very different films I want to see centre their stories around the personal lives of women.

Leave No Trace, from Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik looks at a father and daughter relationship in an unusual context.  If it is half as sharp and beautiful as the film that launched Jennifer Lawrence it should be a most compelling watch.

The Mis-education of Cameron Post by Desiree Akhavan stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a girl sent to a gay conversion camp, in what looks like a softly realised drama.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Little Woods by Nia Da Costa may be set in a North Dakota quite different from that in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the themes of survival in a hostile environment are strangely similar.  Lily James and Tessa Thompson play sisters battling poverty and a broken healthcare system in a neo-western where their strength lies in sisterly solidarity rather than a quick-draw.

In a very different mood, Woman at War by Benedikt Erlingsson a piece of Icelandic whimsy with a steel backbone in this story of a woman in middle-age saving the world in some very fine knitwear when the Universe throws her a curveball.

The Guilty

There is lots of suspense at the festival this year, with some very tasty thrillers on offer.  The Guilty, the debut film from Danish director Gustav Möller is a twisty tale, which promises tension aplenty despite being set entirely in an emergency call centre.

Veteran film-maker Paul Schrader has a new film featuring a tortured dude on a path of possible self-destruction.  Ethan Hawke stars a Presbyterian minister in First Reformed a crime thriller that highlights both politics and faith.

Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

The genre-bending Swedish Border blends gritty scandi-noir with supernatural romance.  Based on a short story by Let The Right One author John Ajvide Lindqvist Border looks like a deciding intriguing film.

Liquid Sky

The film festival is a great time to see on the big screen classic films from the past.  Two very different cult films from the Eighties are on show this year– both are films I’d love to see at the cinema!

Liquid Sky (1982) is a sci-fi fashion spectacle by Slava Tsukerman and Nina V. Kerovaset set in the New Wave New York club scene that has been restored to beyond its original glory that I would watch any time just for the hair alone.

Desert Hearts (1985) by Donna Deitch has been a touchstone of lesbian cinema since it’s release– seeing the celebratory love story and lush Nevada landscapes on the big screen would be dreamy!

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Chulas Fronteras

The great thing I love about the film festival is the chance to documentaries and true stories at the movies.

I first saw a Les Blank film at a film Society screening when I was a kid and his story-telling sold me on documentary film-making.  Chulas Fronteras is a beautiful film documenting the Tejano and South-West Mexicano music scene in the 1970s.  It is a beautiful world to lose yourself in and highly recommended.

Bisbee ’17 tells the often overlooked story of the deportation of unionised workers in 1917 from their hometown of Bisbee, Arizona.  2,000 workers were forcibly removed in an attempt to break the peaceful strike they had organised– a story that is resonant now as it was at the time.


The fashion lover in me can’t resist McQueen, in which filmmakers Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui showcase fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s life and art through the lens of five of his stand out shows.


American Animals is a true crime thriller based on real events that took place in 2003.  Bart Layton’s film The Imposter stayed with long after it had finished and this insane heist film looks like a similarly sly and suspenseful film.

The Field Guide to Evil

And of course me being me my list wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of horror!

Horror anthologies are often a hit and miss affair– and The Field Guide to Evil is no exception– but it is worth a look for its lush visuals and unashamedly gothic pretensions.  To paraphrase the immortal words of the Shangri-Las– its good bad, but it’s not evil.

For those who like their horror more straight out terrifying The Terrified looks like a delicious bloodbath filled with scares and splatter.  Argentinian director Demián Rugna has made a film that looks freaky in a satisfyingly insane way.

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The Terrified

So tell me– what flicks are you looking forward to?  What have you seen and what did you think?

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