What To Watch At This Year's New Zealand International Film Festival
The magic returns, with social satire, sensitive character studies and Aubrey Plaza
We Are Still Here
Fresh from its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, this era-spanning anthology film is comprised of eight shorts directed by indigenous film-makers from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Conceived as a response to the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in the region, the recurring theme is resilience in the face of the oppressive weight of colonisation.
Triangle of Sadness
Force Majeure director Ruben Ostlund’s hyper-specific brand of excruciating social satire gets another workout in this highly anticipated black comedy about a celebrity fashionista couple stranded on an island after their luxury cruise ship sinks. The film took the top prize at Cannes, marking two Palmes d’Or in a row for Ostlund, who also won for his previous movie, 2017’s The Square. Triangle of Sadness is presented in association with Viva.
Speak No Evil
The influence of Swedish film-maker Ruben Ostlund (see above) can be felt in this slow-burn Danish horror that initially presents as an awkward dramedy about two young families who plan to reconnect after becoming friends during a holiday. The awkwardness takes a gut-wrenching turn that’ll challenge even the most hardened viewers. You have been warned.
Meet Me in the Bathroom
This documentary adapted from Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral history of New York City alternative rock in the decade following 9/11 is worth seeing just for the amazing footage of pre-fame gigs by the likes of The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem. The scene is wistfully evoked, and the film is guaranteed to reinvigorate your love for the bands and songs featured.
Emily the Criminal
The increasingly versatile Aubrey Plaza (who produced this film) delivers her most revelatory performance yet as a gig economy worker struggling to service her student debt. After dipping her toe in credit card fraud, Emily finds herself venturing deeper and deeper into a dangerous world. You’ll never look at your Uber Eats driver the same way.
Return to Seoul
This sensitive and meditative character study from French-Cambodian film-maker Davy Chou (Diamond Island) follows Freddie (Park Ji-Min), a young French woman who impulsively takes a flight to South Korea, the country from where she was adopted as a baby, to find her birth parents. Themes of identity, culture and self-actualisation play out across several time jumps.
Crimes of the Future
A new work from peerless Canadian film-maker David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly) is always worth celebrating, even if his latest film (which premiered at Cannes) is proving typically divisive. The setting — a future where surgery is the ultimate performance art — couldn’t be more in the master of body horror’s wheelhouse. Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux star.
Decision to Leave
Long-time festival favourite Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, The Handmaiden) returns to the NZIFF with this mystery drama about a detective who becomes entangled with the wife of a man whose death he is investigating. At Cannes, it generated comparisons to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and the film garnered the Best Director prize.