Our Top 5 Festival Films

By Sarah Leslie

We hope everyone had a great festival and hope it wasn’t too difficult to see most of the films that caught your eye.  Like many of you, we spent two and a bit weeks stumbling between the Embassy and Lighthouse Cuba and lining up the bus timetables out to the Roxy and Penthouse. While staffing the information desk at the Embassy we also answered a fair few questions from pink-clad people about where Barbie was showing…

Most of us thought this year was a pretty good one at Whanau Marama, so we decided to carry out a moderately scientific poll of the Committee members of the best films this year.  For those interested, our methodology was for each member to choose their top 5 films, which were weighted accordingly and averaged (and, for completeness, a stray vote for Barbie was disqualified entirely).  Thanks to Amanda Reid for managing the survey and wrangling the data.

The results were… (drum roll) :

5. Anatomy of a Fall

This year’s Palme d’Or stars Sandra Hüller of Toni Erdmann fame as a novelist whose university lecturer husband ends up dead at their picturesque home in the French Alps, and then she ends up on trial. Unlike the typical Hollywood courtroom drama, what actually happened isn’t really the point.  Though many of us are advocates of the 90-minute film, we found the film’s 152 minutes rocketed by. It’s due for release in October in case you missed it.  Unlike all of the other directors in the top 5, we haven’t shown any films by Justine Triet before, so will be scouring her back catalogue with interest.

4. Afire

Christian Petzold’s latest was an unsettling take on the “artist as arsehole” film (see also: Passages and Anatomy of a Fall) and his third collaboration with current muse Paula Beer, who featured in Transit, from last year’s Film Society programme.  It centres on two friends – a novelist and a photographer – who take a trip to a beach town in northern Germany during wildfire season only, where things are fraught with unease and surprise.

3. Fallen Leaves

We enjoyed the deadpan closer from Aki Kaurismäki a lot.  It reminded us of his great films from the late 80s with its pops of primary colour and downtrodden Finns clad in outfits ripped from a 1960s mail order catalogue – only reports of the Ukraine war on the radio locate it as a film made in 2022.  For this reason it had a wonderful familiarity – in fact, we’re not sure whether stoicism and alcoholism are actually traits of the Finnish national character or a Kaurismäki invention that we have grown to love.

2. Monster

After (ok-ish) adventures in France and Korea, Koreeda Hirokazu returns to Japan to make a suspenseful drama that we thought was his best film in several years.  A mother of a young child notices changes in her son’s behaviour and comes to attribute them to the boy’s teacher, but when the story plays out from each of the mother, the teacher and the child’s perspectives it isn’t that simple.  It’s expecting a wide release on 23 November.

1. Perfect Days

For many of us, this was a perfect film from Wim Wenders, who conveys the beautiful simplicity of a Tokyo toilet cleaner’s unchanging summer days by layering them one on top of the other, before outside events puncture his routine and hint at why he may have adopted the way of living that he has.  With Lou Reed and Nina Simone leading the soundtrack, we really hope it will be back soon so we can see it again in the cinema.

Our audience poll had some different favourites…

And we would love to hear what your favourites were in the comments on Facebook and Instagram!