Our top picks from this year’s festival

After an incredible programme launch at our screening of Joyland this month, we’re sure that many of you have been eagerly making your lists of must-see films in this year’s Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival. You’re not alone: the members of the WFS committee have been making their top picks, too. With tickets going on sale on Friday, July 12, we thought it was time to share with you some of the films we’re most looking forward to. Obviously, the big names are all on our shortlists – you don’t need us to tell you that Paris, Texas and Heavenly Creatures will be spectacular – but the following unexpected titles piqued our interests. We’re looking forward to seeing you all at the movies!

Days of Heaven 
When we were asked to sponsor a film this year, we couldn’t pass up this one! Terrence Malick’s (Badlands, The Tree of Life) 1978 film has been on my watchlist for years. I can’t wait to see this tale of lovers on the run in pre-World War 1 Texas from the elegiac American director on the Embassy screen, newly restored in 4k.
– Harry Evans

I’m a massive fan of musician Brian Eno, but the most intriguing thing about this documentary is that it changes each time it screens. The use of AI in filmmaking is a controversial topic, with fears studios will use it to cut expensive human labour out of the artistic process. In Eno, a bespoke software system, designed by director Gary Hustwit and artist Brendan Dawes, draws upon a huge amount of material to create a new version of the film each time it screens.
– Harry Evans

Grand Theft Hamlet
As a Shakespeare buff, I’m always excited to hear about productions that are pushing the boundaries of theatre. To wedge a production of Hamlet into the violent world of Grand Theft Auto, where sitting still for a minute is a big ask, let alone three hours, sounds like the kind of inventive chaos I really appreciate.
– Russ Kale

The House Within
Fiona Kidman is one of our most compassionate writers, and a documentary about her work and life is long overdue. The fact that this film is named for one of her novels that maps 25 years of one woman’s life is a sign that we’re going deep into the influences that shaped this one-of-a-kind writer.
– Russ Kale

A partly fact and partly fiction biopic of Irish language rap group, Kneecap, promises punk filmmaking of sex, drugs and Irish indigeneity. It should be an absolute riot on a Saturday night.
– Harry Evans

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros
Watching a Frederick Wiseman film is a quintessential festival experience – being able to set aside a few hours to observe the goings on in a public library, a ballet studio or a boxing gym, refreshingly voiceover-free is part of what makes going to NZIFF such a joy. Wiseman’s camera rarely points at the most obvious places, but it’s the unexpected places that yield the most treasure. His latest looks to follow that same route, a peek inside a three-star Michelin restaurant in France, which promises to be less about food porn and more about the minutiae of how a restaurant like this operates, from the field to the plate.
– Chris Hormann

The People’s Joker
Wrapped up in a legal purgatory that has only served to bolster its anti-establishment bona fides, many of us have been anxiously refreshing flicks.co.nz in the hope that Vera Drew’s feature debut will get some sort of release in NZ. What a treat to get to go to a late night-screening of an anti-superhero film with a meta-narrative featuring the most dastardly villains of all (Warner Bros and the superhero-industrial complex).
– Johnny Crawford

Sons (Vogter)
I recall going to see Gustav Möller’s The Guilty at NZIFF in 2018 and the palpable feeling of stress as the film revealed little by little what was happening at the other end of the phone of an emergency call operator. So I’m excited to see his latest appearing at the festival, this time starring the exceptional Sidse Babett Knudsen playing a corrections officer who is introduced to a new inmate, with whom she may have history. No doubt all new levels of tension await, and I for one am here for it.
– Chris Hormann