Metro's 15 must-see films at the NZ International Film Fest this year

by David Larsen / 11 July, 2018
Three Faces movie

Three Faces plays July 21, 24, 25 and August 4th in Auckland.

A new Iranian film tops our must-see list at the NZ International Film Festival, 19 July - 12 August.

Three Faces is the fourth film Iran’s Jafar Panahi is not supposed to have made. Accused in 2010 of propaganda — perfect Orwellian Newspeak for making films that weren’t Iranian government propaganda — Panahi is now in the middle of a two-decade ban from making any films at all.

So you could mistake the cinephile excitement over the films he keeps on making anyway for simple ideological support; unless you watch the films, in which case you’ll notice that they’re quiet wonders of subtle observation and destabilising humour. As always when I open an NZIFF programme booklet — one of the most exciting moments of my year — a dozen different films clamour to be mentioned as the big obvious stand-out thing. Three Faces ranks first among these equals.

To celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary, they’re bringing back 12 remarkable films from the past five decades. My basic position is “go to all of them, they’re excellent”, but the ones that particularly jump out are Cold Water (1994), the semi-autobigraphical coming-of-age story by the great Olivier Assayas; Wings of Desire (1987), Wim Wenders’ lush angels-in-Berlin romance; Orlando (1992), the glorious Sally Potter adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s gender-switching classic, starring Tilda Swinton; and Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (1980), the charming Soviet-era Russian romcom. (No, really).

Some anticipation-worthy documentaries: in Island of the Hungry Ghosts, Australia’s Gabrielle Brady sidesteps easy anger to make a lyrical study of the Australian refugee detention centre on Christmas Island. In Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Alexandra Dean tells a story so good it’s hard to believe it’s true: how a Hollywood sex symbol invented bluetooth technology to help win World War II, and was ignored, because women weren’t expected to invent things. Māui’s Hook is a powerful discussion-starter from Māori psychologist and film-maker Paora Joseph on the difficult and essential topic of preventing youth suicide, especially in rural Māori communities.

Shoplifters, winner of this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or, is the latest gentle family drama from Japan’s prolific Hirokazu Kore-eda, this time focusing on a group of petty thieves who adopt an abused child. Former Palme d’Or laureate Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns with another monumental slow-burn character study, The Wild Pear Tree, again set in the rural wilds of his native Turkey. In Transit, Christian Petzold, German writer-director of the sublime Barbara and Phoenix, has made another tightly focused character-based drama with huge historical and contemporary resonance, this time around the Holocaust and today’s resurgent European neo-Nazis.

Mirai is the sweet-souled story of a young child dealing with the arrival of a new sibling, from Mamoru Hosoda, the anime master behind The Boy and the Beast and Wolf Children. You Were Never Really Here is Lynn Ramsay’s adaptation of a thriller by Jonathan Ames, and by all accounts it thrills from go to whoa, while also unsparingly dissecting its complicated central character. And I have so many more films I want to mention, but let’s end with Zama, Argentinean writer-director Lucrecia Martel’s historical drama about colonialism and class systems. Most of these films are very recent, but Zama has taken a full year to reach us. The international reviews suggest it’s been worth the wait.

This article was first published in the July-August 2018 issue of Metro.


China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground for disinformation campaigns
102550 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z World

China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground fo…

by Gavin Ellis

A Taiwanese diplomat’s death in Japan has become a symbol of the consequences and dangers of disinformation.

Read more
The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the objects of your desire
102087 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Nutrition

The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the…

by Jennifer Bowden

Research has shown that dieters’ attempts to resist eating certain foods appear to lead to cravings for those foods.

Read more
Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and damages democracy
102545 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Tech

Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and…

by Gavin Ellis

Message manipulation using bots, algorithms and, now, AI software is making it harder to know what’s real – and threatening democracy itself.

Read more
Move to introduce digital tax for foreign companies profiting online
102519 2019-02-19 09:23:12Z Economy

Move to introduce digital tax for foreign companie…

by RNZ

New Zealand is lining up to introduce a new tax on multinational companies that make money out of online goods and services in this country.

Read more
National's high-risk gamble on marijuana and euthanasia
102484 2019-02-19 00:00:00Z Politics

National's high-risk gamble on marijuana and eutha…

by Graham Adams

Having polarising MPs like Paula Bennett and Maggie Barry leading the opposition to popular reforms could be kryptonite to the National Party.

Read more
Reflections on my encounter with the charming Dan Mallory
102482 2019-02-19 00:00:00Z Profiles

Reflections on my encounter with the charming Dan…

by Michele Hewitson

He penned a bestselling thriller, but as Michele Hewitson discovered, author Dan Mallory also proved himself to be a charmingly adept bullshit artist.

Read more
Sounds of summer: Notable Kiwis name their favourite summer songs
102500 2019-02-19 00:00:00Z Music

Sounds of summer: Notable Kiwis name their favouri…

by Phil Gifford

How music can transport you back to your most memorable summer.

Read more
Inside the close-knit community that lives along the Cromwell-Tarras Rd
102505 2019-02-19 00:00:00Z Travel

Inside the close-knit community that lives along t…

by Mike White

Mike White heads up the Cromwell-Tarras road to merino and wine country.

Read more