Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s doco celebrates 50 years of cultural and political debate in the pages of The New York Review of Books with octogenarian editor Robert Silvers, its tireless champion of intellectual freedom.
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- The Netherlands
Decades after it was deemed too deviant to release, 54: The Director’s Cut delivers the full decadent glory of legendary Manhattan disco Studio 54 as its makers intended. With Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek and Mike Myers.
A tightly wound hostage thriller that boasts a commanding lead performance from Tim Roth, 600 Miles is a gritty and authentic portrait of weapon smuggling in Mexico and an auspicious debut for director Gabriel Ripstein.
This speaker-busting documentary celebrates the impressive legacy of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, whose ground-shaking futuristic beats have shaped the course of hip-hop and dance music history.
Andrew Garfield makes a deal with the devil in Ramin Bahrani’s searing moral thriller – a bitter examination of One Percent corruption, personified by Michael Shannon’s duplicitous real estate shark. Co-stars Laura Dern.
Navigating the streets of New Orleans, Les Blank takes us from the vibrancy of second-line parades down backstreets to jazz funerals, pots of crawfish brewing, and the intense competition of Mardi Gras Indian troupes.
NZIFF recommends this programme for children aged 9–12.
This year’s big-screen celebration of the latest and best animated shorts is a dazzler, including Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at Sundance.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) is known as the ‘Father of Yoga in the West’. In this fascinating documentary, produced by the Self-Realization Fellowship who continues his work, we learn about his extraordinary life.
Documenting the frenzy of adulation and controversy that erupted during street artist Banksy’s month-long ‘residency’ in New York, Chris Moukarbel energetically examines issues of art and ownership within the public space.
Loaded with footage of his legendary stunts, and packed with anecdotes almost as hair-raising, this warts-and-all portrait of 70s motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel upholds his primacy in the extreme sports pantheon.
Anticipating the punch-counterpunch set-up of today’s TV punditry, but so much more incisive, the 1968 TV debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr resound again in this terrific documentary.
“Matthew Heineman’s troubling documentary about vigilante groups on both sides of the border in the porous region between Mexico and the Southwestern US – an area increasingly taken over by drug cartels – is explosive stuff.” — New York
This affectionate portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold is also a love letter to the culinary and cultural wonders of Los Angeles, from Beverly Hills fine dining to strip mall noodle joints and taco carts.
Sex, violence and scabrous visions of human infamy rule in this international panorama of R-rated animated shorts, including acclaimed new work from several masters of the art.
An amazing gust of fresh air from the 70s! Starring Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård and the phenomenal Bel Powley as 15-year-old Minnie, who, brave, funny and ever true to herself, embarks on an affair with an older man.
Three high school geeks, obsessed with 90s hip-hop, get into risky business with molly moving gangstas in this fast, funny LA street comedy, featuring a star-making performance from the charismatic Shameik Moore.
Filmmaker Kim Longinotto accompanies the irrepressible ex-hooker Brenda Myers-Powell as she storms the streets, prisons and high schools of Chicago to inspire young women caught in the cycle of abuse with the story of her escape.
“This charming and sensitive film about a five-day encounter between acclaimed late author David Foster Wallace and a Rolling Stone journalist is a transfixing human drama.” — Anthony Kaufman, Screendaily
Led by an arresting, coolly clinical performance from Peter Sarsgaard, this potent examination of one of the most controversial figures in social psychology is as indelibly stylised as it is intellectually stimulating.
Truth is more bizarre than fiction in this doco that gets behind the reality TV freakshow tale of a man fighting to recover his mummified leg from the guy who accidentally bought it at a storage-unit auction.
Our chador-wearing heroine walks the night-time streets of Bad City sinking her teeth into those who deserve to die. Outrageously languid, this new-school vampire movie is a triumphant first feature for Ana Lily Amirpour.
Alex Gibney’s documentary sensation, based on Lawrence Wright’s best-selling history of Scientology and its apostates, gets the big screen treatment it deserves.
Lily Tomlin is perfectly cast as a sharp-tongued, taboo-breaking granny who comes out fighting for her pregnant teenage granddaughter in this constantly surprising comedy-drama from About a Boy director Paul Weitz.
Shot in 1972, this is an energetic down-home portrait of the Louisiana Creole musician Clifton Chenier aka the King of Zydeco. Les Blank beautifully captures the propulsive, foot-tapping joy of Chenier’s music.
In their last film, two documentary masters, Les Blank and Ricky Leacock, get together to chat about films, friends and the joys of French cuisine. “Like a parting gift from them to cinema.” — Jeff Reichert, Reverse Shot
Jon Mikl Thor was a bodybuilding, steel-bending, brick-smashing metal star in the 70s and 80s whose band never quite made it big. Years later, in this funny and endearing doco, he attempts a comeback that nearly kills him.
“Paul Thomas Anderson has taken Thomas Pynchon’s novel about the death of the hippie counterculture and turned it, reasonably faithfully, into a surreally funny, anxious and beautiful film noir.” — The Telegraph
Over the course of a dinner party in the Hollywood mansion that was once his, the haunted Will is gripped by mounting evidence that his ex and her new friends have a mysterious and terrifying agenda.
Veteran documentary maestro Albert Maysles’ Iris is a captivating salute to a proud flag-bearer of the vanishing quality of fashion individuality, the legendary New York clotheshorse and design darling Iris Apfel.
Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon are indelible as a Manhattan slacker careening out of control and his mother battling cancer in Josh Mond’s intensely immersive first feature.
Viggo Mortensen is a Danish engineer who adopts military garb to search for his fugitive daughter in in the wilderness of 19th-century Patagonia. Lisandro Alonso’s surreal drama is as enigmatic as it is compelling.
Cole Porter’s irreverent take on The Taming of the Shrew is one of the most pleasurable (and fabulously danced) MGM musicals of the 50s – and the only one produced in 3D. With Ann Miller, Howard Keel and Bob Fosse.
The candid, definitive and hugely entertaining tale of the rise of The Who, named for the cinephilic pair of Swinging Londoners who figured that managing a band would be a great way to get a movie made.
A children’s orchestra playing instruments fashioned from trash brings their impoverished home in Paraguay to the attention of the world in this SXSW Audience Award-winning doco.
Live Cinema with Lawrence Arabia and Carnivorous Plant Society
Coney Island 1928 is brought to teeming life with the World Premiere performance of a new score by Lawrence Arabia and Carnivorous Plant Society.
The life, music and passionate commitment of the irresistible Mavis Staples are lovingly chronicled in this spirited doco – with help from fans Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Chuck D, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Prince.
Scoring its points through clearly stated arguments and pithy humour, Merchants of Doubt examines the methods corporations use to stymie political actions that would be good for public health, but bad for their bottom lines.
A new summit in mountain sports documentary – with characters and a plot to rival many a feature, Meru captures the sheer physical extremity of two attempts to make the first ascent of a precipitous Himalayan peak.
In her final completed film, playing a dramatic role created by her husband Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe is touching, and radiant as ever, as a showgirl whose intensely sympathetic nature upends the lives of three cowboy drifters.
In J.C. Chandor’s intense, 80s-set thriller an ambitious wheeler-dealer on New York’s contested waterfront (Oscar Isaac) tries to detoxify his business, but his Mob daughter wife (Jessica Chastain) has other ideas.
Check out the latest and best Māori and Pasifika short films as selected for NZIFF by Leo Koziol, Director of the Wairoa Māori Film Festival, and Craig Fasi, Director of the Pollywood Film Festival.
This powerful film about police overkill makes its case through the experience and research of the former lawman who founded Utah’s first SWAT team, then saw it shoot down a member of his own family 33 years later.
Present-day art world stars pay tribute in a lavishly illustrated profile of the arts patron extraordinaire who transformed a modest fortune and adventurous taste into one of the premier collections of 20th-century art.
In this challenging yet open-minded doco by a young Swedish-Danish couple, Florida sex offenders preparing to re-enter society talk about their guilt and the barriers to rehabilitation. Special Jury Award winner at Sundance.
Completed in 1974 and withheld from exhibition until now, Les Blank’s legendary documentary about musician Leon Russell mixes live and studio performances into an amazing time capsule from the heart of 70s rock.
This unsettling look into indoctrination within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is another essential work from one of the world’s finest documentary filmmakers. Music and narration by Nick Cave.
“Gabe Polsky’s electrifying look at a once-unbeatable Soviet hockey team and the link between sports and politics… deserves a big boo-yah from audiences for being illuminating and hugely entertaining.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders, personal trainers in an Austin gym, and their new New York schlub client, Kevin Corrigan, embark on colliding paths to self-improvement in Andrew Bujalski’s wry rom com.
The Sundance Grand Jury prizewinner for World Cinema Documentary is a scarier-than-fiction investigation of the Chernobyl disaster, headed up by an eccentric young artist, and abetted by the fearless filmmakers.
Ethan Hawke’s music-laden documentary ushers us into the company of octogenarian former concert pianist and tireless teacher Seymour Bernstein, and invites us to share his humour, vitality and penetrating wisdom.
All the anger, joy and turmoil of the 60s–70s feminist explosion comes alive in a vivid documentary, blending the recollections of key US campaigners with archival action likely to astound anyone who wasn’t there.
Les Blank journeys down the bayous and byways of Southwest Louisiana in this perennially fresh portrait of the region’s Cajun community from 1970. The Balfa Brothers, Nathan Abshire and Marc Savoy provide the soundtrack.
“The suspense and pleasure of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s talking-and-tentacles horror romance Spring lies in discovering what shape the film is going to take.” — Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
Lavishly illustrated with long-lost motor racing footage and rich in interviews with the veteran drivers who were there, this doco explores the making of Steve McQueen’s ill-fated Hollywood epic, Le Mans.
Filled with his spectacular footage, this doco retraces the exploits of the late Carl Boenish, an aerial cinematographer and the father of the extreme sport of BASE jumping.
Shot on iPhone and looking fantastic, Sean Baker’s R-rated comedy storms the streets, doughnut shops, brothels and clubs of West Hollywood as two transgender BFFs hunt down the ‘bitch’ who did them wrong.
Filmed over nine months of night shoots, the hypnotically immersive Tchoupitoulas shows us nightlife in and around New Orleans’ French Quarter through the eyes of astounded children.
NZIFF recommends this programme for children aged 4–8.
New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff introduces his stable of oddball artists and guides us through the processes and philosophies that have kept publication in the magazine so highly prized for decades.
A tiny North Dakota town wakes to a nightmare when a notorious white supremacist moves in and tries to take over in this gripping portrait of conflicting notions of freedom in a community under siege.
Texas sharecropper Mance Lipscomb began singing and playing guitar at an early age but was largely unknown until he was recorded by Chris Strachwitz at the age of 65. This invaluable portrait was filmed by Les Blank in 1971.
In this affecting documentary portrait of a latter-day cowboy and lawman, the peace of two small cattle towns on opposite sides of the Texas–Mexico border is threatened by the shadow of Mexican drug cartels.
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are a middle-aged couple seduced by the attention of super-hip young Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried in this pointed and funny New York comedy about acting your age.
In this stranger-than-fiction doco, we meet six brothers who have spent their entire lives locked by their father into their Manhattan apartment – where they watch movies obsessively and film their own ingenious re-enactments.
With a soundtrack you can sing along to, this spirited doco celebrates the hitherto anonymous LA session musicians who enlivened hit LPs by The Byrds, Cher, Nancy and Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many more.