Films by Collection

Staff Picks: Sandra Reid

My usual tack, to begin honing a list of a dozen films out of the hundreds seen during the past year, is to use Cannes as a prism. It’s the festival where I most recently saw films and they’re therefore fresh in mind. This does mean my list often tilts heavily in that direction and neglects other splendours. As I can’t fit all our wonderful Cannes crop on my list, I suggest checking out The Best of Cannes at NZIFF on the News page as a guide (with special mention to Birds of Passage, Border, Burning, Cold War, Donbass, Girl and Le Grand Bal – oh, the list could go on). I would love to be in Auckland celebrating the festival’s 50th year there with the NZIFF Classics – although other cities also get to share some of the love in the Retro selection – all of which are high on my To At Last See or To See Again If I Ever Get the Chance lists. And I’m looking forward to many more, including films from Aotearoa that I’ve yet to have the pleasure of seeing – can I squeeze in a cheer for Bludgeon here? It’s doubtful I’ll take up the sport it depicts but I loved my encounter with this documentary’s valiant knights. My Must Sees begin and end with two of the first films I saw last year when setting out on the 2019 selection process, both mesmerising, albeit in very different ways, and firmly embedded in my mind and will be for sometime yet.

The Ancient Woods


Mindaugas Survila

Filmed over ten years by Lithuanian biologist Mindaugas Survila, this beautiful, meditative ode to the growth and abundant wildlife in an ancient, unspoiled Baltic forest contemplates its subjects without ever interpreting them.

Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders

Joe Berlinger

Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost) revisits the infamous Clutter family murders to interrogate the history and the small Kansas town known to the world through Truman Capote’s bestseller In Cold Blood.

Good Manners

As boas maneiras

Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra

Social satire meets secret love meets beastly fairy tale in this wickedly assured shape-shifter from Brazil. (To guarantee maximum viewing pleasure, avoid the year’s most spoiler-ridden trailer. Seriously.)


Samuel Maoz

An Israeli family wrestles with loss as soldiers at a remote checkpoint battle ennui in this daring, visionary tragidrama from the director of Lebanon. Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize.

Leave No Trace

Debra Granik

New Zealand actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie is mesmerising as 13-year-old Tom living off the grid with her war vet father (Ben Foster) in this haunting new film from the director of Winter’s Bone.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Stephen Nomura Schible

The Oscar-winning Japanese composer (The Last Emperor; Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence), synth-pop pioneer, electronica experimentalist and environmentalist reflects on his work and influences in this intimate portrait.

The Swimming Pool

La piscine

Jacques Deray

Divine decadence in the south of France, this silkily sexy psychological thriller stars Romy Schneider, Alain Delon and Jane Birkin, France’s hottest young stars of the 1960s, and shimmers with cool jazz and mid-summer menace.

In the Aisles

In den Gängen

Thomas Stuber

Franz Rogowski (Victoria, Transit) and Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann) head a superb cast in this tender, lyrical film about friendship and romance on the night shift in a wholesale market.


Soda Jerk

A controversy magnet across the ditch, this savage pop culture remix by art collective duo Soda Jerk flies fearlessly in the face of Australia’s sanctioned history and national identity.

Bisbee ’17

Robert Greene

History repeats itself in this lyrical, emotionally resonant doco on the centenary of the Bisbee Deportation, in which thousands of immigrant miners were transported into the New Mexico desert and left to fend for themselves.

First Reformed

Paul Schrader

A country priest (Ethan Hawke) questions his faith after an unnerving encounter with a radical environmentalist in this searing thriller from the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Shut Up and Play the Piano

Philipp Jedicke

Rapper, piano virtuoso, performance artist, gifted collaborator or evil, smirking genius, Jason Beck aka Chilly Gonzales crowd-surfs the academy and puts on a hell of a show in the year’s wildest, funniest music doco.


Lucrecia Martel

The brilliant Argentinian auteur Lucrecia Martel returns with a feverish, formally sophisticated period piece about a Spanish officer’s personal hell in colonial South America.