NZIFF Booklet

Films by Must See

Letterboxd Community

Some of our members have been lucky enough to see a selection of films from the NZIFF 2019 programme at other festivals already – the 25 listed below are (in order) the top picks from our community of 1.2 million film fans at the time of the festival launch. (We’ve excluded the oldies, so all 25 are recent releases.)

La Flor: Part I

Mariano Llinás

Spanning international espionage, torch song melodrama, supernatural horror and silent film homage, Mariano Llinás’ eccentric and expansive narrative epic is a Herculean film creation – and at 14 hours, a record-breaking one. Screening in three parts.

The Farewell

Lulu Wang

Deft and deeply felt, with a star-making turn from Awkwafina, Lulu Wang’s widely praised drama tells the story of a Chinese American family paying their last respects to a mother and grandmother who doesn’t know she’s dying.

Apollo 11

Todd Douglas Miller

An essential big screen experience, this spectacular documentary utilises a treasure trove of painstakingly restored footage to show us the Apollo 11 moon landing as it has never been seen before.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

Céline Sciamma

Winner of Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes, Céline Sciamma’s striking 18th-century tale of romantic obsession burns bright with female desire and the craft of a masterful filmmaker.

For Sama

Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts

Shot over five years, Waad al-Kateab’s intimate, Cannes award-winning film addresses her baby daughter and delivers a harrowing account of the war in Aleppo, the devastation wrought on the city, its people and children.

Amazing Grace

Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack

Rescued from 45 years in legal and technical limbo, this extraordinary music film capturing Aretha Franklin in full flight deserves your respect – and the biggest screen and sound system possible.

Varda by Agnès

Agnès Varda

The late, great French filmmaking icon’s swansong is a magical self-reflection on art, movies, invention and Varda’s own lust for life inside and outside of the cinematic frame.

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary

Ben Berman

In the world of magic, nothing is what it seems as a terminally ill magician prepares for his swansong – and the ultimate trick on the maker of this bizarre documentary.

Maiden

Alex Holmes

Utilising a treasure trove of archival footage, director Alex Holmes celebrates the history of Maiden Great Britain, the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Monos

Alejandro Landes

Like Lord of the Flies by way of Yorgos Lanthimos, this bold, bizarro Sundance sensation takes the feral power struggles of youth gone wild to the misty mountains and lush jungles of Colombia.

Hail Satan?

Penny Lane

From America’s satanic panic to the battle of the Baphomet monument, Hail Satan? is an eye-opening comedic romp exploring the good – and sometimes not so good – work of The Satanic Temple.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

Mads Brügger

What starts out as an investigation into the plane crash that killed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961 soon spirals into something even darker under the direction of Danish provocateur Mads Brügger.

Beats

Brian Welsh

As EDM and ecstasy-fuelled raves are targeted by 90s lawmakers, two downtrodden Glasgow teenagers are determined to taste the action. Director Brian Welsh (The Entire History of You) makes it a night to remember.

Midnight Family

Luke Lorentzen

With visceral immediacy and an unerring sense of compassion, documentarian Luke Lorentzen places us in the passenger seat of a family-run ambulance on the chaotic streets of Mexico City.

One Child Nation

Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang

A frank documentary about the wide-reaching impact of China’s one-child policy, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang unearth the frightening reality of the regime they were raised under. Winner Grand Jury Prize, Sundance 2019.

Ask Dr. Ruth

Ryan White

As her 90th birthday approaches, irrepressible Dr Ruth, the famed American sex therapist, reflects on her life and career in a film as spirited as she is.

The Realm

El reino

Rodrigo Sorogoyen

With a crisp, kinetic visual style and a surplus of tension, Spanish helmer Rodrigo Sorogoyen skewers the corrupt politicos of his home country with this razor-sharp suspense thriller.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

Di qiu zui hou de ye wan

Bi Gan

Part film noir, part dreamscape, this oneiric love mystery – acclaimed for its hour-long 3D sequence shot in a mesmerising unbroken take – intoxicatingly captures romantic obsession in southern China.

The Biggest Little Farm

John Chester

A city slicker couple turned progressive eco-farmers transform a barren orchard into a thriving landscape in this inspirational sustainability documentary.

The Art of Self-Defense

Riley Stearns

One of the most buzzed titles from this year’s SXSW fest, this jet-black deadpan comedy deploys a killer ensemble of Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola and Imogen Poots to deadly effect.

Sorry We Missed You

Ken Loach

A most worthy follow-up to I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s new social-realist drama zeroes in on life as an average British family at the mercy of the modern day ‘gig economy’.

Monrovia, Indiana

Frederick Wiseman

The small farming town of Monrovia, a stronghold of Republican voters and Midwestern values, is the subject of this quietly probing new documentary from the legendary Frederick Wiseman.

We Are Little Zombies

Nagahisa Makoto

Four teenage orphans form a kick-ass band to express their emotions and end up taking the world by storm in this visually dazzling triumph from first time director Nagahisa Makoto.

mid90s

Jonah Hill

Actor Jonah Hill directs with dead-on authenticity and unruly spirit this throwback to ’90s skate culture, based on his teenage years as a troublemaking skater in downtown LA.

This Changes Everything

Tom Donahue

You thought #TimesUp was a new initiative? Think again. This Changes Everything is the rallying cry lovers of cinema, supporters of women, and those who just aspire to see a fairer, more equitable industry have been waiting for.