The near and present danger of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon is the nerve-wracking backdrop to this expertly directed coming-of-age tale, centred on one boy’s all-consuming crush amidst the encroachment of war.
Collected from far and wide, we know this latest selection of short film delights from brilliant animated artists the world over is sure to charm and captivate our favourite little audience – and all those indie-animation admirers we know get just as big a kick out of these terrific films as their little pals do.
On your mark, get set, it’s time for a whole lot of animated brilliance from all corners of our big wide world. Join us for metaphysical musings and reflective moments, laugh-out-loud gags and a load of animal antics – it’s your annual wintery fix of animated inventiveness and imagination.
A celebratory showcase of some of the year’s best and brightest animated shorts. If you’re looking to sample the animation ecosystem in all its multi-coloured, variously-shaped glory, there’s no better place to begin.
From the sinking city of Venice to the disappearing islands of the Pacific and voyages in between, these four works from New Zealand and European artists share themes of loss and memory, letting the past inform the future.
“I’d never share a rope with him” is about as damning a comment as anyone can make about a fellow mountaineer. Sir Edmund Hillary’s words about Earle Riddiford in his last autobiography set the uneasy tone of this nuanced documentary by Earle’s son Richard Riddiford.
On the Mongolian steppes, one woman’s cultural and sexual identity is reckoned with in Uisenma Borchu’s fierce, hypnotic drama of two sisters coming to terms with their expression of heritage and independence.
Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV (Western, NZIFF15) turn their instinctive, unblinking documentary lens on the patrons of a grimy Las Vegas bar enjoying one last round – a glorious snapshot of Americana that’s at once dark, moving and flat-out funny.
Dramatising the turbulence and ambiguity of custody battles with emotional precision and complexity, Charter focuses on a mother’s impulsive decision to abscond with her estranged children to a holiday resort, and the consequences of her actions.
“Algorithmic justice” is one of the most important civil rights issues today, says computer scientist and digital activist Joy Buolamwini, in this accessible and compelling documentary about artificial intelligence and the biased algorithms that power it.
An ex-con masquerading as a priest works to heal the wounds of a grieving congregation with his unorthodox brand of faith and forgiveness in this darkly compelling Oscar-nominated Polish drama.
We close the Festival with this quintessentially Icelandic comedy about one woman’s fight against a monopolistic co-op stifling the livelihoods of farmers in a remote valley near Reykjavik. Adroitly blending humour and injustice together with the lightest of touches, it’s a worthy successor to NZIFF18 audience favourite Woman at War.
The untold story of Baltimore club music is brought to ecstatic life against the backdrop of the city’s depression, and through the black and LGBTQI+ communities galvanised by musical expression, in TT the Artist’s bristling documentary.
This sweet and sour coming-of-age comedy smashed into Sundance with anarchy on its mind and a kickass soundtrack on its turntable. The bad boy-meets-good girl setup has been fodder for cinema for aeons, so it was about time someone took a chainsaw to the status quo.
Playing outside the boundaries of drama and documentary, this adventurous self-portrait of a 20-something artist and dancer asks the question, “if you could star in the film of your life, how would you rewrite the script?”
The definition of a small but perfectly formed gem, the gracefully understated Driveways centres on a young Asian boy who develops a precious friendship with the lonely war vet living next door, played memorably by the late Brian Dennehy.
In this bright, affirmative lesbian teen rom-com, a girl awkwardly angles for the attention of her high school crush with a little help from the ghost of her aunt, a queer activist with a poignant history in the fight for LGBTQI+ rights.
Pure, unadulterated cinema, the latest from Chilean maestro Pablo Larraín is straight fire: a scorching character study of one woman’s pursuit of sexual and political liberation, lit up by Mariana Di Girolamo’s sensational lead performance.
Racial and psychological tensions, claustrophobically observed in both the workplace and at home, come to a head in Visar Morina’s masterfully directed thriller about one man’s identity crisis as a foreigner in Germany.
Los miembros de la familia
Stranded after their mother’s passing, a teenage brother and sister awkwardly socialise, take long walks on the beach and get serious about fitness in this dry, Jim Jarmusch-esque hangout film.
Demain est à nous
These bright young activists are the voices of their generation, fighting against extreme poverty, social inequalities and climate change. They are the children who will change the world.
Fritzi: Eine Wendewundergeschichte
A riveting animated tale of the fall of the Berlin Wall – and people brave enough to change the world – told through the eyes of a courageous 12-year-old girl.
In the increasing public discourse on mental health, Leanne Pooley’s inspiring and fearless documentary tracks an extraordinary young woman’s journey from suicide survivor to advocate for those struggling. The fact it leaves you hopeful and with tangible advice makes it vital viewing.
La Odisea de los Giles
After being scammed into bankruptcy, a community of working-class Argentines band together to devise the ultimate payback – an elaborate money heist inspired by the movies – in Sebastián Borensztein’s winning underdog comedy.
Vivid and strikingly objective, Zhou Bing’s in-the-field documentary covering both sides of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement examines the personal and political identities at odds in this ongoing conflict.
Sin Señas Particulares
Travellers and migrants who vanish without a trace – and the desperation of the families they leave behind – come to light in this tense, enveloping drama set in the shadow of the US–Mexico border.
Si yo fuera el invierno mismo
Indulging in the thrill and heartbreak of the artistic process, this unabashedly avant-garde take on the iconic works of Godard, Mendieta and Farocki explores cinema as both a political and playful act.
Ginevra Elkann’s lovely directorial debut, set in the early 90s and based on her own childhood, finds three siblings arriving in Rome from Paris on a visit to their unreliable father, where family tensions and spontaneous fun mix.
Halina Reijn’s astonishingly assured directorial debut tensely interrogates the fantasises of a veteran therapist (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones), whose attraction to a sex offender patient escalates into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
Au nom de la terre
A revelation at the French box office that’s also bound to resonate with heartland New Zealanders, In the Name of the Land humanely and bittersweetly celebrates the life of a stoic farmer over four decades of struggle.
Jesús te muestra el camino a la autopista
Miguel Llansó’s sophomore feature is a glorious cherry bomb of outsider psychotronica. Grandiose and enjoyably nutty, no recent film has managed to excite about the future of independent cinema as much as this joyous everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to the ultimate conspiracy flick.
Who would have thought one of the most oddly romantic films of recent years would be based on the true encounter of a woman and her love for nuts and bolts?
Metri Shesh-o Nim
A box office behemoth in its homeland and a daring breakthrough for its 30-year-old director Saeed Roustayi, this visceral policer tackles the maelstrom of Iran’s war on drugs through propulsive action and real political bite.
Working to care for dead animals, a young couple collect deceased pets from people’s homes, while also scavenging for neglected roadkill, in Greek video artist Janis Rafa’s uncanny first feature film.
A tough-as-nails boxing drama in the vein of Raging Bull, German filmmaker Barbara Ott’s Kids Run is a captivating portrait of precarity that pulls no punches.
Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles, NZIFF12) harnesses extraordinary access and the boastful, unrepentant nature of her subject, Imelda Marcos, in this unsettling chronicle of ill-gotten wealth and political corruption.
Intrigued by cruise ships and the people who frequent them, Sophie Dros’ fascinating documentary focuses on an extravagant Scottish Baron whose love of luxury liners masks a very human need for affection and validation.
Six delightful New Zealand shorts that epitomise the Kiwi lifestyle of 2020. Featuring lockdown narks and dorky dads; big monster crays and triple scoop ice creams; annoying brats and courageous stunts.
In this fresh cinephilic appreciation, French film critic Michel Ciment’s taped interviews with Stanley Kubrick breathe new life into the legacy of one of the most celebrated and studied directors of all time.
Corinna Harfouch is unforgettable as a mother reaching out, in her own severe way, to her classical pianist son and her own erstwhile artistic ambitions, in director Jan-Ole Gerster’s high-tensile drama.
Prodigiously talented composer Jóhann Jóhannsson makes his posthumous directorial debut with an austere, hauntingly gorgeous sci-fi symphony voiced by Tilda Swinton and laced with sadness, wonder and hope.
An ancient doomsday prophecy haunts Australian lawyer Richard Chamberlain while freakish weather plagues Sydney in Peter Weir’s newly remastered murder mystery-turned-apocalyptic chiller from 1977.
Unpacking one of the landmark films of the 1970s, William Friedkin talks big on the secrets and success of The Exorcist in this stellar cinematic essay, framed around an epic six-day interview with the maverick director.
This surprisingly touching romantic odyssey documents charismatic Jola, a stylish sexagenarian embracing newly won love and liberation after an abusive, decades-long marriage.
Director Anna Marbrook honours the last voyage of the great waka maker, sailor and mentor Ema Siope, whose journeys between Aotearoa and Sāmoa in search of healing, and her family’s reckoning with systemic abuse, are powerfully documented.
Bor Mi Vanh Chark
Somehow both thoughtful and thrilling, Laotian-American filmmaker Mattie Do’s ghostly time-travel tale unravels into unexpected places, blending intimate drama with tense horror and sci-fi genre elements.
In the earthy, captivatingly idiosyncratic Martin Eden, a lowly sailor romances a sophisticated young woman while plunging into an epic love affair with literature and intellectual curiosity in 20th-century Italy.
A belated and buoyant documentary portrait of Martin Margiela, celebrated for his trailblazing designs and humble, enigmatic persona within the flamboyant fashion world.
By turns comedic and Kafkaesque, this fly-on-the-wall doco observes the fortunes of Ramallah, an epicentre of Palestinian commerce and culture, and its tireless mayor, whose work to better the city is met with danger and frustration.
In this genuinely powerful and illuminating documentary, we step inside an outpatient mental health clinic run by a sympathetic elderly doctor to pull back “the invisible curtain” obscuring the world of Japan’s mentally ill.
Defying family expectations and maternal norms, 63-year-old hairdresser Lou travels to start a new life abroad, settling on the Spanish port city of Cádiz, where adventures in language and friendship await.
Mijn bijzonder rare week met Tess
A charming and sensitive all-ages drama that explores life’s lightness and gravity with uplifting emotional depth. Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, and the NYICFF Grand Prize Feature Film Award.
A heavyweight drama elevated by two outstanding performers, Lars Eidinger (The Clouds of Sils Maria) joins Nina Hoss (celebrated star of Barbara and Phoenix) as inseparable twins fighting serious illness with their undying passion for the theatre.
Help give the year’s best New Zealand short films the homegrown recognition they deserve by voting for your favourite.
A collection of Māori and Pasifika short films curated by Leo Koziol (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka), Director of the Wairoa Māori Film Festival, with guest co-curator Craig Fasi (Niue), Director of the Pollywood Film Festival.
Understated yet emotionally resonant, Faraz Shariat’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama is both timely in its exploration of a global humanitarian crisis and a testament to the transformative power of queer love.
The saga of The Band, whose iconic farewell concert was immortalised in The Last Waltz, continues to captivate in this new documentary shaped from the perspective of guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robertson, only one of two surviving members.
Exciting young director Mees Peijnenburg and ace cinematographer Jasper Wolf (Monos; Instinct, NZIFF20) immerse us in the gritty world of a trio of disadvantaged Dutch youths en route to Marseille, where either hope or failure awaits.
Gymnastics, an unknown half-brother and a streak of petty crime set in motion a teenage girl’s coming-of-age in suburban Brighton in Eva Riley’s sensitive, spirited first feature film.
Saudi superstar director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s latest is a winning homecoming; a seriocomic look at the daily struggles of a doctor running for council – and her fellow women and outsiders – within an Islamic society undergoing dramatic change.
Le voyage du prince
Another distinguished and mesmerising animation from celebrated filmmaker Jean-François Laguionie (The Painting, NZIFF12), with co-direction by Xavier Picard, The Prince’s Voyage is a unique and astute tale of friendship, tolerance and revelation.
A female-centric, intergenerational haunted house story of the highest order, Relic takes the terrifying conceit of senile dementia and transforms it into a supernatural entity that engulfs sufferers and those who care for them.
Premiering their forthcoming web series as a special festival presentation, director Max Currie (Everything We Loved, NZIFF14) and writer Cole Meyers’ queer and trans-celebratory drama swells with character and heart.
Sem Seu Sangue
An intense teenage romance morphs into a hypnotic tale of resurrection and saudade in this visually lush meditation on all-consuming love from emerging Brazilian director Alice Furtado.
A peek behind the curtain of the self-proclaimed “Disneyland for Retirees”, first-time director Lance Oppenheim’s humorous and bittersweet documentary follows four recent arrivals as they search for the American Dream.
Compiling rare found-footage into an unnerving visual essay on Stalin’s cult of personality, this disquieting film observes the notorious Soviet leader’s 1953 funeral procession – and with it, the end spectacle of a tyrannical regime.
The Steelers journey to compete in the World Cup of gay rugby in this hopeful yet emotionally honest sports documentary about playing for pride, whoever your team is.
Director Ray Yeung breaks new ground with Suk Suk (‘uncle’ in Cantonese), an affecting portrayal of two gay men in modern Hong Kong as they find each other in their later years and struggle with enduring matters of identity, desire and belonging.
In this fiery conversation starter, tough ethical quandaries agitate the sophisticated New York lives of three friends, whose best intentions behind a surrogate pregnancy are complicated when nature intrudes.
A young paedophile’s return to society is calmly explored in Belgian director Patrice Toye’s powerful, thought-provoking new film. Based on Inge Schilperoord’s controversial novel Muidhond.
Ze Noemen me Baboe
Indonesia’s shifting colonial landscape is examined through startling archival footage and the remarkable story of one nanny who, while caring for a Dutch family, braved occupation and social upheaval to find her own independence.
Huo zhe chang zhe
Poignantly capturing the agony and ecstasy of the arts, Johnny Ma’s colourful ode to performing artists stars a real-life Sichuan Opera troupe struggling against modernity and bureaucracy on the outskirts of Chengdu, China.
Tabi no Owari Sekai no Hajimari
Personal, cultural and imagined fears are brought to the scenic surface of Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s superb new film, about a young woman navigating the customs and language of a foreign country while on assignment there as the host of a TV show.
From Sir Sydney Nolan’s epic paintings to Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Ned Kelly has come a long way to find himself thundering on horseback across a barren moonlit landscape, dressed only in boots and a flowing lace frock, in this dazzling postmodern version of the outlaw legend.
After conquering Cannes with Shoplifters, Japanese auteur Kore-eda Hirokazu breathlessly transposes his beloved cinema of families, food and slow-burning truths to Paris, with an all-star cast led by two doyennes of the French silver screen.
Lala Rolls’ fascinating quest to examine what happens to a Tahitian high priest and navigator when he travels across the pacific – and further on towards England as a translator and guest (or is it as a living trophy?) – aboard Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour.
A bumbling thief plots to infiltrate a mausoleum built inexplicably on top of his buried loot in Alaa Eddine Aljem’s delightful, deadpan tale of spirituality and greed in rural Morocco.
The great Ai Weiwei, giant of contemporary Chinese, activist and human rights art, directs with breathtaking outrage this soul-searching documentary on the devastation of a Mexican community gutted by a mass abduction of students.
Something completely different from the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild (NZIFF12), this swirling, kaleidoscopic take on the adventures of Peter Pan and Wendy in Neverland is uniquely for both mature kids and wide-eyed adults.
Mientras dure la guerra
The acclaimed director of The Sea Inside returns with his most handsomely mounted film yet, an expansive yet deep-focus drama detailing events around the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Franco’s fascist dictatorship.
Aasta täis draamat
Nourishing and unexpectedly moving, director Marta Pulk’s documentary takes us to theatre-mad Estonia, where a young, inexperienced woman wins a job to watch and critique every theatre production in a calendar year.
A smart and nuanced portrait of gay love matched with suspenseful and unexpected turns, Marco Berger’s latest film continues his acclaimed run of dramas exploring queer male desire and romance.
Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala’s beautifully realised fable of a child living with the knowledge his life will end the moment he becomes an adult is a coming-of-age tale like no other.
Those with a voracious appetite for fresh variations on the zombie genre will lap up this juicy Belgian horror comedy about a virus outbreak in a run-down hospital offering cheap cosmetic surgery to desperate clients.
In Kosovo, the pressure on a mother to conceive, from both her conservative family and superstitious village community, builds with intensity in this nightmarish, emotionally charged drama tackling themes of war, trauma and oppressive gender roles.
This essential follow-up to Soda Kazuhiro’s taboo-breaking documentary on mental illness in Japanese society revisits the pillar of that film, Dr Yamamoto Masatomo, as he prepares to bid his patients farewell and enter into retirement.