New Zealand International Film Festival ’19: What To See


I’m obsessed with the NZIFF and try to attend as many films as possible each year when the festival rolls around.

Here’s my pick of what you might want to see in the coming weeks! No one has said my taste in films is particularly relevant, so do with this information what you will.

Sorry We Missed You

Director Ken Roach is most famous for his social activism and the way his films explore class-based inequalities. Sorry We Missed You is about a struggling working class family in the “gig economy”. His previous film, I, Daniel Blake, won the Palme d’Or d at Cannes in 2016 and critics are already saying this film is even better. Trailer here.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is the concert film of the late Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel shows and, according to The Rolling Stones, “It’s the closest thing to witnessing a miracle.” Franklin was 29 year’s old at the time and, determined to return to her gospel roots, chose to record an album live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The result is apparently so emotional the New York Times said, “Don’t bother with tissues – bring a towel.” Trailer here.

The Farewell

Actress Awkwafina is known for her breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians, but is almost unrecognisable in her poignant and subtle portrayal as the daughter of Chinese immigrants forced to go along with the family’s deception of her beloved dying grandmother back home. The Farewell’s comedy-drama plot is based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s own true story: when her grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the rest of the family decided not to tell her. The film premiered to rave reviews at Sundance and – along with warmth, laughter and deliciously rich food – provided “the ugly cry” of the festival. Bring tissues. Trailer here.

Ask Dr. Ruth

This documentary explores the colourful life of American icon Doctor Ruth Westheimer, the four foot seven media personality who became famous for frankly discussing sexual dynamics, AIDS, and women’s pleasure at the height of the Reagan era. Born in Germany, Dr. Ruth was a Holocaust survivor who went on to become an Israeli soldier, a professor in Paris and New York, and ultimately the most memorable person in America to talk about sex. Trailer here.

This Changes Everything

This star-studded documentary, featuring everyone from Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep to Yara Shahidi, seeks to show that the fight for parity in Hollywood’s film industry wasn’t born out of #MeToo or #TimesUp – it started long before those movements and it’s still got a long way to go. Specifically, this documentary wants to prove that if women desire equal representation and pay in films then they can’t exclude men from the conversation. Trailer here.

Billy And The Kids

I think it’s really important that Kiwis attend New Zealand-made films at the NZIFF so that they can continue to prosper, and this one looks so moving. It’s a documentary about Kiwi boxing great Billy Graham who runs boxing academies around New Zealand as a way to mentor underprivileged young boys and girls who lack the discipline and support they deserve. One of the teenagers, Tom, suffers from anxiety after losing his father in Afghanistan and emigrating to New Zealand and uses boxing to keep his mind at ease. This film doesn’t have a trailer, learn more here.

American Woman

Considered to be the best performance of Sienna Miller’s entire career, American Woman is the devastating character study of a single mother (Miller) in working-class Pennsylvania who struggles to move on with her life after her teenage daughter goes missing without a trace. The celebrated film also stars Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men). Trailer here.

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