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July 16, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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New Zealand 2012 International Film Festival

The recent release of the International Film Festival programme has Wellington cinephiles buzzing. Once again the Festival team have produced an impressive and wide-ranging programme, which is sure to satisfy all lovers of cinema. When you look down the list of around 200 films, you’d be forgiven for feeling slightly bewildered (and concerned for the future state of your wallet). To help you digest what’s on offer, Salient has created a comprehensive guide to the 2012 International Film Festival.

Incredibly Strange

The inimitable Ant Timpson once again provides us with a smattering of bizarre yet intriguing films. The definite highlight is Joss Whedon’s genre-bending The Cabin In the Woods, which the festival has rescued from the perils of a direct-to-DVD fate. For a truly macabre time you should see Sightseers, a black comedy about a serial-killing couple who travel around England. How delightful.

Worlds of Difference

Obscure foreign films are this festival’s speciality.  Mads Mikkelsen plays a man accused of paedophilia in The Hunt, while the French put their spin on the typical political drama with The Minister. Polish war drama In Darkness was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, and is directed by a woman whose distinguished career includes stints on The Wire.

New Directions

This section consists of up and coming filmmakers to keep your eye out for. Salient recommends Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Neighbouring Sounds, a Brazilian drama notable for a soundscape that poses more questions than it answers.

New Zealand

Aotearoa is a nation of gifted filmmakers and the festival programmers clearly recognise this. Make My Movie competition winner How To Meet Girls from a Distance has its nationwide premiere. It’s been dubbed a “peeping-tom rom-com”, so make of that what you will.  For those interested in environmentalism and conversation, there are the local documentaries The Last Dogs of Winter and The Last Ocean. Also check out the inaugural Short Film Competition, which showcases some of the best short features that New Zealand has to offer.


Studio Ghibli has made another animated film, From Up on Poppy Hill. That’s all you need to know really.

Big Presentations

Visual spectacle seems to be the order of the day here, from striking festival-opener Beasts of the Southern Wild to the “bizarre yet brilliant” Holy Motors. Big name filmmakers are also well represented, with Wes Anderson’s quirky treat Moonrise Kingdom, as well as the Peter Jackson-produced documentary West of Memphis. Fresh from winning the Canne Festival’s Palme d’Or, Amour is a refreshingly original picture about the nature and impact of death. You could also be terrified all over again by the remastered print of The Shining (which should be seen in conjunction with Room 237).


As ever, the range of documentaries on show is impressive. The lives of dissidents and freedom fighters are revealed in Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and A Bitter Taste of Freedom, which look at those who are willing to challenge the legitimacy of their government. Bully provides a searing critique of an epidemic of abuse that is spiralling out of control, and the lengths people will go to ignore it.  Biopics are also in abundance, with my personal pick being the charming Searching for Sugar Man, which delves into the fascinating life of a musician few have heard of. For you hipsters there’s Shut Up and Play the Hits, which details the final days of the dance-punk group LCD Soundsystem.

The others

I don’t know if I’ll be seeing it but The Fog is a slow-burning 2 hour war drama, comprised of just over 70 shots. Meanwhile the consistently excellent Woody Harrelson plays a psychotic and deeply immoral Los Angeles policeman in Rampart.

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