While known as a celebration of global cinema, the annual New Zealand International Film Festival also offers Kiwi movie-lovers the rare chance to see a few more “offbeat” titles.
There’s even a special section of the programme – Incredibly Strange – curated by Ant Timpson, devoted to some of the more out-there genre titles and slices of challenging cinema.
Stuff to Watch has had the opportunity to check out a number of titles ahead of their forthcoming festival screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and has come up with this selection of six cinematic stories that just have to be seen to be believed.
* Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival: Graeme Tuckett’s top picks
* Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2022: Eight must see movies
* Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival: Eight great Kiwi films to check out
* The filmmaker who helped tell the harrowing story of rapper Scribe’s father
Kiwi actor Beulah Koale, joins Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul and Theo James for this blackly-comedic sci-fi tale set in a world where cloning has become a part of everyday life.
Believing that she is going to die from a terminal disease, Sarah (Gillan) undertakes the procedure so that her boyfriend and mother won’t be lonely. Unfortunately, it turns out there was a mistake – and she finds herself in a fight to be the one to stay alive.
A bleak version of Apple’s Mahershala Ali-starrer Swan Song, it also has echoes of Michael Keaton’s Multiplicity in its twisted, table-turning narrative.
The Humans (M)
While it doesn’t always transcend its stage origins, Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his Tony-Award winning 2015 play offers plenty of dramatic meat and a magnificently assembled ensemble. Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Richard Jenkins, Jayne Hudyshell and June Squibb play members of the same family gathered together at Feldstein and partner Steven Yeun’s less-than-salubrious inner-city New York apartment.
The setting itself is as much a character and talking point as the regrets and recriminations discussed over the course of an increasingly fraught evening.
Loving Highsmith (E)
She might be most famous for her psychological thrillers, especially ones like Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley that became high-profile Hollywood movies, but there was another side to American author Patricia Highsmith, as Eva Vitja’s enlightening and eye-opening documentary reveals.
Drawing on unpublished diaries and interviews with family and lovers, this paints a portrait of a frustrated artist. It was only five years before her death in 1995 that she was finally able to publish 1952 novel Carol (originally called The Price of Salt and authored by “Claire Morgan”) under her name. That’s because it was a rare literary lesbian tale with a happy ending – one inspired by her own experiences.
My Old School (E)
Although ultimately the twist of this docu-drama isn’t a massive surprise, Jono McLeod’s debut is still an astonishing look an extraordinary tale from his own childhood.
In 1993, Brandon Lee enrolled at Bearsden Academy, a secondary school in a well-to-do suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. He instantly rose to the top of the class, aced exams and took the lead in the school musical. However, while he gained plenty of admirers amongst his teachers and fellow students, he was nursing a jaw-dropping secret.
Alan Cumming, who was originally set to play Lee in a planned biopic more than 20 years ago, does a remarkable job of providing “the face” for the reclusive Lee’s voice.
The Passengers of the Night (M)
A kind of a cross between Canadian coming-of-age drama C.R.A.Z.Y. and Cedric Klapisch’s The Spanish Apartment, this 1980s-spanning familial tale looks the big – and little – moments in the life of Elisabeth Davies (Charlotte Gainsborough) and her family.
When we first meet her, she’s struggling to come to turns with being abandoned by her husband, only finding solace – and purpose – in working as a producer for Vanda Duval’s (Emmanuelle Beart) cult talkback radio show. It’s there that she also meets the free-spirited Talulah (Noee Abita), a young woman who adds a whole new dynamic to her, sometimes, fragile little family.
Return to Seoul (M)
Reminiscent of the films of the intimate Japanese dramas of Hirokazu Kore-edu and Yasujirō Ozu, French-Cambodian writer-director Davy Chou’s South Korean-set tale is a fascinating and heartrending story of identity.
Without telling her adoptive French parents, 20-something Freddie (Park Ji-min) has made a special trip to Seoul to try and find out more about the mother and father who gave her up. As Freddie struggles to adapt to the more constrained aspects of her new surroundings, she begins to meditate on where she now most feels at home.
Now underway in Auckland (until August 7), this year’s edition of Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival will also visit Wellington (August 4-14), Christchurch (August 5-14), Dunedin (August 11-21), New Plymouth (August 11-21), Masterton (August 17-31), Matakana (August 18-28), Hamilton (August 18-31), Tauranga (August 18-28), Hawke’s Bay (August 18-28), Palmerston North (August 18-28), Nelson (August 18-28), Timaru (August 18-28) and Gore (August 18-25).