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12 NZ features in film festival in November

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The New Zealand International Film Festival today announced that 12 feature-length New Zealand films, seven of them world premieres, have been selected to screen in its programme this year. The film festival opens in Wellington on Friday November 5, in cinemas including the Embassy, the Roxy, the Lighthouse and the Penthouse.

News from Whānau Mārama – NZIFF
Portraits of disruptors and change-makers, explorations of cures for climate change and cancer, reflections on revolutionary moments of modern history, and tales of deep-seated traditions are just some of the themes explored by the films to screen at the festival this year.

“NZIFF has a long history of supporting New Zealand filmmakers and we’re extremely proud to provide a platform that brings their world-class films to audiences around Aotearoa,” says NZIFF Director Marten Rabarts.

The New Zealand films announced today include eight documentaries, two dramas and two retrospective films. Seven films will have their world premieres at NZIFF 2021, including Michelle Savill’s drama Millie Lies Low. Co-written by Savill and Eli Kent (Coming Home in the Dark), the film follows a broke and anxiety-ridden architecture graduate, who, after missing her flight to New York, must keep up the pretence of being in the Big Apple while she lies low in her hometown.

Following its US premiere on HBO Max, Jan Oliver Lucks’ There Is No I in Threesome will have its theatrical world premiere. The film, which received critical acclaim from The New York Times, documents what happens when newly engaged Lucks and his fiancée decide to throw tradition out the window, opening up their relationship before they get married. What could go wrong?

Wellington art historian and filmmaker Luit Bieringa re-examines the legacy of an often-contested Dutch immigrant artist in Signed, Theo Schoon, while Peter Bell Brook’s Mark Hunt: The Fight of His Life profiles the “Super Samoan” MMA fighter and, as previously announced, Lula Cucchiara presents an intimate portrait of a visual activist with Fiona Clark: Unafraid.

Forty years on from when it first began, Briar March’s Mothers of the Revolution tells the story of how, between 1981 and 2000, thousands of women, including New Zealanders, came together at Greenham Common near London, England to make a stand against nuclear proliferation and how they changed the world. Also in 1981, on the other side of the world, pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita was documenting the mass civil disobedience that took place in New Zealand in protest of the South African rugby tour. A restored and remastered version of her landmark film Patu! will screen at the festival.

Tu Neill directs Ayukawa: The Weight of a Life, a sensitive study asking how a small Japanese town steeped in the tradition of whaling can adapt to a post-whaling world, while John Mills and Aileen O’Sullivan’s Whetu Marama – Bright Star will take audiences on a journey back to a time when Polynesian voyagers navigated the vast Pacific by the stars and how the ancient practice was revived.

Kathleen Gallagher’s Rohe Kōreporepo – The Swamp, the Sacred Place examines the significance of rohe kōreporepo ecosystems to our wellbeing, environment, and mana. And Dr Annie Goldson’s A Mild Touch of Cancer looks at breakthrough cancer immunotherapy treatment through the experience of comedian-turned-businessman David Downs and other patients around the country.

NZIFF will also premiere a new colourised version of 2021 New Zealand Arts Foundation laureate, and the recipient of the Dame Gaylene Preston Award for Documentary Filmmakers, Florian Habicht’s debut feature, the modern cult classic Woodenhead.

World Premiere: A Mild Touch of Cancer
Dir: Annie Goldson
Successful businessperson, comedian and author David Downs had just months to live when he entered a clinical trial of an innovative cancer treatment in the U.S. Within weeks, he was in complete remission, and two years later he is deemed cured. Now, he has dedicated himself to helping New Zealanders around the country face their own cancer journeys. We follow their stories of life and death.
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Ayukawa: The Weight of a Life
Dir: Tu Neill
How does a small Japanese whaling town adapt to a post-whaling world? In this sensitive study, local inhabitants reflect on the decline of local industry and the devastating tsunami that hit Ayukawa in 2011.
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World Premiere: Fiona Clark: Unafraid
Dir: Lula Cucchiarra
Photographer Fiona Clark shocked 1970s New Zealand with her documentary images of Auckland’s burgeoning queer scene. The pictures they tried to ban were just the beginning for one of Aotearoa’s photography greats.
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World Premiere: Mark Hunt: The Fight of His Life
Dir: Peter Bell Brook
After overcoming a challenging childhood, ‘Super Samoan’ fighter Mark Hunt went on to achieve professional and personal success in the world of mixed martial arts, battling for justice in a sport known to be riddled with drug cheats. Hunt fought to achieve fairness in one of the most challenging and high-profile sports in the world, whilst tackling his personal demons to become the man and father that he is today.
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World Premiere: Millie Lies Low
Dir: Michelle Savill
A broke and anxiety-ridden architecture grad misses her flight to New York for a prestigious internship. She decides to fake having made it to New York, while lieing low in her hometown, scrounging for another ticket.
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Mothers of the Revolution
Dir: Briar March
Mothers of the Revolution tells the story of one of the longest protests in history. Between 1981 and 2000, thousands of women from around the world came together at Greenham Common to take a committed stand against nuclear proliferation. Minimised by the media, the film reveals the women as the Cold War heroes they were, who persisted in the face of arrests, condemnation, and scorn, took on a superpower, and changed the world.
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Patu! (NZIFF 2016)
Forty years on from the 1981 Springbok tour, Merata Mita’s landmark film has been restored and remastered. The film is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand in protest of the South African rugby tour.
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World Premiere: Rohe Kōreporepo – The Swamp, the Sacred Place
Dir: Kathleen Gallagher
Rohe Kōreporepo – The Swamp the Sacred Place, examines the delights of restoring our intimate relationships with rohe kōreporepo/wetland, underscoring the importance of these valuable and diverse ecosystems to our wellbeing and environment. Could restoring our repo hold the key to unlocking our climate crisis and revitalising our health and mana?
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World Premiere: Signed, Theo Schoon
Dir: Luit Bieringa
Art historian and filmmaker Luit Bieringa (Ans Westra: Private Journeys/Public Signposts, The Man in the Hat) re-examines the life and career of Dutch immigrant artist Theo Schoon. In the context of New Zealand’s culture in the second half of the 20th century, Schoon rocked our world. For all the noise that has surrounded his legacy, the artist that emerges from this film is one who gave infinitely more than he took.
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Theatrical World Premiere: There Is No I in Threesome
Dir: Jan Oliver Lucks
In love, newly engaged and maintaining a long-distance relationship, director Jan Oliver Lucks and his fiancée decide to throw traditional rules out the window by opening up their relationship before they tie the knot. What could go wrong? This is a film about polyamory that isn’t quite what it seems.
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World Premiere: Whetu Marama – Bright Star
Dirs: John Mills & Aileen O’Sullivan
Polynesians were the greatest voyagers on earth, sailing the vast Pacific by the stars. However, their ancient art of navigation was lost for 600 years, until the stars realigned and three men from far flung islands – a Hawaiian, a Micronesian and a Māori – met by chance. Together they revived past practices, restoring their people’s place as the greatest navigators on the planet.
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Woodenhead
Dir: Florian Habicht
NZIFF premieres a colourised version of Florian Habicht’s debut feature, Woodenhead (NZIFF 2003). Filmed in Northland’s lush forests and spartan hill country, Woodenhead conjures a unique, fairy-tale-like realm. Gert, an innocent rubbish-dump worker, is charged with the task of delivering Princess Plum, the ethereal daughter of his master Hugo, to her wedding in Maidenwood. Their journey through the grandeur of New Zealand’s landscape is beset with strange events.

New Zealand films screening at NZIFF 2021 are proudly supported by Resene.