NZ International Film Festival kicks off in Auckland

23:16, Jun 22 2011
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With a line-up featuring some of the more diametrically-opposed visions of the world, audiences are set to swing from joy to horror and right back to sweet satisfaction during this years' New Zealand International Film Festival.

Opening with a world premier from an Auckland filmmaker and closing with the latest offering from one of the most controversial directors, festival director Bill Gosden says Auckland audiences will be among the first in the world to see many of the films on offer, including 20 that are coming direct from last months' Cannes Film Festival.

"Call us boastful, but the fact is that this year's haul of films direct from Cannes is the Festival's best and biggest ever.

"New Zealand audiences will be the first outside Europe to see an overwhelming number of the films that saw this year's Cannes Festival widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and exciting in years."

American director Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life, winner of this year's Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, is one of Gosden's picks of the two-week long festival.

The epic coming-of-age story, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, has been praised for its almost overwhelming sheer beauty, and is described by Gosden as "mind-boggling". 

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Rumours are floating around the industry that Malick is currently working on a six-hour cut of the film; however Kiwi audiences will be getting the two-hour version.

But opening the festival is the latest offering from the Auckland man behind local hit, Kaikohe Demolition.  Florian Habicht's Love Story is a tale of summer, sex and romance constructed on the go, while walking the streets of New York.

Habicht, who was in New York as part of the New Zealand Art Foundation's Harriet Friedlander Artist Residency, will personally present his film at the opening screening at The Civic on July 14.

And it is Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, a tale of a world ending and a life beginning that is closing the festival two weeks later on July 30. 

While the films' star, Kirsten Dunst, won best actress at Cannes for her portrayal of a confused and depressed bride hurtling towards her wedding day, it is perhaps best recognised for Von Trier's Hitler-related outburst during a Cannes press conference.

Other highlights of this years festival include the sorrow-filled adaptation of Japan's Haruki Murakami's popular novel, Norwegian Wood; Steve Coogan's latest cringingly funny adventure, The Trip and for the kids, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey takes a look at the man behind everyone's favourite furry creature.  And that's not forgetting the selection in the incredibly strange section of the festival.

The festival directors are keen to showcase local talent as well, and this year there are a number of Kiwi filmmakers on show.

One of the most anticipated is the world premier of Brother Number One, the story of Kiwi Olympic rower Rob Hamill's search for justice for his brother Kerry who disappeared in a Cambodian death camp in 1978. 

Director Annie Goldson accompanies Hamill to Cambodia as he testifies before a War Crimes Tribunal and follows him and his Cambodian translator in their journey for closure.

With over 150 features from nearly 50 countries, film fans may spend more time deciding what to watch than actually catching up on the latest releases.

The NZ International Film Festival runs in Auckland from July 14-31.

For the full list of films and venues, check the New Zealand International Film Festival official programme at www.nzff.co.nz and in selected Auckland locations from today.

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