If film were food, the feast known as the New Zealand International Film Festival would make many moviegoers drool in anticipation.
The programme for this year's Nelson festival once again reveals tempting offerings from several countries, with more Kiwi servings than usual.
Overall, the festival to screen in Nelson comprises 41 contributions from 19 countries - but more than half of them come from the United States and New Zealand.
The US dominates the festival with 16 films, three of them co-productions, while New Zealand has seven films plus its annual collection of six short films, the most Kiwi content of the 36 festivals to screen in Nelson.
Six of the seven Kiwi films are documentaries. Three have a New Zealand focus: How Far Is Heaven, Chris Pryor and Miriam Smith's look at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River and three nuns working there; Pictures of Susan, Dan Salmon's portrait of Susan King, an Auckland woman who has spoken next to nothing since age four and has undergone a rebirth as an artist; and Song of the Kauri, in which Mathurin Molgat addresses the politics of exotic tree plantations in a land where native species may possess a commercial potential yet to be explored.
West of Memphis - produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and directed by Amy Berg - tells the saga of the fight to exonerate three men who as teens were convicted of killing three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.
In The Last Dogs of Winter, Costa Botes spotlights one man's efforts to breed Canada's endangered, indigenous Eskimo dog; in The Last Ocean Peter Young looks at conservationists' long political and diplomatic campaign to counteract fishing of Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea.
The Red House is a love story and drama from Alyx Duncan about the individual worlds of a seasoned Kiwi activist and a Chinese refugee - and the world they have made together, with Duncan's non-actor parents in the two main roles.
Four overseas films in the festival have been highlighted by the organisers. Opening the festival is Beasts of the Southern Ocean, a wild blend of social realism and eco-sci-fi that won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance and Best First Film at Cannes. Closing it will be Holy Motors, Leos Carax's original, experimental odyssey about a mysterious man who shape-shifts from identity to identity; it wowed this year's Cannes festival.
The festival's "centrepiece" is the French drama Amour, Michael Haneke's poignant tale about love and death as an elderly Parisian couple confront a sudden turning point in their lives. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year.
A celebration of the natural wonders of Earth, including humanity, Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky's feel-good documentary Vivan las Antipodas is the festival's "special presentation" .
Other movie morsels include dramas In Darkness, Lore, The Hunt and Barbara; comedies Bernie and What's In a Name; the animated A Monster in Paris and From Up on Poppy Hill; documentaries Bully, Undefeated and Journal de France; music-based docos Neil Young Journeys, Marley and Searching for Sugar Man, a portrait of performance artist Marina Abramovic (The Artist Is Present); and the 1953 comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Marilyn Monroe.
The festival screens at the Suter from August 29-September 16. Programmes available at the State Cinema and the Suter.
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