In a bumper year for NZ titles within and without the festival, the NZIFF also delivered a bumper crop out of Cannes plus its customary globe-trotting selection of festival-worthy fare. And Snowpiercer.
The festival began to make serious inroads into speeding up its tiki tour around the country, taking advantage of the benefits of digital distribution to play simultaneously in several centres.
Once the festival did get under way, one of the downsides of digi-distribution hit Auckland when it was discovered that the English subtitles for Berlinale winner Black Coal, Thin Ice hadn’t made the trip and couldn’t be tracked down in time for scheduled screenings. More screenings were duly added and – as with many other titles arriving with a reputation built on previous festival appearances – proved worth the wait.
2014 delivered a veritable feast of local features of both the narrative and factual varieties, along with some that spanned both camps. For the second time, the NZIFF found a local feature of its opening night slot, in the shape of James Napier Robertson’s The Dark Horse (fka Genesis).
The first NZ filmmaker to open the festival was Florian Habicht with his New York-shot Love Story. Habicht returned this year with another overseas-set feature, Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets.
Anticipation ran high for a number of titles that had been garnering excellent reviews at overseas festivals. Premiering alongside Pulp at SXSW in March was Gerard Johnstone’s Escalator feature Housebound, which hit NZ screens mid-way through the NZIFF and demonstrated that it had been well worth the impatient wait.
After the plaudits for another Escalator feature (Fantail) at last year’s NZIFF, this year’s edition screened three of the NZFC’s low-budget crop, also giving NZ premiere outings to Paolo Rotondo’s Orphans & Kingdoms and Max Currie’s Palm Springs-premiered Everything We Loved, which didn’t just open in one place but attempted an innovative release strategy.
Despite being made with even less of a budget than Escalator titles, Jonathan King’s Realiti also delivered, showing the benefits of experience.
One could play join the dots through a number of the NZ titles on offer. Everything We Loved producer Tom Hern also produced The Dark Horse, another of whose producers was Jim Marbrook. In his own filmmaking right, Marbrook directed and produced the New Caledonia-set Cap Bocage.
Heading even further afield was Aunty and the Star People, Gerard Smyth’s portrait of writer Jean Watson and her career shift to supporting disadvantaged Indian children. Closer to home, Alister Barry & Abi King-Jones’ Hot Air examined at a quarter century of debate on climate change.
Trailers for most of the NZ titles are gathered here.
Ahead of the festival opening, the NZ’s Best jury was announced and, as the festival closed its doors in Auckland, the winners were announced, with Hamish Bennett’s Ross & Beth taking three of the four gongs on offer.
The 2014 NZIFF opened 17 August in Auckland, and concludes its run in New Plymouth and Palmerston North on 21 September.