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NZIFF names first five

The NZIFF’s opening salvo for its 2016 programme offers a broad selection, with five titles from various countries. With Cannes due to open next week the first titles named all had their premieres at other major festivals, from last year’s Biennale through to February’s Berlinale.

From this part of the world comes Venice-premiered Tanna, a narrative film from Australian documentary filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler. From a script by Butler and Mahana writer John Collee, Tanna is based on a true story. Set and shot in Vanuatu, the story is about events that changed the culture of the Yakel tribe. (For trivia fans, the tribe was also the subject of Rachael Wilson’s 2012 doco Yakel 3D, NZ’s first 3D feature.)

Performance artist Laurie Anderson doesn’t make features very often, although her 1986 Home of the Brave remains one of the best concert films. Premiered at Telluride Heart of a Dog, which involves Anderson’s piano-playing dog, is more an essay film. A musing on love and death (to borrow a title from Woody Allen), it’s not just about the demise of the dog. Anderson’s partner of 20 years, Lou Reed, also died shortly before she commenced making the film.

Premiered at Sundance was Penny Lane’s doco Nuts!, a biography of 1920s impotence-cure mogul JR Brinkley.

ABCs of Death Contributor Ben Wheatley returns to the NZIFF with a third feature, after his 2013 A Field in England and 2012 Sightseers. The Toronto-premiered High-Rise, adapted from JG Ballard’s novel, is led by Tom Hiddleston, recently seen on smaller screens in The Night Manager and soon to reprise the role of Loki in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.


The most recent release of the crop is Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, premiered at this year’s Berlinale. The sci-fi film has a strong cast including Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon.

This year’s NZIFF opens in Auckland on 14 July.

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