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Preview highlights from NZ International Film Festival’s 2012 programme

The New Zealand Herald featured a sneak peek in today’s Time Out of some the highlights we can expect for this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, which kicks off in Auckland next month and has its official programme launch on Monday. The festival folks have been drip-feeding us announcements over the past month or so, but this gives us our most in-depth look at the line-up so far. Most exciting of all are the additions from Cannes, which include award winners Amour, The Hunt (pictured above), Reality, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, as well as the hotly debated Holy Motors, which will close the festival. Also announced today were On the Road and This Must Be the Place, two highly anticipated dramas which divided Cannes reviewers, not to mention a bunch of terrific retro screenings and even more promising documentaries.

CANNES 2012

By most reports, 2012 was a vintage year for the Festival de Cannes. Festival favourite Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon) once again took out the top honours for his latest drama Amour (Love), an unflinching portrayal of an elderly couple whose love is tested by a stroke. Danish director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg impressed with his mass hysteria drama The Hunt, which won Best Actor for Mads Mikkelsen. Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, who won the Palme D’or in 2007 for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, picked up Best Screenplay for his new film Beyond the Hills. American newcomer Benh Zeitlin took out the Camera D’or for his widely acclaimed debut film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which previously won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) was again awarded the Grand Prix for his reality TV satire Reality. Former Palme D’or winner Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley) returned with the Scottish comedy The Angel’s Share, and also in competition was Russian war film In the Fog, Australian musical-comedy The Sapphires (starring Chris O’Dowd), and Leos Carax’s highly anticipated Lynchian hitman tale Holy Motors (featuring Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue).

Noticeably absent from the Cannes list here are: Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone, Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, and Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love, which are among my most anticipated films of the year – as well as Lee Daniels’ controversial The Paperboy, which I’m somewhat curious about. Hopefully at least a couple of these titles are simply being held out until the programme’s full launch, but we will see for sure on Monday.

Watch the trailer for Amour below.

Watch the trailer for The Hunt below.

Watch the trailer for Holy Motors below.

Watch the trailer for Beasts of the Southern Wild below.

Watch the trailer for The Angel’s Share below.

Watch a clip from In the Fog below.

Watch a clip from Reality below.

Watch a clip from Beyond the Hills below.

Watch the trailer for The Sapphires below.

FAMOUS FACES

Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s beloved novel On the Road has Twilight superstar Kristen Stewart trying her hand at actual acting, alongside Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley. It received mixed reviews at Cannes, but I’m curious to see how it turns out. Richard Linklater’s Bernie also offers a chance for often-typecast actors Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey to shine, and Paolo Sorrentino’s bizarro This Must Be the Place, which puzzled many at Cannes, looks to be Sean Penn’s weirdest performance to date.

Watch a trailer for On the Road below.

Watch the trailer for This Must Be the Place below.

ARMED AND DANGEROUS

An entire section of this year’s programme is devoted to thrillers, entitled “Armed and Dangerous”. These include two highly anticipated dirty cop flicks: Oren Moverman’s Rampart, scripted by James Ellroy and featuring a monstrous turn from Woody Harrelson, and William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, which stars Matthew McConaughey in what many have praised as his best performance.

Watch the trailer for Rampart below.

Watch the trailer for Killer Joe below.

RETRO

The Auckland Philharmonia will provide the live soundtrack to Alfred Hitchock’s 1929 feature Blackmail, as well as Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 short Easy Street. The retrospective line-up this year also includes Howard Hawks’ 1953 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse which stars Deborah Kerr and David Niven and features both colour and black-and-white sequences (rare for the 1950s), and a high definition digital screening of Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining. Hardcore fans of that film will be delighted to hear that the well-received documentary Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts is also included in this year’s programme.

DOCUMENTARY

The documentary section of this year’s programme has expanded to include four sub-categories: Framing Reality, Musicians! Dancers!, Portrait of the Artist, and Champions. This year’s Academy Award winner Undefeated, which tells the inspirational story of struggling Memphis football team the Manassas Tigers, will no doubt be a big draw, as will Werner Herzog’s fascinating, two-part look into capital punishment in America with Into the Abyss and Death Row. Also of interest will be Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which follows the Chinese artist and dissident over a three-year period, including his detention last year. These docos join an impressive line-up headlined by Marley, and including West of Memphis, Bully, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Neil Young Journeys, First Position, and Crazy Horse.

Watch the trailer for Into the Abyss below.

Watch the trailer for Undefeated below.

Watch the trailer for Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry below.

ANIMATION

As well as a showcase of Poland’s cutting-edge Platige Image Film Studio, the 2012 programme offers something to look forward to for animation fans in the form of From Up on Poppy Hill, the latest feature from Studio Ghibli, directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao).

Watch the (non-subtitled) Japanese trailer for From Up on Poppy Hill below.

The 2012 New Zealand International Film Festival begins in Auckland on July 19. For more information, head to the NZIFF website.

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