Clayton's Picks for the 2017 NZIFF

It’s my favourite time of year, the New Zealand International Film Festival, two weeks of dark cinemas, popcorn and people who appreciate not talking during a movie!

This year there is a great array of award-winning arthouse, Ant Timpson’s strange selections, docos, animation and movies you won’t get to see again on the big screen. And lucky for us we get two new venues, Avondale’s restored Hollywood Cinema and the state of the art ASB Waterfront Theatre.

While it’s hard to whittle down such a line-up, here are my top 10 picks.

1. Spookers – Kiwi filmmaker Florian Habicht brought us the brilliant Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, and is back with this funny and revealing doco about the horror theme park at a former psychiatric hospital. Bound to be scary, surreal and funny.

2. My Life as a Courgette – This sweet Swiss stop-motion animation, about a young boy finding his place at an orphanage, looks quirky, unique and gorgeous no thanks to one of the key animators on The Fantastic Mr Fox. Adapted to the screen by Celine Sciamma (Girlhood) this Oscar-nominated gem is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

3. Wind River - Boy did I love Hell or High Water last year, and writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) makes his directorial debut here with this thriller set on an Indian Reservation. Elizabeth Olsen plays the rookie cop sent to investiage a   and Jeremy renner

4. The Lost City of Z – Based on the true story of early 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett, who searched for evidence of a lost advanced civilisation in South America. A gripping and gorgeous watch with Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom ‘Spider-Man’ Holland all in fine form.

5. The Workshop – French filmmaker Laurent Cantet, who made the Palme d’Or winning The Class, returns with a politically charged thriller about a writer’s relationship with a right wing student. Slow burn suspense as only the French can make.

6. It Comes at Night – the NZIFF is a goldmine for delicious scares on the big screen, and this post-apocalyptic set thriller looks the goods. Joel Edgerton is trying to survive in a remote cabin with his family when a stranger breaks in and all hell breaks loose. Can’t wait for the freaky frights.

7. The Merciless – This hardboiled noir from South Korea, about an undercover cop and a dangerous gangster becoming blood brothers, sounds like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. If it’s anything like the Asian crime movie Infernal Affairs it ripped off it’s going to be awesome.

8. Brigsby Bear – Following a man who’s raised in a bunker for 25 years on a diet of an 80s kid’s show who has to venture in the outside world, it may sound like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but it looks far more offbeat and Gondry-esque. Co-starring the delightful likes of Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear and Claire Danes.

9. A Date for Mad Mary – nobody does quality dramedy like the Irish - bittersweet, realistic and always funny. The titular Mad Mary is a recently released prisoner, off to her best friends wedding and in need a date. This film has already picked up awards on the festival circuit and looks an Irish treat.    

10. Mountain – if you saw Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa in 2015 you’ll have already got your tickets to this. A meditation on our relationship with the great peaks, Renan Ozturk’s stunning cinematography is accompanied by classical tracks performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.