The New Zealand International Film Festival is upon us. Dominic Corry sifts out some of the best movies to see.

Like many

, I relish the annual

as much for the opportunity to spend a lot of time in The Civic as I do for the actual movies themselves.

I've never been inside a building more conducive to generating movie-watching pleasure - the interior spaces of The Civic ensure anybody present is as open to being carried away by a movie as they can possibly be.

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Here are 10 films from the festival that I am particularly excited about. They're not all showing in The Civic, but you can't have everything.

Marie's Story

A scene from Marie's Story.
A scene from Marie's Story.

If I could implore you to see any film on faith at this festival, it's this

. The true story of a nun who attempted to teach a deaf and blind girl how to communicate in the late 19th century, it's not the most commercial of propositions, and all too easily dismissed as a French Helen Keller. Let go of all that and trust me - it's absolutely phenomenal. I watched it last year for a French Film junket, and it completely floored me. It's direct, devastatingly heartfelt cinema - you won't regret making the effort.

Girlhood

A scene from Girlhood.
A scene from Girlhood.

As noted by some learned soul in the

for this film, this French coming-of-age tale has more to say directly to a New Zealand audience than most movies. It centres on an aspect of French society all too often ignored by French cinema, or at least the French movies that get released here. The understated authenticity goes a long way, and the specificity gives way to universal truths. Don't miss it.

Goodnight Mommy

A scene from Goodnight Mommy.
A scene from Goodnight Mommy.

Any genre film that incites comparisons to the work of Austrian miserabalist Michael Haneke (

Funny Games

,

Hidden

) is going to demand my attention. That said, the term 'extreme cinema' is used in the festival guide entry for this film, and I am something of a nancy when it comes to hardcore violence. Oh well, too late to back out now.

Finders Keepers

A scene from Finders Keepers.
A scene from Finders Keepers.

Every year the Incredibly Strange section of the festival offers up a documentary that defies description - past notables include

Winnebago Man

and

Kung Fu Elliot

. This year it's

Finders Keepers

, and even though I watched it at the programme launch, I still don't think I could boil it down to a sentence or two. It's somehow reassuring that these kinds of docos keep coming, it speaks to the enduring weirdness of the world.

Tale of Tales

A scene from Tale of Tales.
A scene from Tale of Tales.

I first became aware of the existence of this amazing-looking film when I wrote

about the state of fantasy cinema earlier this year. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then, and the disturbing, intoxicating, visceral

has only enhanced my anticipation. This will undoubtedly be a sight to see on the big screen.

While We're Young

A scene from While We're Young.
A scene from While We're Young.

The highlight of director Noah Baumbach's last collaboration with Ben Stiller - the underrated 2010 film

Greenberg

- is a scene in which Stiller's titular aging musician attends a teenage party and clumsily attempts to be "down with the kids". That dynamic appears to be the inspiration for their new film in which Stiller and Naomi Watts play New Yorkers who make young friends with a hipster couple played by Adam Driver (Darth Boyfriend from

Girls

) and Amanda Seyfried (

Ted 2

).

The Invitation

A scene from The Invitation.
A scene from The Invitation.

Ever since

It Follows

at last year's film festival, the possibilities of indie horror have felt especially boundless. Director Karyn Kusama (

Girlfight

,

Jennifer's Body

) still hasn't fully atoned for her downright shameful movie adaptation of

Aeon Flux

, but she comes across as super awesome on

, so I'm ready to blame the studio and not her for the 2005 Charlize Theron turkey. The deep blue film nerdery she displays in her TFH commentaries seems well-suited to a modern take on evergreen 'Nefarious Revelations at a Secluded Dinner party' trope.

Out of the Mist

A scene from Out of the Mist.
A scene from Out of the Mist.

Any attempt to encapsulate New Zealand cinema should be applauded, given the relative size of our 'canon'. This documentary written and directed by Tim Wong (founding editor of

) aims to provide an alternative history of New Zealand film. There's plenty of romance to be mined in the rebellious thinking that drove many of our less commercial cinematic achievements, and I'm really excited to see and hear (via Eleanor Catton's narration) how Wong contextualises these movies. We're about due for a new definitive assessment of New Zealand cinema.

54: The Director's Cut

A scene from 54: The Director's Cut.
A scene from 54: The Director's Cut.

I remember reading about the existence of a fabled longer cut when this soapy fantasy was first released in 1998 (alongside Whit Stillman's

, a far superior rumination on Studio 54). I specifically recall predicting that I would never, ever get to see it. Yet here we are. And it's screening in the freaking Civic! Truly, this festival film has me more excited than any other this year.

Ex Machina

A scene from the movie Ex Machina.
A scene from the movie Ex Machina.

I've been going on about this film in this blog for almost two years, so you best believe I'm excited to see it. With this,

Inherent Vice

and

A Most Violent Year

playing, it's great to see the film festival stepping up to provide a venue for notable release-worthy films that otherwise would've gone straight to home entertainment formats without seeing the inside of a theatre.

What are you excited to see at this year's festival? Comment below!

- nzherald.co.nz