The countdown to the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival has begun with the announcement of the first five films in its programme and the guest selector for its short film competition.

Says festival director Bill Gosden of the first confirmed features: "We've chosen to reveal these five films first because audiences have been requesting them ever since they appeared overseas, or in the case of High Rise, since the first trailer launched."

High Rise (pictured) is the adaptation of the J.G. Ballard story of class warfare by director Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field in England) starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, and Elisabeth Moss.

The festival is also the first chance to see acclaimed sci-fi chase movie Midnight Special from Mud and Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols and a cast including Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as a boy who may possess supernatural powers.


The festival will include documentaries Nuts! a "supremely strange biography of 20s impotence-cure mogul J.R. Brinkley", described as "the documentary oddity every festival watch-list needs at least one of" and Tanna, a collaboration between Australian doco film-makers and villagers in the Vanuatu highlands to tell a story of inter-tribal warfare and forbidden love.

Fans of veteran performance artist Laurie Anderson - sadly also known in recent years as the widow of Lou Reed - can see her Heart of a Dog a cinematic essay on love and death inspired, initially, by the passing of her pet terrier in 2011.

Director Lee Tamahori will be selecting the finalists in the fest's "NZ's Best Shorts" contest.

The festival has received 81 submissions which have been whittled down to a dozen contenders for Tamahori's perusal.

The full NZIFF programme for Auckland will be available from Tuesday June 21 and the following Friday for Wellington.

The festival starts in Auckland on July 14 and in Wellington on July 22.