The 41st NZ International Film Festival begins on August 21 at Hamilton's Lido Cinema with a gala opening hosted by the Hamilton Film Society.

This eagerly awaited festival runs until September 18 and presents more than 50 of the best of world and New Zealand cinema including New Zealand's six best short films.

All ages and interests are catered for in the programme.

Some picks include documentaries featuring inspiring people such as Helen Kelly, Aretha Franklin, Maria Callas, Tracey Edwards who captained Maiden, the winner of the 1990 Whitbread Round the World Yacht race; Bernie Shakeshaft, who runs a programme with youth offenders in which they train dogs for show jumping; and, Peter Peryer, the New Zealand photographer whose well known prints include Dead Steer and the Mars Hotel Series.

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Dramas include a new film from the director of a previous festival favourite (The Lunchbox), this time featuring a poor street photographer in Mumbai; a gritty thriller from Iceland (A White White White Day); Les Miserables, the Jury Prize winner at Cannes: a digtal restoration of the funniest black comedies ever made, the 1949 Kind Hearts and Coronets; and, 40 years after its first release a recut and restoration of Apocalypse Now.

Films for younger audiences include programmes of short and full length animated films from France, Japan and New Zealand.

The opening night film is La belle Epoque- at 7pm on Wednesday August 21- one of a number of French films in the festival.

Booklets are available throughout the Waikato but the full programme and booking options are available online here.