From Arthouse to Your House: NZIFF At Home

The New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) has announced its plans to present the 2020 programme in an online format.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place and likely to continue for some months, cinemas and entertainment venues around the country are closed or will remain under stringent gathering  and social distancing limitations. NZIFF, run by the not-for-profit New Zealand Film Festival Trust, is unable to confidently present the 2020 programme as originally planned in cinemas across the country.

“This is an extraordinary situation and we need to adapt and find a creative solution for 2020,” says New Zealand Film Festival Trust Chair Catherine Fitzgerald. “The shared experience of cinema and the power of storytelling to bring communities together has always been our driving force. With the current, and evolving situation, we believe in the value and importance of cinema now more than ever.

“We cannot do without the Film Festival in July and so we are excited to be able to upgrade our online platform to ensure we can bring the best of new cinema to our audiences with new ways to share the experience and interact with the filmmakers and fellow audience members .”

The New Zealand International Film Festival At Home – Online will take place from 24 July to 2 August with a world-class curated programme of films for audiences to screen at home.

Film premieres and film festivals around the world are being severely impacted by the global pandemic with the cancellation and postponement of festivals including Cannes, New York’s TribeCa, and Sydney among many others, but new NZIFF Director Marten Rabarts has assurance from key film distributors in Australia, New Zealand and around the world that they are committed to making this online edition work well.

“After the initial realisation and heartbreak of not being able to provide our Film Festival whānau an in-cinema experience this year we’ve worked quickly, while leaning on our strong relationships with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents, to ensure we are able to confidently adapt the way in which we’ll present their films to our dedicated audience across the country.”

Rabarts said “NZIFF At Home – Online will be a true film festival experience including nightly premieres, virtual red-carpet, and filmmaker Q&As and we can potentially invite more international guests to present their films to our festival audiences than ever before using virtual means.”

Key to the success of the online edition is the upgrade of the existing video on demand (VOD) portal and the necessary technology and integration to present the festival experience. “We are working with our OnDemand provider Shift72 on the technology to deliver a ‘bells and whistles’ digital screening room, coupled with live streaming events possibilities on our own website.

Full information on the programme, viewing costs and viewing windows for the online platform will be announced on Monday 22 June.

Bringing the NZIFF 2020 programme to life is a team of programmers led by Festival Director Rabarts, newly promoted Head of Programming Michael McDonnell, Paris-based Programmer Sandra Reid, and specialist programmers Nic Marshall (For All Ages), Ant Timpson (Incredibly Strange), and Malcolm Turner (Animation), and new for 2020, a quartet of international guest curators.

The four international guest curators for 2020 are Argentinian film producer and Venice Film Festival programme consultant Violeta Bava, American curator and creative producer Alesia Weston whose track record includes Sundance International and the Directorship of Jerusalem Film Festival, film consultant and programming associate for Toronto International Film Festival Vicci Ho, and Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program Bird Runningwater.

“We are excited to introduce our guest curators for the 2020 Festival. These four curators are highly respected programmers globally and we are delighted to be able to draw on their knowledge of specialised territories and their diverse backgrounds to enrich this year’s programme,” Rabarts said.

Rabarts added that NZIFF is also looking to the near-future when COVID 19 gathering restrictions will once again allow a return to an in-cinema programme  “In January 2021 we hope to be celebrating that return with a special summer programme of films in our flagship venues in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin,” he affirms.

“We are fully committed to a return to cinemas in 2021 and we understand our audiences cherish the experience of sharing the festival films with others as much as we do , but until that’s possible  you’ll find us no further away than the NZIFF website or app when we launch our At Home – Online programme in June.”

Monday 22 June: NZIFF 2020 At Home – Online Programme Announced

24 July – 2 August: NZIFF 2020 At Home – Online runs nationwide


Violeta Bava
Violeta Bava worked at Buenos Aires International Film Festival (BAFICI) for 20 years as Film Programmer and Founder and Co-Director of BAL, a leading co-production market for Latin American films. She was Professor of Cinema Aesthetics and Ethics at Centro de Investigación Cinematográfica (Buenos Aires) for more than 10 years.

Bava has a background in training and development and has worked as film consultant and production tutor for several funds, organisations and festivals worldwide. She has worked at the programming team of Bratislava International Film Festival, has collaborated for three editions with Locarno International Film Festival at the Open Doors Programme and was part of the Advisory Board of Torino Film Lab.. She has played a key role in the development of initiatives devoted to support filmmakers and producers in the Latin American region including Puentes workshop in connection with EAVE, Produire au Sud Buenos Aires in collaboration with 3 Continents Film Festival (Nantes), 3 Puertos Cine (with AustralLab and Cinemart – IFF Rotterdam) and BAL goes to Cannes with Marché du Film – Cannes Film Festival.

Since 2012, Bava has been the Latin American Consultant for Venice International Film Festival.

In 2017 she become part of the Programming team of IFF Macau and currently she is the Co-Head of the Industry at Visions du Réel (International Film Festival Nyon) and  Head of Studies at FeatureLab – Torino Film Lab.

Founder of Ruda Cine, among other films, she has produced Too Late to Die Young, by Dominga Sotomayor (2018, Best Director Award at Locarno); Eduardo Williams debut feature The Human Surge (2016), winner of Pardo d’Oro for Best Film, and Abrir puertas y ventanas (2012), by Milagros Mumenthaler, winner of Pardo d’Oro for Best Film, Pardo d’Argento for Best Actress and FIPRESCI Award at Locarno Film Festival.

Vicci Ho
Vicci Ho has worked as a festival curator for a variety of International film festivals, including as Director of Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Assistant Director of San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (now CAAMFest), Programming Associate for Toronto International Film Festival, and as Asian film consultant for San Francisco International Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Zurich Film Festival, and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. She has sat on juries at the Berlinale, SFIFF, Outfest and Hawaii International Film Festival. After completing her Masters degree at ITP/NYU, Vicci worked in tabletop games, and is one of the creators of upcoming card game ‘Battle of the Boy Bands.


Bird Runningwater
Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache peoples, and was reared on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 2001 he has led the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American and Indigenous filmmakers while building a global Indigenous film community. Based in Los Angeles, California, Runningwater serves as the Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program and also co-leads the Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion work across the organisation. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and he received his Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.  In Time Magazine’s 2019 Optimist Issue, Runningwater was listed among ‘12 Leaders Who Are Shaping the Next Generation of Artists’. Most recently he was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organisation behind the Oscars.


Alesia Weston
Alesia Weston is a curator, programmer and creative producer and is currently the co-director of Starfish, an accelerator for Creators of Color in the USA.

For a decade, she ran Sundance Institute’s International Feature Film Program where she spearheaded the labs and grants program for emerging filmmakers from the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and Asia. She also shepherded US writers and directors through the Sundance/NHK and Sundance/Mahindra Filmmaker Award Programs. Weston was Executive Director of the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Jerusalem Cinematheque and National Archives where she oversaw the international film festival, grant and educational programs for artists and year-round programming.

Weston also served as Special Advisor and Programmer for the Beirut International Film Festival. She is currently a consultant for international and US-based filmmakers and an advisor to arts programs and institutions. She is a regular mentor at labs from Toronto to New Zealand. She is a founding member of the Advisory Boards of the Torino Film Lab and Jerusalem International Film Lab.