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Cannes Award-Winning Films Premiere at Film Fests

Tuesday 17 June 2008
For immediate release

Cannes Award-Winning Films Premiere at Auckland and Wellington Film Festivals

It was a compelling year of hard-hitting cinema at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and the New Zealand International Film Festivals quickly snapped up seven of the most coveted titles.

Key award winners will screen alongside audience favourites, giving NZ Film Festival-goers exclusive opportunities to catch some of the best Cannes features at their first screenings outside France.

This year’s Grand Prix winner Gomorrah, from director Matteo Garrone, is a chilling depiction of the Camorra’s (Napoli Mafia) control over Italian society. The film is based on Roberto Saviano’s bestselling non-fiction novel, which became a literary sensation on its release. The controversial subject matter, which forced the author under police surveillance and into hiding, traces the Camorra’s merciless power over drugs, fashion houses and even Italy’s industrial waste disposal.

Nothing else stood the chance of winning the Camera d’Or for the best debut at Cannes this year after Hunger screened on the first day of the festival. Turner Prize-winning British artist Steve McQueen’s portrait of Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison, is a sensational first-feature film, disturbing and affecting. Michael Fassbender, who plays Sands, lost 16kg over two months under constant medical supervision, a completely different experience to his last prominent role as a Spartan in Zak Snyder’s 300.

The Best Director Award was won by Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak, Climates) for his stunningly shot psychological film noir Three Monkeys. The Belgian Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, L’Enfant) were awarded Best Screenplay for Lorna’s Silence, a deeply moving drama about people on the fringe of society. Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time – Redux, the re-edited, rescored version of the 1994 original, had a Special Screening that garnered critical acclaim. Bent Hamer’s (Kitchen Stories, Factotum) latest feature O’Horten is a delightfully funny film filled with absurd humour, and was a favourite with Cannes audiences.

The Closing Night Film for both the Auckland International and Wellington Film Festivals is Ari Folman’s remarkable animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, which screened in competition. Folman’s incendiary exposure of his own part as a drafted Israeli soldier in abetting a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees stunned Cannes audiences. The blogosphere rages with theories as to why this brilliantly original, shattering film left the Festival prizeless.

“This year’s Official line-up was Cannes’ strongest in a long time,” says Festival Programmer Sandra Reid. “My first day kicked off with Waltz With Bashir and ended with Hunger. Wow! These potent, bravura performances, vastly different from each other, stunned even the most cynical critics into rejoicing at the cinema’s continuing power to astonish. The knockout Gomorrah confirmed once again that in the right hands, cinema can confront harsh social issues with unparalleled clarity and power.”

40th Auckland International Film Festival brochures will be available from Wednesday 18 June. The Festival runs July 10 – July 27.
37th Wellington Film Festival brochures will be available from Friday 20 June. The Festival runs July 18 – Aug 3.
Brochures can be found at Festival venues, public libraries, and selected cafes and bookshops.

For further information on the New Zealand International Film Festivals, please visit


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