Welcome to AOFF - the Auckland Online Film Festival!
HOW TO FEST
This is a collection of 198 films and 18 shorts compiled from a bevy of streaming and VOD services available in Aotearoa. We have provided some options (and, in some cases, links) for viewing the films in the notes for the films. (If it just says VOD, that means it's only on one or more of the big international conglomerates.) You can also use Letterboxd's fancy native JustWatch integration, although be advised that this won't include links to NZ VOD services like AroVision, who have helpfully compiled a collection of AOFF titles you can rent, or Academy Cinemas, which rents some of these titles. Nor will it include cases where we've directly linked to films on YouTube, Vimeo, or the like.
In order to help make the fest more affordable, we've programmed a number of free films (either directly linked or through Beamafilm, free with an Auckland library card), and also convinced our friends at DocPlay to offer a free 30-day trial.
So pick out some films that sound good, and make your own homegrown festival - we may not have The French Dispatch or Titane, but you won't get a parking ticket or have to run between venues, and you can pick any screening time you want!
WHAT THE FEST?!?
When NZIFF cancelled their Auckland installment, we decided to do something to fill the gaping vacuum for disconsolate film lovers. After all, we can't go to the cinemas, but we do have a bounty at our fingertips - if you can find it! So founder/head programmer Doug Dillaman reached out to others in the Auckland film community to put together a programme to scratch every itch.
The second wave of programming includes curated selections from journalist/documentary director/Webworm creator David Farrier, filmmakers Liam Maguren, Steve Austin-Crawford and F. Theodore Elliott, film reviewer and podcaster Jacob Powell, and the founder and operator of AroVideo and AroVision, Andrew Armitage.
Additionally, AOFF has curated collections including a tribute to the actors of Succession, a series of recent films by directors who once featured at NZIFF, a focus on Palestine, a collection of under-the-radar films from around the world, films on filmmaking, a second round of musical films in conjunction with our friends at Flying Out), and, because we're not out of the woods yet, a series of films about forests.
View the second wave here and read notes here.
This follows on from our first wave, which featured selection from Flicks editor Steve Newall, The Gosden Years co-editor Tim Wong, Terror-Fi festival director James Partridge, NZ Listener reviewer Sarah Watt, filmmaker Rajneel Singh, and Letterboxd's own editor Gemma Gracewood and director of social Aaron Yap.
The first wave included a headline section of films that have played in international festivals in 2021 that are already waiting for you at home, as well as a selection of direct-to-streaming titles that have passed many home viewers by. Additional sections include a focus on African filmmaking, documentaries on trauma and recovery, a microcinema section, and music (sponsored by our friends at Flying Out), plus a tribute to five NZIFF 2021 filmmakers. This is augmented by our contributing programmers, who have selected giant headline titles, weird wonders, personal faves, recent Indian and East Asian standout films, and theatrical releases from the last year deserving a second glance, as well as a selection of Terror-Fi classics and a tribute to the legendary Bill Gosden.
The festival officially "runs" from the 28th of October to the 14th of November - but most titles are available for streaming now, if you'd like a head start! (And don't forget: if you use Letterboxd, tag your reviews with #aoff2021!)
1-10: FESTIVAL FOCUS 2021
From Sundance and Berlin to Cannes and Toronto, some of 2021's festival offerings are already at your fingertips. Doug Dillaman curates a collection of this year's highlights that are already available on streaming and VOD.
11-15: CIVIC DUTY
Missing NZIFF in Auckland means many losses, but one thing all long-time festival-goers will share is the Civic-sized hole in their hearts. Flicks editor Steve Newall curates a roster of headline films worthy of Tāmaki Makaurau's most opulent theatre.
16-25: A TRIBUTE TO BILL GOSDEN
The premature passing of Bill Gosden last year is a loss still felt acutely by many, and NZIFF's planned tribute promised a chance for likeminded cinephiles to commiserate. While its cancellation is gutting, we can take some small consolation in the impending arrival of The Gosden Years, a collection of his writings to be published in November by VUP. Co-editor Tim Wong - who worked closely with Bill as the Publications Editor for NZIFF from 2016-2020 - offers up some fresh titles in tribute, as well as highlighting the selections from NZIFF's tribute available to Aucklanders online.
26-35: LOST IN THE ALGORITHM
AOFF presents a collection of films from the last two years on major streaming platforms that never got big screen outings or high-profile releases, just waiting to be discovered.
36-40: NZIFF 2021 TRIBUTE SCREENINGS
In honour of five films we won't be seeing during the festival, AOFF selects five earlier films by terrific directors whose work features in NZIFF's selection this year.
41-45: DESI STORIES: RECENT INDIA CINEMA
Filmmaker Rajneel Singh curates a selection of five titles from India to challenge your preconceived notions around Bollywood and Tollywood through a cinematic masala of Lovecraftian horror, ghetto hip-hop culture, Hitchcockian thrills and hard-hitting drama.
46-50: SECOND GLANCES
NZ Listener reviewer Sarah Watt handpicks five films from the last year that didn't get their due in cinemas - be it from lockdowns or neglect - and that deserve a fresh light shined upon them.
51-58: IN FOCUS: AFRICA
AOFF presents a programme of new and classic African cinema, with something for everyone - from the sublime to supa action.
58-64: FLYING OUT PRESENTS: SOUND AND VISION
If you're missing live music as much as you're missing films, here's a mix of concert films and documentaries to crank through your home stereo, sponsored by Auckland's home for independent and alternative music.
65-71: HEALING FROM TRAUMA
As the world works its way through a global pandemic, questions of trauma and healing take center stage. Doug Dillaman curates a series of documentaries that get up-close and very personal on grief, abuse, and the journey of recovery.
71-76: FROM LETTERBOXD WITH LOVE
Letterboxd editor Gemma Gracewood curates six of her favourite recent films. (No typo in the numbering there, btw: Still Processing fits neatly in both sections.)
77-84: NEW EAST ASIAN CINEMA
Tim Wong curates a selection of recent Asian film raging from the soothing to the savage, featuring festival favourites like Naomi Kawase, Kazuhiro Soda and Anthony Chen alongside a range of newcomers.
85-90: A TRIBUTE TO TERROR-FI
Auckland still has a festival to look forward to in 2021: Terror-Fi has committed to landing here with a selection of films from this year's programme, assuming COVID allows us to return to cinemas before the end of the year. While we wait patiently for the likes of New York Ninja and The Unknown Man of Shangidor, Terror-Fi festival founder James Partridge has selected some standouts from his back catalogue that demonstrate the festival's range and depth.
90-94: MICROBUDGET MAGIC
No money? No problem! Meet a collection of filmmakers who approach the same challenge with wildly different aesthetics and skillsets, producing a collection of unique, bespoke, and oft-jawdropping films. (And once again, no typo: Sator is just that great that we had to share it.)
95-100: WEIRD WONDERS
Are you the person that heads to "the back of the book"? Yes, we know what you're looking for, and never fear. We've got Aaron Yap, Letterboxd Director of Social to select six overlooked genre highlights and unclassifiable brainmelters.
101-110: ABANDONED AUTEURS
If an auteur's films stop getting played at a film festival, do they still exist? From the accessible to the impenetrable, here's ten films by eight directors who once - and may yet again - grace NZIFF. Just not with these films.
111-115: WE'RE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET: A TRIBUTE TO FORESTS
Forests have always had a bad rap in cinema, but since COVID it’s only gotten worse, with every filmmaker rushing to the woods to make a thriller, horror, or meditation on grief. (And we’re guilty of enabling this trend, having included In The Earth, The Trip and Tragic Jungle in our programme!) But in the interest of equal time, here’s five restorative walks in the woods of very different stripes for those who aren’t yet comfortable going on a hike in the Waitakares. (And if you haven't seen it, First Cow fits neatly on this list as well!)
116-120: WEBWORM PRESENTS: BRAIN WORMS
Webworm author and filmbuff David Farrier presents five films that will worm their way into your mind and never leave. From gentle ruminations on the life of another creature, to bold and terrifying takes on what it means to be conscious in the first place. These films deserve to be watched with your full attention - no phones, no screens. Just you and your mind escaping to places you may never have considered before.
121-130: FLYING OUT ALSO PRESENTS: MO' MUSIC, FEWER PROBLEMS
Ten more music films with something for everybody. See also The Disciple, Meeting People Is Easy, and Swagger of Thieves - as well as DocPlay's extensive music collection.
131-135: WHAT WE MIFFED
Filmmaker and film lover Steve Austin-Crawford frequently hops the Tasman post-NZIFF for a double dose of festival magic. After several visits to MIFF, he's curated five of his favourite films that never hit our screens but blew his socks off in Melbourne.
136-140: FOCUS ON PALESTINE
Recently, Netflix released a huge selection of Palestinian films, including several from familiar directors to NZIFF regulars such as Elia Suleiman (It Must Be Heaven, NZIFF 2019) and Annemarie Jacir (Wajib, NZIFF 2018). Here's some picks from less familiar filmmakers along with some Palestinian films on other services. (And don't miss Ghost Hunting in our Healing From Trauma programme.)
141-147: A TRIBUTE TO SUCCESSION
One silver lining to no NZIFF - no tough decisions about whether to go to the cinema each Monday or to stay home and watch Succession when it drops. While we enjoy what season 3 has to offer, here's seven looks back at the greatest cast member of Succession. (Also, check out Pomegranates and Myrrh in our Palestine section for a Hiam Abbass starring role.)
148-160: FILMMAKERS MAKING FILMS ABOUT FILMMAKING
What it says on the tin! Six feature films and seven documentaries, including two films on film festivals that might do the impossible and make you miss an IRL festival just that bit less.
161-165: WHO LET THE C/KATS OUT?
Best Worst Podcast co-host and inveterate NZIFF attendee Jacob Powell picks five films with cats - or Catherines, or Katis - in front of the camera.
166-185: AROUND THE WORLD IN TWENTY FILMS
Call it our world panorama programme. Or don't! We're not fussy! But whether you want moving drama, true-crime documentary, off-kilter absurdity, slow cinema, avant-garde madness, or German motorway construction, there's something here for everybody.
186-190: TRANSMISSIONS FROM F. THEODORE ELLIOTT
Like many, Auckland filmmaker F. Theodore Elliott (Baseball, The Object Lesson - both viewable for free at the link just prior) had the premiere of his latest feature delayed by COVID-19. We are now super excited to announce that his extraordinary six-hour film She Found A Moviola will premiere in a one-off stream as our closing night film; to get in the mood, here's five films he's picked.
191-195: FROM WELLINGTON WITH LOVE
The rest of the country hasn't forgotten us. There's no shortage of folks we could have asked to send us their love (and a few film suggestions), but now that Wellington's biggest and most beloved video store has brought their presence online with an 1100+ film selection, we asked AroVision to pick five of their off-the-radar favourites.
196-197: ANIMATION THEN/ANIMATION WOW
From award-winning animator Liam Maguren comes two programmes of animation, some of which isn't even on Letterboxd yet - but don't let that stop you from watching Animation THEN and Animation WOW.
198-200: LATE ANNOUNCEMENTS
We wanted to make this list more numerologically sound, and we found a great way to do so: a fresh horror Halloween double-feature and, believe it or not, an actual world premiere!
Is this part of/sanctioned by NZIFF?
Nope. Just Auckland film fans looking for something to fill the gap. But we're not the competition. We're the consolation.
This isn't a film festival at all! This is a guy who got some people to help him put together a list on Letterboxd of films you can watch online!
I mean, that's not a question, but that's exactly what this is. Sorry/not sorry :)
You said it's showing on X, but I can't find it there?
Could be human error on either of our sides. But also, streamers can yank titles at a moment's notice, so if there's not a typo or something it could be that? Also note that Amazon Prime is distinct from the VOD Amazon service. Finally, some titles haven't been released as of this writing. Click on the "read notes" to see the release date.
(Also, if you're a Pro member, the JustWatch integration here rules - choose your streaming services, then filter the list by those to see what you have access to.)
I'm not in Auckland. Can I participate?
We're in lockdown, so we can't stop you, but even if we could, you're welcome to! But we certainly encourage you to prioritize your local NZIFF and Terror-Fi festival screenings if you're somewhere they're happening.
You should include (X)!
Feel free to make suggestions! If there's enough demand, we can always make some late additions, just like that year they added Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives at the last minute! That was a good year.