Aotearoa Film Festival

Sunday 4 to Wednesday 7 July

The Aotearoa Film Festival is a public open event. These seven films are free/koha and everyone is welcome. Our festival starts with an afternoon screening on Sunday 4 July and finishes with evening double-feature on Wednesday 7 July.

It's often hard for New Zealand directors to get financial support to make and promote indigenous film. Taking them to festivals – which many deserve – and then to local theatres is often impossible unless they’re blockbusters, so many have their quick moment in the sun, then fade into near oblivion. It’s been our conscious decision to celebrate here the home-grown talent of directors such as Gaylene Preston, Tearepa Kahi, Himiona Grace, Rebecca Tansley, Armagan Ballantyne, Sam Neill and Geoff Murphy, and we've chosen some of Aotearoa's cinematic best - seven films to warm your winter Matariki nights!

Most of our films will be at our usual venue in the Christchurch Art Gallery with seating for over 170 people.  There are no reservations for this venue – just come along a little early to be sure of getting seat. 

Our partners-in-film, Alice Cinemas and Lumiere are each screening a film as part of the festival. Please note there are very limited seats for these films so we encourage advanced bookings for these screenings.

Me ngāhāu tātou! Let's celebrate.


Sunday 4 July 2pm

The Pā Boys 

Himiona Grace | 2014 | 93 mins | NZ | M 

Christchurch Art Gallery

This is a Kiwi roadie to settle back into, crank up the tunes and enjoy the view. Newshub

“The boys of the title are a reggae band … who decide to head "down North" (you need to see the film to get it) on a tour. Alpha male Danny (Kora) and his happy-go-lucky drummer pal CityBoy (Newbery) are joined by newcomer Tau (Whatarau), who is something of a mystery man. The latter's ease with te reo and tikanga unnerves Danny, who derides it as "getting all ancestral". Stuff goes down on the road.”  NZ Herald

“Cinematographer Rewa Harré peppers the film with gorgeously captured landscapes of Aotearoa that silhouette the characters in the foreground – evoking a sense of greatness in the land that overbears the people who inhabit it. This vision works in tandem with the documentary feel as the boys journey between locales, giving the film an organic feel that really complements its grassroots atmosphere and traditional Maori themes.”  Liam Maguren, Flicks

View the trailer at


Sunday 4 July 8pm

The Heart Dances – The Journey of The Piano: The Ballet 

Rebecca Tansley | 2018 | 99 mins | NZ | PG  

Alice Cinemas,
Limited seats available – please call Alice Cinemas on 03 365 0615 to reserve your ticket.

“In 2015, Czech duo Jirí and Otto Bubeníček  adapted the film [The Piano ] into a one-act ballet, which was performed by a German company. Intrigued, and probably sensing a potential hit with local audiences, The Royal New Zealand Ballet invited the twin brothers to Wellington to expand the work and to stage it with the RNZB company. The show was – eventually – a triumph. But the journey there was nettlesome and eventful. The Heart Dances is the story of that journey…  Director Rebecca Tansley has done a quite brilliant job here, letting the conflict play out, but still corralling the material into a spry, engaging and entertaining film… The Heart Dances is not the film I was expecting to see. But it is a compelling, engaging and often spectacular look at a real-life drama. Very recommended.”  Graeme Tuckett, The Press

“Tansley’s documentary feasts on the sheer beauty of the Bubeníčeks’ work – the music, the theatricality, the costumes, the suite of achingly expressive pas de deux at the heart of the piece.  It also presents a delicately traced picture of the Old World at sea in the New, and vice versa. The Bubeníčeks arrive apparently unaware that the work they have been invited to stage poses significant problems for Moss Patterson, the Māori cultural adviser contracted by the RNZB.  New Zealand International Film Festival 2018

View the trailer at

The Heart Dances - the Journey of The Piano Showtimes in Christchurch Central | Alice Cinemas Alice


Monday 5 July 2pm

Ruby and Rata

Gaylene Preston | 1990 | 111 mins | NZ | PG   

Christchurch Art Gallery

Ruby and Rata was digitised with funding from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Digitisation Programme

Preston and her team have woven a special kind of Kiwi magic in this one. I'd crawl across broken glass to see it again — and again. 
Peter Calder, NZ Herald

“At 83 Ruby refuses to be shunted into the Sunset Villas. In hope of some rent-paying, Iive-in home help, she poses as a tenant in her own home, then arranges to let her downstairs apartment to a smart young businesswoman... which is to say that Rata moves in with eight-year-old Wille, hangs up her businessperson disguise and concentrates on her career of welfare fraud and rock 'n' roll stardom. The old girl upstairs will make a great babysitter, she figures.  Ruby and Rata are soon locked into a battle of mutual subterfuge and deception that undergoes some fairly outlandish convolutions... But, as their names suggest, Preston's two, 'determined and manipulative women' are sisters at heart. It takes them as long to realise this as it takes for truth to dawn and a perfect match to occur in any romantic comedy.”  Bill Gosden, 19th Wellington Film Festival, 1990


Monday 5 July 6.30pm

Poi E: The Story of Our Song

Te Arepa Kahi | 2016 | 93 mins | NZ | G   

Christchurch Art Gallery

It's the perfect tribute to a song that is ingrained in this country's past, present and future, and generally just a really good time. Siena Yates, NZ Herald

“Dalvanius Prime, the man who made it happen, enjoyed an international R&B career in the 70s. He returned from Sydney to Taranaki to nurse his dying mother and stayed to embrace his culture and Te Reo Māori. Collaboration with singer Prince Tui Teka led him to Māori language composer Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi. Together they composed ‘Poi E’: in this film you will hear the first ever recording, made soon after. Adding embellishments that did not please his co-composer but impressed her mokopuna, he persuaded his Taranaki whānau, the Patea Māori Club, to perform it. A man on a mission, chihuahuas under each arm, he pulled together a diverse and talented bunch of collaborators to record the song and crowdfund a brilliant music video that, amongst other things, captured the vitality and pride of his hometown facing hard times.”  New Zealand International Film Festival 2016

“Christchurch-born director Tearepa Kahi's (Mt Zion) lovingly crafted, intimate documentary captures the anarchic spirit of the song and its creator Dalvanius Prime…  But Poi-E: The Story of Our Song is also a terrific shared experience that will leave you tapping your toes, laughing at all the 80s fashions and culture, and smiling all the way home.”  James Croot, The Press

View the trailer at


Tuesday 6 July 2pm

The Strength of Water

Armagan Ballantyne | 2009 | 86 mins | NZ/Germany | M   

Lumière Cinemas,
Limited seats available – please book online at (ticket free but booking fee applies)

There's a deceptive casualness about the movie; it unfolds quietly, like a small-town Sunday, and you don't realise until the last few minutes quite how firmly it's taken hold of your heart. 

Peter Calder, NZ Herald

“In a tiny coastal community, twins Kimi and Melody (Hato Paparoa and Melanie Mayall-Nahi) live with their parents on a small poultry farm. It's a tough life, but Briar Grace-Smith's script allows room for a few moments of real warmth and genuineness to flicker across the opening scenes. The community is knocked ever so slightly from its axis by the arrival of Tai, a troubled young man who has moved into a derelict house a little way out of town. And then tragedy strikes... It's a strong setup, and Armagan Ballantyne's debut feature The Strength of Water is equal to the task of turning Grace-Smith's script's promises into an engrossing, touching, and occasionally entrancing whole… Do go and see it.”  Graeme Tuckett, The Press

An ineffable unity of loss and renewal, sadness and hope flows through this bold and gravely beautiful film... I cannot think of another New Zealand film in which the natural world is such a living entity as this – or in which animal life is so integral. The lightest of musical scores adds its quiet descant to nature's ebb and flow to remind us that the most meaningful messages are often not shouted, but whispered.  BG, New Zealand International Film Festival 2009

View the trailer at

The Strength of Water at Lumiere Cinemas - movie times & tickets

Wednesday 7 July DOUBLE-FEATURE



Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill

Sam Neill, Judy Rymer | 1995 | 52 mins | UK/NZ | E    

Christchurch Art Gallery

Not much about Sam Neill's ordinary leading-man roles (in films like Jurassic Park) and even his better ones (in The Piano and My Brilliant Career) is preparation for his tart, perceptive directorial voice in a very good film of his own.  Janet Maslin, The New York Times


“Part of the British Film Institute’s Century of Cinema series in which some of the world’s most respected directors investigate their national cinema. Cinema of Unease examines the cultural and historic context from which the New Zealand film industry grew, and explores the emergence of a national cinematic style.  While obviously dated by the fact it was made twenty years ago, Sam Neill’s observations are still compelling, even if he himself no longer agrees with that point of view.” New Zealand Film Commission

“Neill swiftly takes us through the social changes of the mid-twentieth century, linking them to the development of New Zealand’s distinct cinematic identity.  From the 1970s onward, as Neill’s career began, the country’s cinema turned to complex, even frightening themes. Both the nuclear family and the order of society were upended, rejected in favour of a new type of freedom. Neill describes the change as “Gothic”, which fits perfectly.  Newer movies frequently explored intense subject matter, external horrors and, frequently, the troubled side of the human mind… Delivered through this personal lens, Cinema of Unease is a combination of memoir and chronicle… For anyone interested in this country’s legacy of great movies, Cinema of Unease serves as the perfect introduction.” Rachael Crawley, Films Fatale

Cinema of Unease | Film | NZ On Screen



The Quiet Earth

Geoff Murphy | 1985 | 91 mins | NZ | M    

Christchurch Art Gallery

The Quiet Earth was digitised with funding from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Digitisation Programme

“A criminally under-seen classic from New Zealand’s 1980s boom of exciting and original cinema, The Quiet Earth has a familiar setup: A man (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up alone on a seemingly deserted Earth. Though some of the plot sees him trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to the planet, the film is more concerned with the fragile mental state of its protagonist as he navigates his new, lonely existence. It’s the best work by Geoff Murphy, who examined life in New Zealand from many challenging angles before being lured to Hollywood to make mediocre blockbusters.”  David Sims, The Atlantic

The Quiet Earth is New Zealand's contribution to the last-man-on-earth genre, or to be precise, the last-two-men-and-one-woman genre. It has the usual huggermugger about tremors and grids and the sun acting peculiarly, plenty of computer screens and significant beeps and colorful special effects signifying commotion in the universe, some cautionary words about the dangers of man playing God and no noticeable psychological sense, but it's easy to watch most of the time and never positively painful. This relatively lighthearted exercise in apocalypse opens today at the New Carnegie.” Walter Goodman, The New York Times (1986)

“It’s no surprise that this remains a cult classic (pop-scientist Neil deGrasse-Tyson describes it as one of his favourite science-fiction films of all time) and although the cars and fashions look dated, the movie has aged very well; Geoff Murphy’s direction is close in feeling and style to the films of contemporary masters Yorgos Lanthimos and Ben Wheatley.”  Alan Boon, Starburst

View the trailer at