New Zealand International Film Festival Confirms 2021 Dates

NZIFF19 opening night at The Civic_credit Veronica McLaughlin (1)
The 2021 film festival will see a return to The Civic with its iconic flamingo curtain. Pictured here is opening night from 2019 | PHOTO: Veronica McLaughlin

The New Zealand International Film Festival has confirmed its 2021 dates with the festival all set to take place from late October.

The film festival, which normally opens in July/August will now be held slightly later in the year in light of the severe impact of Covid-19 on live events.

As anticipated, the 2021 festival will return to a fully cinema-based event to take place in 30 cinemas and venues in 13 towns and cities nationwide including the festival’s four flagship venues – The Civic in Auckland, The Embassy in Wellington, Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, and Dunedin’s Regent Theatre. In Auckland, the film festival also returns to SkyCity Theatre.


Speaking about the new date, Festival director Marten Rabarts said that presenting the 2021 festival from October to early December would ensure audience confidence.

“The Government’s rollout projections indicate that vaccinating all border and MIQ workers will soon be complete, and this critical step will effectively ringfence our ports and borders. By late October/early November, the Ministry of Health confirms vaccination against COVID 19 will have been made available to around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s adult population.

“This wide roll out ensures audiences can feel safe coming back into cinemas and also reduces the likelihood of the crippling lockdowns we’ve experienced in the past months.”

Marten Rabarts_landscape_credit Rebecca McMillan Photography
Marten Rabarts | PHOTO: Rebecca McMillan Photography

Rabarts adds that the move also aligns with the recently announced postponement of the Cannes Film Festival from May to July. “As a vital source of many high-profile festival titles, the later dates for NZIFF 2021 will allow us to select films from a delayed Cannes in addition to Venice and Toronto festivals which take place in late August/early September.

“By moving our dates, we can confidently expect to present the world-class film festival our audience expects and deserves. We can’t wait to be back in cinemas and venues around the country and satisfy what we know is a growing hunger for the very best of world cinema.”

The dates for 2021 will also see a condensing of the film festival across the country. “In the past, the festival has had a very extended run-time, opening in Auckland in July and running right through to October in some centres,” Mr Rabarts said.

“Historically, this arose primarily to accommodate 35mm print traffic of films that often had only one travelling print imported by the festival to service all cities and regions. With digital projection, we can now present the same festival almost simultaneously nationwide to create a truly national film festival.”

NZFFT Chair Catherine Fitzgerald said the 2021 festival will include gala opening nights, Q&As with filmmakers and other live events.

“We know our loyal film festival fans will be thrilled to hear this news today, and we’re especially pleased that we will be back in full festival mode for 2021 to mark the festival’s 50th anniversary in Wellington.”

Ms Fitzgerald adds the decision to move the festival by three months for 2021 follows a string of postponements and delays of events in New Zealand and globally.

“Sydney Film Festival has also just announced a three-month delay, and many film festivals around the world have either been cancelled or forced online. We believe we are taking the best course of action having the good fortune in Aotearoa of a really viable window to present the film festival opening up in the spring.”

The film festival will open in Auckland on Thursday 28 October, followed by Christchurch on the following day, with Dunedin and Wellington to follow a week later. The remaining nine centres span November and the first week of December.

Mr Rabarts said that this move to later dates is a one-off for 2021, and he anticipates the festival will return to its usual July/August timing in 2022.

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