The 2020 edition of the New Zealand International Film Festival will take place entirely online, after organizers conceded that the coronavirus crisis has made it impossible to pull off a conventional festival in theaters.

“NZIFF At Home – Online will be a true film festival experience featuring world and New Zealand premieres of films each night, and including 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,” said Marten Rabarts, festival director who is curating his first edition.

“Some films will be screened as special ‘one-off’ events, and many of the films presented will be exclusive to NZIFF and won’t have other New Zealand screenings.”

Organizers said that Rabarts has received has assurances from key film distributors in Australia, New Zealand and around the world that they are committed to making the online edition work well. The film selection will be unveiled on June 22. The festival will run July 24 to August 2.

New Zealand this week reduced its emergency response from level 4 to level 3, meaning that some internal work and travel restrictions have been altered. But disruption and border controls are expected to linger for week or months more. The country has had 1,129 confirmed cases of coronavirus and recorded 19 deaths from it.

To achieve the digital transformation, the festival will upgrade its existing video on demand portal, and is working with our on-demand provider Shift72 to create a digital screening room, coupled with live streaming event possibilities on the festival’s own website.

“This is an extraordinary situation and we need to adapt and find a creative solution for 2020,” said New Zealand Film Festival Trust chair Catherine Fitzgerald.

Organizers said that they are committed to running a normal festival in theaters in mid-2021. Before that, in January, they aim to put on summer screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Rabarts has shuffled the festival’s progamming team. It is now headed by Michael McDonnell, alongside Sandra Reid, Nic Marshall, Ant Timpson, and Malcolm Turner. A quartet of international guest curators includes: Violeta Bava Alesia Weston, Bird Runningwater, and former Variety writer Vicci Ho.