Upscaled international film festival brings world premieres to Christchurch

Upscaled international film festival brings world premieres to Christchurch

For the rest of June, Christchurch will be hosting the Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying film event bringing members of the international film industry and a multitude of film events and experiences, including world premieres, to the city.

“Doc Edge is a celebration of documentary storytelling, exploring themes of truth, impact, and reconciliation from around the world and diverse communities,” says Doc Edge General Manager and Festival Producer Rachael Penman. “Doc Edge has earned recognition as we work towards establishing the first dedicated Asia-Pacific documentary centre, featuring an Oscar-qualifying documentary festival, industry events and markets, a schools programme, and immersive exhibition.”

Now in its 19th year, this year’s festival programme includes 66 films screening at Hoyts EntX, Alice Cinema and Lumiere Cinemas, and 28 immersive projects. It also boasts the largest number of world premieres, many of which are international films, including 11 feature films, nine short films, and 10 immersive projects.

“This record underscores our reputation as a must-premiere screening festival, offering a unique viewing opportunity to local audiences and showcasing films destined to be the world’s latest and most important documentary works. It will also be the first time that many of these films are being seen by the filmmakers, producers and crew, with many travelling a very long way for that first-viewing experience, which is pretty special.”

Previously the annual festival was held in Auckland, but this year additional funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) Major Events Incubator meant they could re-evaluate where the festival was held.

“The extra funding enabled us to discuss new opportunities with different Councils,” says Ms Penman. “Our decision to host the festival in Ōtautahi Christchurch came down to our desire to work with the local community and ChristchurchNZ were very keen to support us to be an Asia-Pacific hub for all things documentary. It’s not about us just being a festival – it’s about working with other events in the city, such as Tīrama Mai and the Matariki programme of events at the Arts Centre to create a festival city vibe over that time. It’s really important for our international guests coming into the country to experience the Matariki season and everything that Ōtautahi Christchurch can offer.”

The festival will run until 30 June in Christchurch and then from 3-14 July in Wellington and Auckland. Ms Penman says the unique offering for Christchurch is the immersive experience.

“The big growth for us this year is around our immersive exhibition. There are so many other ways to experience documentary these days, whether that is through a computer or an immersive experience in a 360 surround space or on a headset. With 28 projects across the city, we have the biggest exhibition of this type in the Asia-Pacific region. It is something that is unique to Ōtautahi Christchurch as well, as when we take the festival to Auckland and Wellington, we take the films and only a snippet of the immersive element. With the Immersive Exhibition being a free offering we are really aiming to make documentary more accessible to more people.”

Ms Penman says another important component to this year’s festival is the industry programme. The international visitors typically stay four to five nights in the city, with Doc Edge working closely with ChristchurchNZ, Screen Canterbury NZ and local iwi to host their stay. “We want them to experience all that is on offer in Canterbury, so they come back and potentially undertake their next project here. Initially we thought we would have 20 international guests, but it’s now closer to 50, which is really exciting and great for economic growth and spend in the region.”

The Doc Edge documentary film festival balances the city’s major events portfolio with a multi-day arts and cultural event in the middle of winter. “Alongside providing visitors and residents with a record-breaking program of international premieres and immersive experiences, there’s a host of interactive activities designed to grow our region’s film-making capacity,” says ChristchurchNZ Head of Major events Karena Finnie.

“On top of the incredible array of films, this event assembles the greatest documentary talent from our backyard and around the world and connects them with our industry’s exceptional storytellers and future film makers. The industry event schedule is packed full of workshops and forums all designed to expand the capability and grow the knowledge of students from our world class tertiary providers such as Ara Institute, YooBee and University of Canterbury’s Kōawa initiative,” says Ms Finnie.

The festival culminates in an Awards Evening on 27 June. As an Oscar-qualifying film festival, four of the awards automatically qualify for Oscar consideration for 2025, including Best International Feature, Best International Short, Best New Zealand Feature, and Best New Zealand Short. One film in the running is They Call Me Wazza – a short film by Christchurch Director Jonathan Smit that captures the journey of Warren Hawke, a 70-year-old surf photographer as he battles with health, cameras and an obsession with surf. The film will be screened before another Christchurch film, the feature-length Habana Shakes.

Thanks to Doc Edge, we have 30 complementary tickets available to the international premiere of Racing Mister Fahrenheit by US Director Michael Rowley on 20 June at Hoyts EntX – first in, first served, so get in quick. Click here to secure your complementary tickets, using code RMFH30.

About Racing Mister Fahrenheit:
In the race against death, speed is key. A 74-year-old billionaire sets out to gain a “pinch of immortality” by attempting to break a world speed record on a hand-built motorcycle – Mister Fahrenheit. Bobby Haas, once the owner of Dr Pepper, 7-Up, and other soda giants, abandons his business career in search of more adrenaline-based endeavours. Atop his world-renowned sidecar racer, he turns the energy of his twilight years towards cementing his name in the land speed record books. But when things take a sudden and devastating turn, Bobby and those closest to him must pick up the pieces and face death at the finish line.

Have you got news to share? Email us your business news, story idea, or opinion piece to

Below is paid content.

Canterbury Trusted Leaderboard
Listen to the latest episode of the Bold Company podcast.

Sign up to receive our latest news straight to your inbox.