With the Melbourne International Film Festival just around the corner – it runs from August 3 to 20 at nine venues in the heart of Melbourne – film buffs have never had it so good. Which is something of a problem. With 366 films on offer over the seventeen “spoilt for choice” barely seems to cover the range of options: considering there’s no way you can see everything, where should you start?
After giving the listings a once over, a few films stand out as must-sees. If you’re after big names on the festival circuit, then MIFF has you covered: there’s Terence Malick’s latest Song to Song, Todd Haynes with Wonderstruck, Michael Hanake with Happy End, James Gray’s The Lost City of Z (not to be confused with The House of Z, a documentary about fashion designer Zac Posen), Yorgos Lanthimos’ Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Sally Potter’s latest film, The Party, a darkly comic satire of a broken England starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall and Patricia Clarkson.
Ruben Östlund was the hit of the Festival with his grim yet spot-on comedy about a family under pressure Force Majeure: he’s back this year with The Square, which broadens his comedy outwards to take on the entire art world.
Fellow Festival fave Alex Ross Perry is also back with Golden Exits, an ensemble drama with a star-studded cast including Emily Browning, Chloë Sevigny, Jason Schwartzman and former Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz.
There are programs worth checking out too: Guest curator Alexandra Heller-Nicholas has teamed up with the National Screen and Sound Archive this year to put together “Pioneering Women” a selection of rarely seen 80s and 90s classics directed by Australian women. The entire line-up is worth a look, from Clara Law’s Chinese immigrant story, Floating Life, to Nadia Tass’s classic comedy The Big Steal – though perhaps the highlight is Ann Turner’s 1989 psychological horror film Celia.
The popular music documentary program has been renamed Music On Film, and features the aforementioned Terence Malick feature (set in Austin’s thriving music scene), a screening of the recent restoration of Gillian Armstrong’s legendary Australian 80’s musical Starstruck, and the hip-hop coming of age film Patti Cake$ featuring Aussie newcomer Danielle Macdonald. For animal lovers there’s a small program of documentaries, ranging from the small scale and sweet like the New Zealand poultry-fancier tale Pecking Order to the controversial Trophy, which connects the dots between selling out and saving life in South African big game hunting.
There’s also a series of true crime documentaries, including Abacus: Small Enough to Jail about the only bank that was taken down by the GFC, and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, about the notorious cyber-celebrity and piracy advocate. There’s also a well-regarded trio of films looking at the lives of young people: School Life examines the hallways and classrooms of Ireland’s unique Headfort School, STEP follows the senior year of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women’s step-dance team, and Swagger merges fact and fantasy to look at the lives of teenagers in the underprivileged Parisian district of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
And if that’s not enough for you? Pick up a copy of the MIFF guide – you’ve still got a week to book your seats before the festival starts.
Written by Anthony Morris
Image sourced via Visit Victoria