Winter may have firmly set in but there’s a beacon of warmth shining out from Melbourne’s cinemas as the city becomes the centre of the cinematic universe (in a manner of speaking) with the 68th annual Melbourne International Film Festival – or as it’s better known, MIFF. Featuring 259 feature films, 123 shorts and 16 virtual reality experiences over eighteen days, this year’s festival promises to provide audiences with an energetic and informed snapshot of world cinema today.
This year MIFF kicks off August 1st with the opening night screening of the much-anticipated documentary The Australian Dream. Written by Walkley award-winning Australian journalist Stan Grant. Grant’s moving work is a powerful exploration of race, identity and belonging as told from the perspective of champion AFL footballer and Indigenous rights activist, Adam Goodes.
With traditional MIFF venues ACMI and The Comedy Theatre out of action this year, the Festival is spreading its wings across Melbourne’s CBD and beyond, with screenings as far afield as Carlton’s Nova Cinema and The Astor on Chapel St. City sessions will still be taking place at The Forum, the Kino and Hoyts Melbourne Central, but there’s also a number of new smaller locations – plus the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre, which is bound to be an attraction in its own right.
Marking the midpoint of the Festival with a Centrepiece Gala screening at the Capitol Theatre is Sydney-based director Abe Forsythe’s “zom-com” Little Monsters. Featuring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as a ukulele-playing, zombie-slaying kindergarten teacher, it’s a funny, gory salute to all the kindergarten teachers who help children to bloom while protecting them from being eaten by zombies.
The Festival’s Closing Night Gala is a screening of director Lulu Wang’s acclaimed The Farewell. Based on an actual lie, the film follows Chinese-born, US-raised Billi (Awkwafina), who returns to Changchun to find that although the whole family knows its beloved matriarch, Nai Nai, has been given mere weeks to live, they’ve decided to keep her in the dark about it.
Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited take on 60’s movie culture Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is getting a gala screening at The Astor, where it’ll screen on Saturday August 3rd in 35mm. Music is once again a big part of MIFF, with live appearances and performances from Thurston Moore and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to tie in with their film work.
Other highlights include: Spring Breaker’s Harmony Korine heads back to the beach with The Beach Bum, trading gun-toting college co-eds for a bongo-playing, bong-smoking free spirit by the name of Moondog –a role Matthew McConaughey was born to play; Them That Follow examines an overtly religious Pentecostal society that has cut itself off from the rest of the world in feature debut from writer/director duo Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage with a star-studded cast that includes Olivia Colman and Walton Goggins; and in The Dead Don’t Die, which sees Jim Jarmusch reunite with Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and an all-star cast for a deadpan zombie comedy.
There’s also director Pedro Almodóvar reuniting with Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz for Pain and Glory; UK comedy legend Chris Morris’ counter-terrorism farce The Day Shall Come; French-Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan’s heartfelt love story about two childhood best friends coming to terms with their secret feelings for each other Matthias & Maxime; and Jennifer (The Babadook) Kent’s The Nightingale, a brutal depiction of life in colonial Tasmania – in particular, the lives of women and Indigenous Australians – that’s divided audiences across multiple screenings.
Documentary highlights include programs looking at online life, a range of music documentaries (including Wu Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, Susie Q, and Bros: After the Screaming Stops), and a series of environmental films. There’s also programs highlighting the work of pioneering punk film director Penelope Spheeris; eminent Polish auteur Agnieszka Holland; and the distinctively brilliant Peter Strickland.
The Night Shift program of late night cult screenings is back this year, there’s also a range of VR and immersive experiences on offer, and in good news for fans of Jeff Goldblum, there’s an all-night marathon of his films showing at The Astor. That’s 12 hours of Goldblum action; what more could you want?
The full MIFF program is online at miff.com.au and tickets are on sale now.
Written by Anthony Morris