After the biggest year yet in the state capital, the Melbourne International Film Festival is back on the road and touring Victoria. As always, the focus with the travelling showcase is the wide range of Australian films supported by MIFF’s Premiere Fund – 2019 has been its biggest year ever, with seven films funded – and this year they’re giving country Victoria a chance to see the best of the fest with a string of weekend sessions across the state.
For many of these films, this will be the first time they’ve screened anywhere outside MIFF, making it a perfect opportunity for film buffs to get caught up on some of the freshest Australian film-making around. While not every city is getting the same collection of films, with such a wide-ranging and eclectic line-up there’s bound to be something worth a watch whatever your taste in cinema.
Amongst the highlights of this year’s MIFF Travelling Showcase are:
H is for Happiness: Candice Phee is a relentlessly optimistic and hilariously forthright girl on the cusp of her 13th birthday. Unfortunately, Candice’s family is in disarray: her mum has been living with depression since the death of Candice’s baby sister, while her dad and his brother – Candice’s beloved Rich Uncle Brian – are no longer speaking. With adolescence looming, Candice and her new friend Douglas Benson hatch a variety of outlandish schemes to make her nearest and dearest happy again.
Measure For Measure: Shakespeare’s play about morality, mercy and justice becomes a topical tale of love and loyalty at the hands of Paul Ireland and his co-writer, the late Damian Hill. When young Muslim woman Jaiwara falls for non-Muslim musician Claudio on the streets of Prahan, Jaiwara’s dodgy brother Farouk objects to their union. He then frames Claudio for a crime he didn’t commit, sending him to jail. Desperate to save Claudio, Jaiwara seeks the help of Duke, a local crime boss currently ‘on leave’, whose second in command, Angelo, offers to assist in his stead. But at what cost?
Below: When darkweb con-artist Dougie lands in deep trouble after a scam goes wrong, his gruff stepdad Terry agrees to pay off his debts. But in return, Dougie must take a job at the refugee detention centre where Terry works. Always ready to make some money on the side, Dougie discovers a new revenue stream by live-streaming the underground fight club run by the centre’s dodgy security staff. But when things inevitably go sour, Dougie may be the only one with the guts to take a stand.
No Time For Quiet: GIRLS ROCK! is an international network of independent arts and feminist social justice groups, with a focus on running band camps that provide girls, trans and gender non-conforming 12-16 year olds a supportive safe space to grow and express themselves via music. The volunteer mentors (including Courtney Barnett, Camp Cope, and Cable Ties) and participants of the first Melbourne-based GIRLS ROCK! camp offered directors Hylton Shaw and Samantha Dinning extraordinary access to document their experiences as they bond over music and discovering their voices over the course of the week-long school holiday program and beyond.
Iron Fists & King Fu Kicks: In the 60s and 70s, Hong Kong’s famous Shaw Brothers Studio was more popular and prolific than Hollywood’s wildest dreams, producing a profitable film a week – including such iconic classics as One-Armed Swordsman, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Five Fingers of Death. Directed by Serge Ou, this kinetically charts the Kung Fu genre’s unexpected path to worldwide domination via a wealth of clips, action stars and industry figures documenting everything from the competition between the Hong Kong Powerhouse studios of Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest to the art’s influence on the rise of hip-hop and parkour.
Boyancy: Tired of toiling in the rice fields, 14-year-old Chakra leaves Cambodia in search of a Bangkok factory job. After paying smugglers to ferry him over the border, the boy is instead traded to a seafood trawler where violence and murder are a routine occurrence, all under the watch of ruthless and sadistic captain Rom Ran. Making his feature debut after several shorts, director Rodd Rathjen combines an edge-of-your-seat thriller with the stark reality of the modern-day slave trade.
A Family: A deadpan, offbeat comedy, this is the story of a lonely man who hires actors to play his parents, brother and sister. He even has scripts, props and a home in which to stage his domestic production. But he’s a demanding director, and eventually, his actors rebel against him, and then quit. But inspired by the man’s methods, his fake sister and her real mother decide to recruit the man into their own family, where the phoney relationship he inspired might just end up becoming something real.
There’s also a number of films outside the Premiere Fund touring Victoria, including:
American Woman: Deb Callahan was just 16 when she became a mother, and now, in her early thirties, she’s a grandmother. Under-educated and with questionable taste in men, Deb is still doing a decent job of raising both her teenage daughter Bridget and Bridget’s infant son – with occasional help from Deb’s older sister Katherine. But when Bridget suddenly vanishes without a trace, Deb’s world is turned upside down: as the year’s pass, life goes on but Deb keeps searching for the truth.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead: Colin Burstead it determined to ring in the new year smoothly with his extended family at a lavish country mansion. Unfortunately, his plan is stymied by the reappearance of his brother David, the family’s black sheep. As tensions rise and the clock ticks towards midnight, the one thing the Bursteads can count on is plenty of fireworks.
In My Blood It Runs: “I was born a little Aboriginal kid,” explains Dujuan. “That means I had a memory – a memory about being Aboriginal.” The precocious 10-year-old has a strong connection to his culture, speaks three languages and works as a healer – but he also struggles with school, acts out in class, and attracts attention from the police and the welfare system. This documentary follows Dujuan’s attempts to reconcile the traditions he holds dear with the colonised world he’s forced to inhabit.
Vai: Pacific languages retain many keywords in common. ‘Vai’, the word for water, is one of these. Eight female directors from eight separate Pacific Island nations celebrate Indigenous resilience and creativity with eight vignettes about Vai, played by eight individual actresses in various stages of her life, from age seven to 80.
The MIFF Travelling Showcase is at Bendigo’s Star Cinema from Friday August 30 to Saturday August 31, Geelong’s Pivotonian Cinema from Friday, August 30 to Sunday September 1, Ballarat’s Regent Cinema from Friday September 6 to Sunday September 8, and Castlemaine’s Theatre Royal from Friday September 20 to Sunday September 22.
For more information, visit miff.com.au/travelling
Written by Anthony Morris