The 5 must-sees flicks from the 2020 Melbourne International Film Festival

The 5 must-sees flicks from the 2020 Melbourne International Film Festival

Ema: Closing Night Film

It’s MIFF, but not as we know it.

With Melbourne’s cinemas closed for the immediate future, the Melbourne International Film Festival has made the leap to digital and become an all-online affair for 2020. Sorry, that means no queuing up outside in the depths of a Melbourne winter – but while the brisk night air may no longer be on the menu, rest assured there’s still plenty of the world’s best cinema to take in.

All up, this year’s line-up features 113 films from 56 countries. There’s 12 world premieres, 83 Australian premieres, 60 features, five packages of short films, and a range of events and activations. Running from August 6-23, it remains a showcase for some of the finest independent and arthouse films from around the world and Australia.

By now we all have a pretty good idea of how streaming films online works: you visit, select the films you want to see, buy a ticket and watch from the comfort of your own home. But this is a film festival, so things are a little different. For starters, some of the films are only available to watch at a specific time for that full “we’re all in this together” festival feel. Tickets for sessions are also limited, which means that some films, including the opening night screening of Poor Cow, the MSO performance of Last & First Men, and feature documentary Boys State, have already sold out.

If you’re after a more curated experience, there’s a collection of film bundles that’ll be available to purchase once the festival begins. These packs include topics such as Coming of Age, Dark Thriller, Music and LGBTQIA+, while those after a deeper dive can choose from ten packs covering World Cinema, Documentary, and Cinephile – and if you’re more interested in a double feature, there’s two packs covering comedy and post-apocalypse.

There’s a wide range of free content this year, including the five short film bundles: Australian Shorts, International Shorts, Animation Shorts, Documentary Shorts, and a MIFF retrospective. One of the major highlights of the free schedule is a retrospective screening of Rolf de Heer’s jazz odyssey Dingo, premiering in a new restoration. The story of a small-town West Australian trumpet player on a quest to reunite with his jazz hero, it’s the first (and last) feature film role for jazz great Miles Davis.

With so much on offer audiences are definitely spoilt for choice by this year’s line-up. While many of the features and shorts are available to watch across the duration of the festival, here’s our pick for the top five films you’ll only have one chance to see.

On the Record

A searing examination of #MeToo inside the music industry and Black culture, this shines a spotlight on the price paid by former Def Jam Records A&R manager Drew Dixon after speaking out against rap mogul Russell Simmons. It’s not her story alone: other alleged victims of Simmons’ predation also speak of their traumas, while commentators including #MeToo founder Tarana Burke offer insights into the challenges Black women are subjected to when seeking justice and speaking out.

Only available to view on Sunday 9 August, 7pm AEST

Black Bear

Aubrey Plaza steals the spotlight in director Lawrence Michael Levine’s devious psychodrama about a creatively blocked filmmaker who wedges herself between a squabbling couple. Creatively blocked, Allison (Plaza) heads to a lakeside retreat owned by a couple of friends. There she finds their relationship issues the perfect fuel for her creative fires – until her exploitation of their dramas goes too far. With star support from Sarah Gadon and Christopher Abbott, it’s both a dark game of manipulation and an exploration of the fine line between creativity and exploitation.

Only available to view on Wednesday 12 August, 7pm


Director Benh Zeitlin’s long-awaited follow-up to Beasts of the Southern Wild is a contemporary reimagining of Peter Pan set in the American south. Here Wendy (Devine France) follows Peter to a mysterious island to escape the monotony of her daily existence, only to find things aren’t quite as simple as she’s hoped. With a compelling lead performance and timely environmental themes, Zetlin has created a visually stunning take on a classic tale.

Only available to view on Saturday 15 August, 7pm AEST

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky

MIFF 2020 ambassador Steven Oliver’s response to the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing invites audiences to look at the arrival of the HMS Endeavour through First Nation eyes in this MIFF world premiere. Featuring performances from Indigenous artists including Trials, Birdz, Kev Carmody, Mau Power, Fred Leone, Alice Skye and Mo’Ju, it’s a fresh and funny feature that celebrates resistance, survival and the power of connection to Country.

Only available to view on Sunday 16 August, 7pm AEST


Acclaimed director Pablo Larraín brings Gael García Bernal together with newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo for his latest dance-drama. Set in the vibrant port city of Valparaíso, Chile, this drama about a couple falling apart after a failed adoption is set to a throbbing electro-synth score by lauded Chilean-American composer Nicolas Jaar. Sometimes when the tension in your life proves to be too much, the only way to set yourself free is to hit the dancefloor.

Only available to view on Saturday 22 August, 7pm AEST

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