Our top picks for MIFF 2017

Staff share what they’re planning to see at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) this year. You can find the full program here.

Jemima Bucknell is excited for a very special Australian film event.

MIFF is just the best time of year for the Melbourne film scene. I’m looking forward to new things from the cinema landscapers like Terence Malick with Song to Song, Luca Guadagnino with Call Me by Your Name, Todd Haynes with Wonderstruck, Michael Hanake with Happy End, Nana and Simon with My Happy Family and Fatih Akin with In the Fade. I’m also planning to see the late Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, 24 Frames.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing The Lost City of Z twice already and it contains one of the greatest final shots of the recent cinema, so definitely go seek out the latest from James Gray.

Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s new film The Silent Eye, a doco on New York musician Cecil Taylor will have its Melbourne premiere. Courtin-Wilson makes jazz of the cinema, and is a unique and uncompromising Australian director. His doco on Aboriginal actor Jack Charles, Bastardy, will also be screening as part of a MIFF premiere fund retrospective.

Finally, a chance to see Tracey Moffatt’s BeDevil screen in 35mm is a very special Australian film event and possibly the most anticipated film of the festival for me.

Nina Kenwood is in the mood for feel-good films.

I’m in the mood for feel-good films at the moment, so I have browsed this year’s program with an eye for funny films, inspiring films, films with a big beating heart at their centre, and films that might have a touch of romance.

To that end, Australian rom-com Ali’s Wedding looks like it will hit all my sweet spots and I can’t wait to see it. So does Patti Cake$, about a young woman with big dreams of being a rapper. STEP , a documentary about a dance group in Baltimore, made me feel like happy crying just from watching the trailer. That’s Not Me is a funny, endearing film about a young Australian woman whose twin is famous, and it looks terrific. Ingrid Goes West, while hardly feel-good, does look darkly funny and highly entertaining.

Song To Song has an amazing cast (Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman) and is described as a ‘rock ‘n' roll romance’, which bumps it into must-see category for me. Let The Sunshine In is a French romantic comedy starring Juliette Boniche that is tagged on the MIFF website with the words ‘Paris’ and ‘sexy’, so that’s two ticks from me.

The House of Z, a documentary about fashion designer Zac Posen, looks creatively inspiring and My Year With Helen, a documentary about Helen Clark, looks professionally inspiring.

Finally, Person to Person sounds intimate, quirky, and hopefully delightful.

Stella Charls can’t stop watching the trailer for Patti Cake$.

Gaining Ground, a program dedicated to showcasing women filmmakers working in New York in the 70s and 80s, was the highlight of my MIFF last year. I’m so happy that this year’s festival is following that success with Pioneering Woman, a selection of Australian should-be classics made in the 1980s and early 1990s and all directed by women. It’s ridiculous that I’ve never seen Nadia Tass’ The Big Steal – I’ve loved Tass’ recent Red Stitch productions of Annie Baker plays, and I’m far too excited at the thought of watching a teenage Ben Mendelsohn and Claudia Karvan on the big screen.

I’m so looking forward to the new Sally Potter film, The Party, a darkly comic satire of a broken England starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall and my all-time favourite, Patricia Clarkson, and hope to catch more of Potter’s work in the Sally Potter Retrospective stream. Other international features on my wish list include Michael Haneke’s Happy End, Daigo Matsui’s Japanese Girls Never Die, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time and all three features by South Korean director Hong Sang-soo – I’ve never seen his films before, and apparently that’s a tragedy that needs to be rectified!

I love the new True Crime doco stream, and am especially keen for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web. I never usually make time for animation, but have heard that My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is ridiculous fun. It has a cast of amazing voices including Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon.

Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster all sit high on my list of absolute favourite films of all time (Force Majeaure is definitely my #1), so I’m beyond thrilled that each director has a new film screening at MIFF this year: Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, Östlund’s The Square, Perry’s Golden Exits and Lanthimos’ Killing of a Sacred Deer.

And finally, the trailer I just can’t stop watching the trailer for Patti Cake$ – critics have been evangelical in their praise for Aussie newcomer Danielle Macdonald and I can’t wait to see her performance.

Chris Gordon has a foolproof method for tackling the jam-packed program.

I always find the MIFF program completely and utterly overwhelming. I’ve consequently learned that the best way for me to navigate this tremendous and program is to nominate specific time slots, and then select a film from what’s on offer at that time. This method also means that I end up seeing films that may not be my immediate choice for entertainment.

For example, I have a Sunday free at the beginning of the festival. My dream is to have a huge brunch, delicious and cosy, and then duck into MIFF to have my soul lifted by The Song Keepers. This documentary is central Australia’s answer to the Buena Vista Social Club, and tells the story of how women from the world’s oldest culture have preserved some of the world’s oldest sacred songs.

I’ll then hopefully have time for a quick glass of wine before I settle in to see one of this year’s headline films, Call Me by Your Name. This is an internationally co-produced, coming-of-age drama directed by Luca Guadagnino, and written by Guadagnino together with Jame Ivory and Walter Fasano. The film is based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman.

This schedule seems to me to be the perfect blend of rest and winter indulgence.

Bronte Coates is keen to experience a virtual reality film.

I ended up loving what I saw in last year’s Gaining Ground program stream, which featured films from female directors working in New York in the 70s and 80s, so I’m excited about this year’s Pioneering Women, which features films from Australian female directors made in the 80s and early 90s. My top picks are Gillian Armstrong’s musical comedy Starstruck, Tracey Moffatt’s trio of ghost stories BeDevil and Clara Law’s exploration of Asian emigration Floating Life.

I always love seeing documentaries at MIFF and this year has much to offer on this front – including three excellent films that look at the lives of young people. School Life journeys into the hallways and classrooms of the unique Headfort School in Ireland. STEP charts the senior year of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women step-dance team. And Swagger is blends fact and fantasy in its portrayal of teenagers in the the underprivileged Parisian bainlieue of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Also on my list is Spookers, about the most successful haunted attraction in the Southern Hemisphere. The trailer for this won me over instantly!

I’m also hoping to see one of the films in the festival’s Virtual Reality (VR) stream this year. There’s a diverse range of options on offer including Inside Manus, Step to the Line and Miyubi (which features a cameo of Jeff Goldblum).

And finally, I totally love the idea of the Sci-Fi Marathon, which kicks off at 9.30pm and features back-to-back showings of fan favourites. This one is unfortunately a pipe-dream for me however as I know I will not be able to stay awake!

MIFF runs from 3 to 20 August and you can find the full program here



Brian Selznick

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