Our top picks for MIFF 2018

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

Marie Matteson recommends queer content, Icelandic films & Frederick Wiseman

Whenever the Miff guide comes out the first thing I do is pore over the pictures looking for signs of queer content. This year I am happy to report that I will be heading off to see The Miseducation of Cameron Post, adapted from the popular YA novel and directed by Desiree Akhavan, whose first feature Appropriate Behaviour was a personal favourite at MIFF a few years ago.

After finding queer content, I then take the approach of looking for Icelandic films. There are two this year I’m hoping to see: Woman at War, a Cannes-winning musical tale of a woman on an environmental crusade, and And Breathe Normally, a debut feature which earned Isold Uggadottir the best director award at Sundance.

I also have an abiding passion for women’s sports movies, and you have to keep an eye out because they don’t appear every year. But in 2018 we have Skate Kitchen, a narrative feature from the director of The Wolfpack, starring skateboarders playing themselves. I can’t wait!

My final picks is the highlight of any festival – a Frederick Wiseman documentary. He is now taking us inside the New York Public Library in Ex Libris. I have been watching Wiseman documentaries since I first came of age as an 18-year-old in the 90s at the Sydney film festival and they are always masterful. He provides such beautiful space to contemplate institutions and the people who inhabit them.

Nina Kenwood is looking forward to a number of book adaptations this year

I’m especially looking forward to seeing several book adaptations at this year’s festival: Acute Misfortune (I read and loved the book several years ago), The Miseducation of Cameron Post (I’ve been meaning to read the YA novel for years), The Children Act (I really enjoyed this Ian McEwan novel when it was released some years ago) and Juliet, Naked (I like Nick Hornby’s work, and I’m a sucker for a rom-com).

In documentaries, I’m dying to see Three Identical Strangers, especially after spoiling myself somewhat and reading multiple articles about this completely fascinating story.

Ellen Cregan has a deep love of zombie movies

Erik Jensen’s biography of artist Adam Cullen affected me greatly when I first read it a few years ago. I found it to be at once heartbreaking and very fascinating. I think translating this book to film wouldn’t have been an easy task, so am very interested to see the adaptation, Acute Misfortune.

Also, I have a deep love of zombie movies, so I really want to see The Cured, which is set in a world where the zombie apocalypse has been and gone, and those infected have been cured and returned to society. It looks extremely terrifying, which makes me even more excited to see it.

Finally, there are lots of documentaries on this year’s MIFF line-up that appeal to me. Like many others, I am a big fan of drag and drag culture, so I’d quite like to see Paris is Burning on the big screen. Also on my list are two other documentaries: A Woman Captured, a true-life account of modern slavery, and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, about Vivienne Westwood. I have been obsessed with Westwood since I was probably about 13 and discovered the Sex Pistols. This documentary looks beyond Vivienne’s involvement with the London punk scene of the 1970s and into her later life as a highly accomplished fashion designer and political activist.

Lian Hingee has an enormous wishlist

I had a pretty quiet MIFF last year, but my 2018 list is as long as my arm and growing.

I love creepy urban fantasies, so Tigers Are Not Afraid is definitely on my watch list. Director Issa Lopez is one of a rare breed of female horror directors, and her fantastical story about Mexico’s drug war looks like an contemporary urban Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m also super keen to see The Night Eats the World, which is an original and smart zombie movie that looks like it should appeal to people (like me) who were hugely disappointed by Brad Pitt’s World War Z adaptation.

I’m determined to see The Widowed Witch, a feminist Chinese fable about a woman who pretends to be a shaman after having been widowed three times. The worst film I’ve ever seen at MIFF was Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, but it’s been a while and I think I’m ready to give him another chance – The Man Who Killed Don Quixote stars Adam Driver as a film director whose eccentric star becomes convinced he’s Don Quixote. I also really, really want to see Book Week because I love stories about small communities that come together, and when they come together because of books it just hits me right in the feels.

Speaking of books – my #1 must-see documentary this year is Ex-Libris about the New York Public Library, because it’s one of my favourite places in the world. Other documentaries on my docket this year include Speak Up which looks like Spellbound for public speaking; Pick of the Litter which is a feel-good film about guide dogs (the trailer made me cry) and People’s Republic of Desire which looks like an absolutely terrifying, dystopian, Black Mirror-style story about live-streaming celebrity in China.

Bronte Coates is tempted by an all-night Nicholas Cage movie marathon

This year MIFF is showing a full 12 hours of Nicolas Cage films, back-to-back, at Con-A-Thon, and I’m extremely tempted to attend. Two of my favourites of his films are included (Con Air and Raising Arizona), as well a classic I’ve been wanting to see for a while (The Wicker Man), and I think the whole night will have an excellent vibe. Sadly, I don’t think I’d be able to stay awake for it…

So some of my realistic picks are The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a film based on Emily M. Danforth’s YA novel about a teen girl sent to conversion therapy; Paris is Burning, a classic doco that MIFF is showing as part of their Fashion X Cinema program stream which I’d love to see on the big screen; On Happiness Road, a gorgeous looking animation about a young woman in Taiwan; and, Over the Limit, a documentary about the highly competitive world of rhythmic gymnastics.

Finally, watching a Frederick Wiseman documentary has begun to feel like a MIFF tradition for me – I really love how meditative and soothing they are. This year’s program includes Ex Libris, which is his ode to the buzzing hive of the New York Public Library.

Chris Gordon is focussing on local cinema this year

There is so many films to choose and so little time… So this year I’m planning to focus completely on the Australian programming.

Top of my list is Acute Misfortune which is all about artist Adam Cullen and directed by Readings alumni Thomas Wright. The film is based on the biography of the same title by Erik Jensen which I’ve read and enjoyed.

I’m very excited to see Book Week, directed by Heath Davis. This film centres on the dreaded Book Week parade from the perspective of high school English teacher Nicholas Cutler. Once a literary enfant terrible, Cutler is tantalisingly close to a literary comeback and is under the impression that his life is about to change for the better… But is it? I think there will be laugh-out-loud moments to be found here.

Both these films were shot at the Blue Mountains and I’ve no doubt that the experience of seeing all that beautiful countryside will make me want to visit New South Wales. I will be holding MIFF responsible for any flight tickets I end up purchasing…

Closer to home, I am also looking forward to seeing West of Sunshine, directed by Jason Raftopoulos. This film has been shot around Melbourne and centres on a dad juggling his various commitments: employment, fatherhood and a violent debt to a loan shark. When this film was shown at Venice Film Festival, the director was given a five minute standing ovation.