What we’re watching at MIFF 2015

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


Nina Kenwood loves American indies

As always, there are a ton of American indie films I want to see: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (I’ll cry, I’ll laugh, my heart will be warmed), Sleeping With Other People (sex comedy starring Alison Brie – I’m in), The Overnight (sex comedy starring Adam Scott – I’m in), The End of the Tour (I like a literary film) and the closing night gala film, Mistress America (looks utterly delightful).

I’ve read raves about psychological thriller The Witch, so I’m very interested in that. I’ve also read many good things about The Lobster, which looks strange and moving, and won this year’s Cannes Jury Prize. Japanese film Our Little Sister, adapted from a graphic novel, is described as a gentle domestic drama, and sounds right up my alley. In Australian films, Holding The Man looks fantastic (I plan to read the book first, of course) and The Daughter also caught my eye.

In documentaries, one of the podcasts I listen to did a segment on Do I Sound Gay, and it sounded terrific, so I’m definitely keen to see that. I am also dying to see The Wolfpack.

Finally, I have never seen Grey Gardens and always, always wanted to, so this is an unmissable chance to see it for the first time on the big screen.


Jemima Bucknell says Grey Gardens is an essential cinema experience

Yorgos Lanthimos, and the ‘Greek Weird Wave’, have delivered some of the most interesting storytelling and performance art pieces to the screen of late; Alps remains one of my favourite films of the last decade. The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz is Lanthimos' first English-language venture, and I hope to attend both sessions of it.

Jafar Panahi’s Tehran Taxi, Nima Javadi’s Melbourne and Rakshan Banietmad’s Tales are also high on my list. The Iranian cinemascope is so rich and relevant, and especially in Panahi’s case, seems to become instantly historical. Panahi redefines cinema with each venture, so I expect nothing short of excellence from him.

Here are some of my other initial picks at a first look through the program:

  • A Perfect Day is a Spanish-US black comedy set in Bosnia in the mid-90s which looks fascinating, starring Tim Robbins and Benicio del Toro.
  • For local stuff, I’m looking forward to Ecco Homo, Downriver (I followed this film’s crowdfunding campaign), and a chance to see some of the Gulpilil films on the big screen for the first time.
  • I was blown away by The Act of Killing a couple of years ago so I expect Joshua Oppenheimer to deliver big time with The Look of Silence.
  • Grey Gardens is an essential cinema experience that I’ve had before, but you ought to go if you haven’t!
  • I’m also very keen on French film, Love, which will be screening in 3D and looks very sexy. I’ve watched that trailer a few times.

I’m sure there will be loads of other recommendations as soon as I have read and researched the program cover to cover!


Tam Patton is psyched about this year’s Backbeat program

I’m feeling pretty psyched about the Backbeat program at MIFF this year – it’s always good, but this lot seems particularly good.

There’s no way I’ll be able to see them all but I will definitely be attending a screening of Theory of Obscurity, a film about the legendary cult San Francisco band The Residents, whose identities remain a secret even after forty years of making some of the strangest, most idiosyncratic music I’ve ever heard. I will also certainly be watching A Poem is a Naked Person, a rediscovered profile of Leon Russell filmed in his Seventies heyday by Les Blank (who directed the incredible Burden of Dreams).

B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin looks like it will have rare archival footage of Nick Cave’s most compelling period, and Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington DC will be packed with incredibly rare footage of Hardcore punk legends Minor Threat and Bad Brains.

Lastly, 808 is a documentary about a drum machine. But not just any drum machine – this one changed the history of music and is a technological touchstone for an era of incredible musical diversity. This film looks like cultural archaeology at its very best.

Oh and there’s a film Neil Young directed in 1982 called Human Highway. I’ve seen it and it’s bonkers. It stars Dennis Hopper and DEVO, among others, and is deeply strange. That’s about as high a recommendation as I can give.


Stella Charls says Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is unmissable

MIFF is the reason I love winters in Melbourne – trawling through the program is a blissful experience! I can’t quite limit what I’m looking forward to seeing into a succinct paragraph, but I am especially excited about some of the filmmakers that will be festival guests this year.

Documentary maker Joshua Oppenheimer will be here presenting The Look of Silence, his follow-up to the remarkable The Act of Killing. Here Oppenheimer revisits the 1965 Indonesian genocide, this time from the perspective of the victims. Sebastián Silva will be a guest of the festival, in honour of a retrospective of his work, including his most recent feature, Nasty Baby, which took out the award for Best Queer Film at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and sounds like a dark, intriguing examination of parenthood. MIFF are also showcasing a retrospective of the Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny, who will be guests of MIFF – I’m excited (but nervous) to see their latest, Heaven Knows What, who’s star (and former heroin-addict) Arielle Holmes also wrote the screenplay based on her own experiences of drug addiction on the Upper West Side.

As an antidote to these bleak picks, I’m booking in for MIFF’s closing night gala – Mistress America, co-written by mumblecore darlings Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, directed by Baumbach and starring Gerwig alongside newcomer Lola Kirke, who’s been receiving rave reviews for her comedic performance. Gerwig and Baumbach’s latest collaboration, Frances Ha, was a complete joy to watch.

Sleeping With Other People and The Overnight are my other picks for smart, subversive romantic comedies – the former is written and directed by Leslye Headland, who’s previous play and film, Bachelorette was deliciously dark and hilarious, while the latter is produced by the Duplass brothers and Adam Scott (no further endorsement required).

Finally, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster sounds surreal and unmissable – a deadpan satire of modern romance depicting a world where single people are herded into hotels where they have 45 days to find a mate before they are turned into an animal of their choosing and hunted in the woods. With John C Reilly, Léa Seydoux and a whole bunch of other gems. Sign me up.


Emily Harms is looking forward to Jafar Panahi’s latest offering

I always feel overwhelmed when I finally get my hands on the MIFF programme. There are so many brilliant films I want to see that I go into a frenzy trying to work out which ones I definitely can’t miss out on by deducting the films that I know will get a theatrical release post festival. This is by all means not a comprehensive list but instead just a few of my highlights. I am particularly excited about seeing the Australian premiere of Paul Cox’s new film, Force of Destiny, on opening night. I am also a huge fan of Noah Baumbach’s work and so can’t wait to be see Mistress America on closing night too.

In between opening and closing nights, I am booking in to see The Lobster the new film and English-language debut from director Yorgos Lanthimos that won this year’s Cannes Jury Prize. It is a deadpan absurdist satire on modern romance. I’m also planning to see Stinking Heaven. Set in New Jersey in 1990, this film about a group of recovering addicts living together has all the right ingredients for a knock-out pitch-black comedy – social cohesion, paranoia and breakdown.

Another highlight for me is Tehran Taxi, winner of the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film at Berlin. Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, was banned from filmmaking in Iran in 2010. He has since smuggled out the acclaimed This is Not a Film and Closed Curtain that were both at MIFF in 2013 while under house arrest. In Tehran Taxi, he drives passengers around Tehran in a camera-equipped taxi for a playful and insightful look at his country.

I also want to see Mavis! – the documentary about Mavis Staples and her life as a fiery front woman of family band The Staple Singers. And Tea Time too, which looks like such a joy! This is a Chillean documentary about a bunch of women who for the last 50 years have met over tea and cakes to chat about their lives and loves. And… there’s also City of Gold, a documentary on the enigmatic LA Times’ food critic Jonathan Gold capturing the diversity and vitality of LA along the way.

Bring it all on!


Bronte Coates' schedule is doco-heavy

As per usual, my picks for MIFF are doco-heavy; they just always sounds so freaking interesting.

There’s Tea Time (the premise reminds me of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Embroideries, which is a favourite book of mine), The Wolfpack (about six brothers whose lives have been mostly confined to a cramped Manhattan apartment), Fresh Dressed (about the the ascent of street style), Storm Children – Book One (footage of the devastation left by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, months after media attention abated), Racing Extinction (the gripping follow-up to The Cove), and SO many more.

So, also as usual, I’m finding it almost impossible to choose.

While I don’t actually follow sport games per se, I absolutely love, love reading and learning about sporting culture and the lives of professional athletes. And my two picks from the This Sporting Life program are Graceful Girls, about the physically demanding and almost forgotten world of callisthenics, and Tokyo Olympiad, a record of the Japanese athletes during the 1964 Olympic Games.

Outside of docos, I’m extremely excited for Simon Stone’s first foray into filmmaking with The Daughter. His play, The Government Inspector, is one of my favourite ever live shows and I can’t wait to see how he translates to the screen.

Holding the Man

Holding the Man

Timothy Conigrave

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