For eighteen days in August, MIFF is once again a film lover’s Christmas. Running August 2–19 at cinemas all over the Melbourne CBD, here’s a quick look at some highlights of the 2018 program.
The opening night film is a promising one: American actor-turned-director Paul Dano’s debut film Wildlife, starring Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Australian teenager Ed Oxenbould, charts the collapse of a 1960s American family. It received great reviews at the recent Cannes, and it’s good to see Oxenbould getting a foothold on the world stage.
Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda brings two new films, including his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters. Ever controversial Argentinian Gaspar Noé (Love, Enter the Void) documents a bad trip in Climax; Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (Salesman, A Separation) relocates to Spain to reunite Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Everybody Knows; and you won’t want to miss Scottish auteur Lynne Ramsay’s long-awaited thriller You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Australians will also get their first chance to see Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which first went into production twenty years ago. Better be good, Terry.
Australian comedy The Merger is being presented at a special gala event. Comedian Damian Callinan directs and stars in this film about an ex-AFL legend who trains up refugees to play in the local footy team. It’s the kind of underdog stories Australians have been making since The Castle, and it looks genuinely funny.
Looking beyond the big hitters, there’s a triumphant return from Crystal Moselle, director of The Wolfpack. Skate Kitchen delves into the world of teen female skaters, casting real skate kids and bringing her documentary sensibility to a narrative film.
As ever, Australian film is well represented. The debut from Melbourne filmmaker Alena Lodkina Strange Colours is an eerie, mesmerising trip to the opal mines of outback New South Wales; Acute Misfortune tells the story of the time journalist Erik Jensen spent with artist Adam Cullen, and is based on Jensen’s award-winning book; and 1929 silent Melbourne crime caper The Cheaters has been painstakingly restored.
On the documentary front, there are some fascinating explorations of the weird and extreme times we live in. Encounter Syrian extremism in Of Fathers and Sons; the surprising movement of people who think the earth is flat in Behind the Curve; a look inside the Melbourne independent music community in Now Sound: Melbourne’s Listening; and the virtual relationships of China’s live-streaming culture in People’s Republic of Desire.
Looking at the past, Three Identical Strangers tells the bizarre tale of triplets separated at birth for extremely unethical research purposes, and there’s a new take on the mother and daughter stars of cult classic Grey Gardens in That Summer.
The highlight of the Music on Film strand is Nico, 1988, a dramatised look at this uncompromising songwriter and performer in the last months of her life. Other musical outsiders are profiled in some fascinating documentaries, including comic performance artist Frank Sidebottom Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story and the fans who take their obsessions with One Direction and Backstreet Boys very, very seriously I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story.
This year’s festival ends on a joyful note with The Coming Back Out Ball. The closing night movie is a documentary of Melbourne’s LGBTQI elders telling their story and celebrating their lives against the backdrop of the same-sex plebiscite.
There’s plenty more. It’s the only time of year you can see a psychedelic spaghetti western get a standing ovation from a packed theatre, then run across town to catch a documentary about asylum seekers. Here’s to another two weeks of cinematic binging.
The Melbourne International Film Festival runs August 2–19. See the full program and ticket details.