With over 300 films being screened there’s definitely something for everyone at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival. In these days of blanket coverage and trailers that reveal the whole plot, we suggest picking something at random and experiencing the thrill of unknown cinema like in years gone by. But if you don’t want to go in totally blind, here are some recommended films to look out for.
10 FILMS TO SEEK OUT AT THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL
• FRANCES HA
Noah Baumbach (The Squid & The Whale, Writer The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) directs Greta Gerwig in this small budget, black-and-white comedy drama that feels like a mix of French New Wave, Woody Allen, and HBO’s Girls.
“Effortless and effervescent, Frances Ha is a small miracle of a movie, honest and funny with an aim that’s true.” Los Angeles Times
• THE ACT OF KILLING
Joshua Oppenheimer’s unique documentary has the perpetrators of the genocide that occurred in Indonesia in the 1960s re-enact their killings. An essential film on human nature.
“Among the most profound, formally complex, and emotionally overpowering documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s also, by turns and sometimes at once, luridly seductive and darkly comic and physically revolting.” Slate
• STORIES WE TELL
Sarah Polley’s documentary starts out as a personal journey into the story of her family, but becomes much more than that.
“A powerful and thoughtful film, it is also not what it at first seems, which is part of the point Polley appears to be interested in making. Can the truth ever actually be known about anything?” RogerEbert.com
• THE PAST
Director of the Oscar-winning A Separation, Asghar Farhadi, returns with another character driven, narratively complex drama, starring Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet).
“It is an intricate and often brilliant drama with restrained and intelligent performances; there is an elegantly patterned mosaic of detail, unexpected plot turns, suspenseful twists and revelations.” The Guardian
• UPSTREAM COLOR
A film that will lodge itself in your brain, leaving you wondering what exactly you saw long after you’ve left the cinema. Shane Carruth’s long-awaited, incredibly difficult to describe or define follow-up to Primer had critics falling over themselves to sing its praises.
“Part science fiction scare movie, part offbeat romance, part completely unclassifiable, “Color” is also one-man filmmaking of a remarkable sort.” Los Angeles Times
• COMPUTER CHESS
Andrew Bujalski’s part mock-documentary, part comedy, part ambiguous film focuses on a 1980s weekend man vs machine chess tournament.
“It’s the year’s most singular and adventurous movie to date, to the point where it feels not so much original—a word that conveys a strong sense of craft—as it does “isolated,” as in a mutant strain of a virus. What’s more, it’s fun, generating pleasure not from canned jokes or clichéd plot twists but simply from a sense of unhindered freedom.” The AV Club
• THE SPECTACULAR NOW
Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are the standout stars that make this much more than your average high school coming-of-age drama.
“Ordinary in some ways and extraordinary in others, The Spectacular Now benefits from an exceptional feel for its main characters on the parts of the director and lead actors.” The Hollywood Reporter
• AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS
Echoing the best of Terrence Malick, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star in this lyrical, yet intense, story of an outlaw who escapes from prison to reunite with his wife and daughter.
“The film is so singular, it’s hard to place… [Lowery’s] is truly a fresh voice, exhilarating to hear.” The Guardian
• FRUITVALE STATION
Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, Ryan Coogler directs the excellent Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Chronicle) in the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man gunned down by transit cops in 2009.
“Made with assurance and deep emotion, Fruitvale Station is more than a remarkable directing debut for 26-year-old Ryan Coogler. It’s an outstanding film by any standard.” Los Angeles Times
• I’M SO EXCITED!
Pedro Almodovar goes light after his dark explorations of The Skin I live In, in this camp, outrageous comedy set on airplane.
“It’s high time Pedro had a lark. The buoyant and bawdy I’m So Excited plays like a to-hell-with-it-all riff from this seminal Spanish auteur, an excuse to gather his stock company for a breezy 90-minute party.” Time Out New York
Check out the full program here.
The festival runs from 25 July – 11 August at various venues around the city.