This is another of the year's highlights I haven't had time to post about earlier, namely the Melbourne International Film Festival. At MIFF 2017 between 4 - 20 August I saw 55 films from all over the world.
My favourite MIFF venue is unquestionably the Forum Theatre (1929) which dates from a time when movie-going was a real occasion. The former stalls area, pictured below, has been turned into a venue for live performances, but much of its original splendour has been retained. During MIFF the area is transformed into the Festival Lounge and it's where Shane and I most like to hang out in between films. Despite being Heritage listed, the Forum has had something of a chequered history, so this year we were delighted to discover that a major restoration of the building is under way.
Directly below, I'm star-gazing at the twinkling lights in the firmament of the Forum Theatre 'sky' (see above).
Below is Shane, still deep in thought about the movie we'd just seen. (From memory, it was Final Portrait. Despite Shane's pensive demeanour, we loved the movie. It starred Geoffrey Rush, who was superb as the artist Giacometti. The Q&A afterwards was a delight and we discovered that, like Giacometti, Rush is born writer of limericks).
In the theatre area upstairs a full house of MIFF-goers awaits the screening of the documentary, The Song Keepers:
The screening was followed by a terrific Q&A with its director, Naina Sen (pictured right):
Below are the films I saw. It's hard, if not downright impossible to pick a favourite, so I won't even try. Among those that have lingered most strongly in my mind are: Radiance, Phantom Boy, Namatjira Project, Invention for Destruction, A Man of Integrity, Insyriated, Faces Places, The Teacher, Boy on the Bridge, Sami Blood, Ethel and Ernest, The Song Keepers, Claire's Camera, Happy End, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Loving Vincent, The Party and Final Portrait.
Two old favourites, Orlando (part of a season of Sally Potter films) and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (from a season of science fiction classics) were as fresh, original, visually arresting and thought-provoking as I remembered them; the latter film was as disturbingly relevant as if it were made yesterday.
No doubt I've left several worthy movies off this list, so it's likely I'll return to it with further additions.
Fri 4 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Fresh from Cannes, Naomi Kawase’s Radiance is a gentle evocation of loss and acceptance.
Misako writes voiceovers for vision-impaired film viewers, attempting to conjure the complexity of cinematic images through description alone. Presenting her latest work to a panel, she is confronted by Masaya – a renowned, now partially sighted photographer – who condemns her writing as overly subjective. Despite these volatile beginnings, an unlikely relationship begins to flower, with Misako and Masaya drawn together by their love of images and shared experience of loss.
A sensitive depiction of loneliness and disability, Radiance is the latest film by Cannes regular Naomi Kawase (Still the Water, MIFF 2014) and is a drama rich with ideas and sensory stimuli, keenly aware of life’s fragile beauty.
"[Kawase] is the rare director who portrays disability, illness or old age as normal aspects of existence, not unique tragedies." – RogerEbert.com
D Naomi Kawase P Naoyo Kinoshita, Masa Sawada WS MK2 Films L Japanese w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|A QUIET DREAM|
Fri 4 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
Three high-profile Korean directors go in front of the camera to star in a poetic urban comedy by Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu, which opened the 2016 Busan Film Festival.
Ye-ri (Han Ye-ri) is a young woman who was born in China, but travelled to South Korea to meet her Korean father, who is ill. To support him she works in a bar, which is frequented by three sketchy and besotted characters: Ik-june (Yang Ik-june, Breathless, MIFF 2009), a boastful hoodlum who has been unceremoniously thrown out of his gang; Jong-bin (Yoon Jong-bin, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, MIFF 2012), Ye-ri's clueless landlord; and Jeong-beom (Park Jung-bum, Alive MIFF 2015), a North Korean defector who has just been fired from his job for having "sad eyes".
All three men have eyes for Ye-ri, but also enjoy each other's company, and among their jostling quips and pleas for her attention, a surreal and comforting camaraderie grows between these overlooked members of Seoul's underclass. Zhang's latest film is a funny and suitably dreamy ride, in glorious black and white.
"This quirky slice of fringe existence on the grungy side of Seoul is … a whimsical, frequently poetic urban rhapsody buoyed by its deadpan dropout protagonists." – Variety
D/S Zhang Lu P Leila Jo WS M-Line Distribution L Korean, Mandarin w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
|WAITING FOR GIRAFFES|
Fri 4 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
The only zoo in the Occupied Territories lost many of its animals in the last intifada; now its cheerfully determined vet is on a mission to see giraffes return to Palestine.
Veterinarian and taxidermist Dr Sami Khadr has an understated but undeniable sense of humour, even in the face of a seemingly insurmountable problem: he needs to convince the burghers of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) that his little animal park in the confined, walled-off city of Qalqilya, on the contested Israeli–West Bank border, is fit for the world's tallest mammal!
Beloved by locals as an oasis of respite in a political (and sometimes literal) minefield, this unexpected zoo and natural history museum is a symbol of hope and cooperation that has survived years of mayhem and deprivation. But to house a giraffe, it will need to become so much more. With a light touch and an eye for the droll, Dutch documentarian Marco de Stefanis charts Dr Sami's journey through the bureaucracy and barriers as he tries to meet the EAZA's minimum standards, but with limited finances, untrained staff and a war-ravaged locale, he's got his work cut out for him.
As a portrait of an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation, Waiting for Giraffes is charming; as a real-life allegory of the Israeli–Palestinian predicament, it's unique.
D Marco de Stefanis P Volya Films WS Cat&Docs L English, Hebrew, Arabic w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Sat 5 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Featuring the vocal talents of Vincent D'Onofrio, Fred Armisen and Jared Padalecki, Phantom Boy finds the team behind the Oscar-nominated A Cat in Paris moving to New York, where a bedridden boy's imaginary flights of fancy might just save the city.
Young cancer patient Leo is stuck in hospital for chemotherapy treatment, bored and frustrated until he discovers he's developed an extraordinary ability: his spirit can leave his body at will, roaming and exploring the city. Meanwhile, a supervillain is holding New York City to ransom, threatening to destroy the city's infrastructure with a deadly computer virus. When a cop named Alex fails to take down the villain on his own, he discovers that Leo may be the only one able to help.
Writer/director team Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli reunite for the first time since their renowned Oscar-nominated feature A Cat in Paris. Their new film is a playful take on the cops and robbers and superhero genres, underpinned with an emotionally poignant tale. A uniquely French pop-culture take on New York, Phantom Boy is filled with nods to the likes of Batman, Dick Tracy, Manhattan and The Sopranos, and features a voice cast that includes Vincent D'Onofrio (Jurassic World), Fred Armisen (Portlandia) and Jared Padalecki (Supernatural).
"This film packs an emotional wallop, but it also takes care of its noir crime-fighting business with considerable panache." – Epoch Times
Unclassified: no age restrictions. MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 10+
D Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli P Folimage, Lunanime S Alain Gagnol WS Doc & Film International TD DCP/2015
Sat 5 Aug 2017 1:15 pm
An extraordinary firsthand account of the international battle to reclaim the artwork and heritage of one of Australia's most important Indigenous figures: Albert Namatjira.
Albert Namatjira was one of those rare artists who actually changed the course of history. The founder of the Indigenous art movement, he became an international icon and was the first Indigenous person to be granted Australian citizenship. But Namatjira was never fully accepted by white Australia, and after being wrongfully imprisoned in 1959, he soon died, despondent and broken. Then, in 1983, the Australian Government sold the rights to his work to an art dealer – despite the artist himself having left it all to his wife and children.
Now, almost 60 years after Namatjira's death, his family are seeking to regain copyright. Working with the Namatjira family and art and social justice organisation Big hART, filmmaker Sera Davies takes us on a journey from the sun-blasted deserts of their Aranda homeland to the lavish opulence of Buckingham Palace, all while remembering and celebrating the legacy of the great artist.
A captivating story of Australian race relations lensed through the bitterly contested history of one of our most venerated figures, Namatjira Project the film grew out of Big hART’s award-winning theatre production about Namatjira’s life, staged with Belvoir Street Theatre. It is both a powerful, important addition to the canon of modern Indigenous culture, and a part of the ongoing campaign for justice for the Namatjira family.
D Sera Davies P Sophia Marinos, Julia Overton, Lenie Namatjira, Gloria Pannka Dist Umbrella Entertainment L English, Western Aranda w/English subtitles TD DCP/2015
The Namatjira family, Actor Trevor Jamieson and Producer Sophia Marinos will attend the session on Saturday 5 August to introduce the film and take part in an extended post-screening Q&A.
|THE GOLD DIGGERS|
Sat 5 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Sally Potter’s debut feature film stars Julie Christie on a quest to find the truth about the nature of money, in this examination of the origins and currents of power.
Celeste (Collette Laffont) works in a bank as a computer clerk and has become fascinated by the relationship between gold and power. Ruby (Julie Christie) is a film star eager to explore her identity. As their quests become entangled, the two women come to realise that there is a link between feminine beauty and the masculine obsession with economic supremacy.
Made with an entirely female cast and crew, this entrancing film is reminiscent of the tableaus of Bertolt Brecht and the black-and-white artistry of Ingmar Bergman. Even more striking is the way the film draws from and swiftly critiques the imagery and concerns of classical Hollywood cinema, and illustrates a hypothesis on the way femininity is constructed on screen that came to influence and define feminist cinema of the 1980s.
"A feminist sci-fi musical extravaganza … Remains consistently fresh and unpredictable." – Sight and Sound
D/P Sally Potter S Lindsay Cooper, Rose English, Sally Potter Print Source BFI TD DCP/1983
Sat 5 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
MIFF Patron Geoffrey Rush shines as Alberto Giacometti in Stanley Tucci’s richly detailed and witty snapshot of several weeks the artist spent trying to paint author James Lord.
In 1964, celebrated Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti invited young American art critic James Lord to sit for a quick portrait in his Paris studio. But as the quick portrait drags into days, and then weeks, and Lord is forced to cancel flight after flight home to New York, the two men cultivate an odd bond halfway between friendship and frustration.
Adapting Lord’s acclaimed memoir of the occasion, Tucci’s first film behind the camera in 10 years finds him buoyantly depicting a master artist at work, and the begrudging but supportive patience of his admiring subject. Rush is magnetic and hilariously droll as the obsessively self-critical, perpetually cursing walking chaos of Giacometti, with Armie Hammer perfectly sangfroid opposite him as Lord. Also featuring Tony Shalhoub, Clémence Poésy and Sylvie Testud, Final Portrait is an affectionate, intimate and charismatic coda for a creative genius.
"Highly entertaining … a very amusing, astringent chamber piece of a movie " – The Guardian
D/S Stanley Tucci P Gail Egan, Nik Bower, Ilann Girard Dist Transmission Films TD DCP/2017
MIFF Patron Geoffrey Rush will be at both sessions to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.
Presented by Sofitel Melbourne On Collins
|INVENTION FOR DESTRUCTION|
Sun 6 Aug 2017 11:30 am
Often called the Czech Méliès, Karel Zeman was one of the world's most inventive animators and his uniquely poetic magnum opus is the first steampunk film, gloriously bringing the stories and visuals of Jules Verne to life.
Evil pirates kidnap an ingenious but naïve scientist (and his assistant, who narrates), take him back to their volcano lair and compel him to build them a WMD in this amalgamation of several of Verne's tales – primarily the little-known 1896 novel Facing the Flag.
Plot aside, the film's extraordinary aesthetic will take your breath away. Zeman faithfully translated onscreen the original 19th-century steel engravings that illustrated Verne's novels using a combination of live action; hand-painted, cut-out and stop-motion animation; puppetry, models and miniatures; and more. The result is an eye-popping cinematic tableau unlike anything seen before, or since, although filmmakers from Jan Švankmajer and Terry Gilliam to Ray Harryhausen, Tim Burton and Wes Anderson have tried.
The most successful Czechoslovakian film of all time, it won several awards, including the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Film Festival, and was named one of the ten best films of 1958 by Alain Resnais. Now digitally restored, Invention for Destruction is a true big-screen occasion.
"In the pantheon of the greatest hybrid animation/live action films ever made. Invention for Destruction is an imaginative delight, and a stunning personal achievement. Once seen, never forgotten." – Senses of Cinema
D Karel Zeman P Zdeněk Novák S František Hrubín WS Karel Zeman Museum L Czech w/English subtitles TD DCP/1958
As part of The Bigger Picture program, Invention for Destruction will be introduced by Dr Djoymi Baker from the Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.
The digital restoration of The Invention for Destruction is a part of the project Restoring The World of Fantasy. Restoring The World of Fantasy is a joint project of The Czech Film Foundation, Karel Zeman Museum and Czech Television. The aim of the project is to digitally restore within three years selected films produced by Karel Zeman to the finest quality, to screen them in cinemas and bring them to life again. The aim of the project is also to inform the public about the importance of the digital restoration.
Project partners are The Czech Film Foundation, The Karel Zeman Museum and Czech Television in cooperation with Universal Production Partners with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and with support of The Minister of Culture of Czech Republic Mgr. Daniel Herman.
|I AM NOT A WITCH|
Sun 6 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
A satirical and witty witches' brew of superstition and scapegoating, straight from Cannes Directors' Fortnight.
If you're female in Zambia, even witnessing another's bad luck can be cause for condemnation. For nine-year-old Shula, it means being branded a witch, sent to a camp and given two options: she can accept her new label and live the rest of her life tethered to a white ribbon, or get turned into a goat if she seeks justice and freedom.
Inspired by real-life rural witch camps in Africa, Rungano Nyoni makes the leap from BAFTA-nominated short filmmaker to assured feature writer/director with a funny, eye-opening effort. Never following the expected path, her full-length debut both exposes and finds the utter absurdity in an archaic practice that continues to subjugate women, as captured in lyrical detail by cinematographer David Gallego (Embrace of the Serpent).
"It's rare and exhilarating that a new filmmaker arrives on the scene so sure of herself and so willing to take bold, counter-intuitive chances." – Variety
D/S Rungano Nyoni P Juliette Grandmont, Emily Morgan Dist Madman Entertainment L English, Bemba, Nyanja, Tongan w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|THE SILENT EYE|
Sun 6 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
One of Australia's most innovative filmmakers captures two legends – free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor and modern dance artist Min Tanaka – in an intimate performance piece like no other.
Considered one of the architects of 20th-century free jazz alongside the likes of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor is a radical improviser who, at 88, continues to experiment with musical form. Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson, whose features Hail (MIFF 2011) and Ruin (2013) have placed him at the vanguard of Australian filmmaking, had wanted to make a film of Taylor's work since seeing the pianist live in New York some nine years ago.
Shot over three days in 2016 at Taylor's New York home, The Silent Eye bears witness to an intimate, wordless ballet between Taylor's improvised music and the movement of legendary Japanese dancer and butoh performer Min Tanaka. For 70 minutes, these two masters riff under the graceful lens of Germain McMicking's impressionistic photography, inviting the audience to experience a glimpse of the creative process at its most sublime.
D/P Amiel Courtin-Wilson WS 3:57 Film TD DCP/2017
Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson will be at both sessions to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.
Sun 6 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
The classic fairytale gets an anachronistically modern make-over in underground master Adolfo Arrietta's first narrative feature in over two decades.
It's the year 2000, and Prince Egon (Niels Schneider, a MIFF guest in 2011) is the heir to the throne of Letonia. A wannabe musician, he spends his time drumming, smoking and checking his phone until one day, during a flying lesson, Egon's tutor tells the prince about the nearby Kingdom of Kentz. Specifically, about the somniferous curse that befell it 100 years ago when its princess pricked her finger on a spindle.
Cutting between 2000 and 1900, Arrietta weaves a suitably dreamlike spell over his audience as he spools out his peculiar take on the tale, which finds Egon enlisting the help of a good fairy, now working for UNESCO as an archaeologist, to rescue the slumbering sovereign. Featuring Serge Bozon (Tip Top, MIFF 2013) and Mathieu Amalric (Le fils de Joseph, MIFF 2016) in supporting roles, Sleeping Beauty is the witty and whimsical, long-awaited vision of a singular filmmaker.
"Drags the Grimm Brothers' time-honoured fairytale right into the present day, but with all the unmistakable poetry and mischief we might expect from the director of Merlín." – Cineuropa
D/S Ado Arrietta P Nathalie Trafford, Eva Chillon WS Capricci Films L French w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
|THE IDEA OF A LAKE|
Mon 7 Aug 2017 11:00 am
A woman's idyllic childhood recollections are suffused with the tragedy of Argentina's recent past in Milagros Mumenthaler's follow-up to her award-winning Back to Stay.
Inès has just one picture of her father, a presumed victim of the Argentine state purges of the late 1970s. As she prepares for her own impending motherhood, she completes a photographic project inspired by reminiscences of summer family vacations, her memories tinged with childhood fantasy and the void left by her father's disappearance.
Swiss/Argentinian filmmaker Milagros Mumenthaler's directorial debut, Back to Stay (MIFF 2012), won the Golden Leopard at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival. The Idea of a Lake, her second feature, once more engages with themes of loss and troubled family relationships while simultaneously offering an investigation into the intimate consequences of national trauma.
"A higher-stakes canvas on which family complexity dovetails with a nation's painful politics and haunted history." – Senses of Cinema
D/S Milagros Mumenthaler P Violeta Bava, David Epiney, Rosa Martínez Rivero, Eugenia Mumenthaler WS Ruda Cine L Spanish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
|A MAN OF INTEGRITY|
Mon 7 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
From acclaimed Iranian writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof, this potent thriller – and winner of the prestigious Un Certain Regard Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – captures one man’s desperate battle to stand up to a corrupt system.
Direct from its acclaimed bow at Cannes, the latest from Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (Manuscripts Don’t Burn, MIFF 2013; Iron Island, MIFF 2005) is a bracing and impassioned work about one man’s fight to stand up to a corrupt system. In a remote village in the north of the country, simple goldfish farmer Reza is threatened when a private company, colluding with the government, muscles in to acquire land from the locals by any means necessary.
Writer/director Rasoulof – who was sentenced to jail along with compatriot filmmaker Jafar Panahi in 2010 – defied authorities to shoot the film in secret, creating a scathing critique of economic and bureaucratic intimidation that’s unlikely to be seen in his home country. A Man of Integrity is a riveting, angry thriller that tackles moral debate with nuance and vigour.
"A tense, enraging drama about corruption and injustice. Rasoulof’s fine screenplay resembles a classic tragedy." – Variety
D/P/S Mohammad Rasoulof WS The Match Factory L Farsi w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Mon 7 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
"A chilling, fast-moving study of a Syrian household under siege, Insyriated brings the everyday horror home with the kind of realism associated with the most gripping war films." – Hollywood Reporter
An urgent, timely experience in view of the current trauma affecting Syria, this tense thriller stars the great Hiam Abbass as Oum Yazan, a staunch matriarch trying to hold together her Damascus apartment under attack from the bombs, gunfire and domestic intruders outside.
Set almost entirely in the shell-shocked apartment, the second feature from accomplished cinematographer turned director Philippe Van Leeuw puts the audience in the harrowing predicament of Yazan's charges (her housemaid, father-in-law, young son, two daughters, their teenage friend, and a young couple with a baby) as they attempt to survive unimaginable violence raging across the city.
Winner of the Panorama Audience Award and Best European Film prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival, this is gripping, provocative filmmaking of the political moment.
"Portraying claustrophobic family life lived within the Syrian war zone, Insyriated redefines the genre of 'war movie'." – Berlin Film Journal
D/S Philippe Van Leeuw P Guillaume Malandrin, Serge Zeitoun WS Films Boutique L Arabic w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Mon 7 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
Documentary and fiction blur together in Daniel Borgman's affecting, winsome tale of a 60-year-old intellectually disabled woman's search for love and safety.
Pia and her elderly mother Guitto – both playing themselves – live alone on a small Danish island. They both know that Guitto is nearing the end of her life, and that Pia won't be able to look after herself when she dies. Guitto wants Pia to move to a group home, where she can live with people like her. But after a lifetime of dreaming, Pia is determined to find true love and a man who can look after her, no matter what her mother says.
Created in collaboration with the real life Pia Skovgaard, Loving Pia is the dreamlike and affectionate sophomore feature from writer, director and cinematographer Daniel Borgman (The Weight of Elephants, MIFF 2013). Shooting in gauzy 16mm, Borgman has created a loving portrayal of intellectual disability that is rich in both humour and humanity – a film that sings with the understanding and friendship that made it.
D/S Daniel Borgman P Katja Adomeit WS Pascale Ramonda L Danish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Director Daniel Joseph Borgman will be at both sessions to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.
Tue 8 Aug 2017 11:00 am
An exquisite travelogue showcasing a super-rich Arabian falconry tournament, complete with spectacular aerial footage shot by the birds themselves. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Locarno Film Festival.
Visual artist Yuri Ancarani's stunning documentary takes us into the playground of the astronomically wealthy, following the journey of a group of Qatar billionaires – who travel on gold-plated motorcycles and in Lamborghinis with pet cheetahs – as they make their way to a falconry tournament on the Arabian Peninsula.
With its dreamy, cinematic visuals, The Challenge offers an incredible glimpse into a hyperreal world, where an ancient sport mixes with impossible decadence: falcons can cost up to $24000 each and travel in private jets! Most extraordinary is the footage shot by cameras attached to the one of the birds, offering us a breathtaking aerial perspective on this strange event.
"A magnificent and unsettling film that tests the limits of what we commonly call ‘reality'." – Cineuropa
D/S Yuri Ancarani P Christophe Gougeon, Fabrizio Polpettini, Pierre Malachin, Tommaso Bertani WS Slingshot Films L Arabic w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Tue 8 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
Agnès Varda, the grande dame of the French New Wave, revives the spirit of The Gleaners and I (MIFF 2001) with this picaresque romp through rural France, and is joined in her travels by the artist JR.
Both members of this unlikely coupling are artists of the image, but whereas the ruminative, masterly Varda has spent more than half a century making fiction and documentary films, her hip young companion JR specialises in crafting large-scale photographic portraits. Together, they drive through remote parts of the French countryside, touring farms and villages in a specially equipped van-cum-photography lab.
Taking photos of the people they meet, in all their humility and grandeur, and plastering the huge black-and-white print-outs in prominent local spots, the duo trace out an expansive sketch of the nation as a whole, in a documentary that teems with warmth, compassion and humanity.
"Agnès Varda's latest thrift-shop documentary, about creating oversize images out of ordinary people, confirms that she's the world's most ageless filmmaker." – Variety
D/S Agnès Varda, JR P Charles S. Cohen, Julie Gayet, Nadia Turincev, Nichole Fu, Etienne Comar Dist Madman Entertainment L French w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Tue 8 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Take an intimate two-day, two-night journey on the Thai railway, in this mesmerising documentary that fascinates as a sublime social microcosm.
Eight years in the making, the debut work from Thai filmmaker Sompot Chidgasornpongse – who studied under James Benning and served as assistant director on many of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films; the latter returning the favour here as a producer – takes audiences on a journey on board the Thai railway, playing witness to an entire cross-section of the population in the process.
Chidgasornpongse's hypnotic frames move to the clattering, insistent rhythm of the train itself, as we glide from crowded working class carriages through busy vendors, soldiers and children, through to relatively empty first class cabins occupied by rich Thais mingling with foreign tourists. Colourful and gentle, the observational lens of Railway Sleepers offers up a revealing portrait of Thai society as moving as it is incisive.
"Railway Sleepers transfixes the audience on a journey through Thailand. The ultimate people-watching scenario." – Vox
D Sompot Chidgasornpongse P Apichatpong Weerasethakul L Thai w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Wed 9 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Welcome to the school where rock music is taught alongside maths, veteran teachers are loved like parents, and learning is as magical as a Harry Potter film.
Indeed, students at Ireland's Headfort School spend their days in grounds that resemble Hogwarts – and that's just one aspect of their enchanting experience. Since the 1970s, John and Amanda Leyden have devoted their lives to making education fun and fulfilling for several generations of bright minds. As the couple near retirement, whether their passionate approach will continue is a question pondered by many.
Valuing intimacy and eccentricity just like its subjects, School Life is a delightful, whimsical crowd-pleaser of a documentary that takes an observational approach to wandering the school's halls, sitting in on its exuberant classes and watching the Leydens at work.
"Adds a vital perspective on a particular form of education, highlighting most notably that with the right educators and the right environment, it can – and should be – a joyous, mind-opening experience." – The Playlist
D Neasa Ní Chianáin WS Magnolia Pictures TD DCP/2016
Wed 9 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
Co-produced by Toni Erdmann’s Maren Ade, this acclaimed Cannes hit from German writer/director Valeska Grisebach uses non-actors in a European construction standoff to evoke the spirit of the titular American genre.
Set against the breathtaking landscape of the Grecian–Bulgarian border, the long-awaited new feature from auteur Valeska Grisebach (Longing, MIFF 2005) centres on a dispute that erupts when German workers – and their cultural prejudices – arrive on a construction site and clash with local villagers.
Using a cast of non-professional actors – lead by lone wolf Meinhard Neumann – to authentically convey the masculine conflict between these men, Grisebach, working alongside co-producer Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann, MIFF 2016), stages a modern-day version of the genre’s classic duel between strong, silent types, bringing the feel of John Ford to a story embedded in the political tensions of contemporary Europe.
"A supremely intelligent rethinking of genre conventions, [and] a gripping culture-clash drama attuned to new forms of colonialism." – Artforum
D/S Valeska Grisebach P Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Valeska Grisebach, Michel Merkt WS Films Boutique L German, Bulgarian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Wed 9 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Jan Hřebejk returns to MIFF with a darkly funny Czech primary school take on 12 Angry Men, featuring an award-winning turn by Zuzana Maurery as the titular teacher.
In the dying days of communist Czechoslovakia, the chilling Comrade Drazdechova (Zuzana Maurery) rules over her high school with cunning and corruption. The rules are simple: you help her out, your children do well. You don't? Well, life can be hard for those deemed enemies of the state. But hers is a fragile empire, and when she tries to blackmail the wrong parent, those she's wronged rise up against her.
Satire rarely comes darker than in The Teacher, a multiple award winner at the Czech Lions (including Best Film) and the latest provocative offering from director/writer team Jan Hřebejk and Petr Jarchovský (Divided We Fall). Revelling in Maurery's masterclass performance as the deliciously vile Drazdechova – for which she won Best Actress at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival – The Teacher is a gripping parable of political dysfunction disguised as a PTA meeting straight out of your nightmares. Bring popcorn.
"The Teacher is a sardonic, richly seriocomic morality play that uses a delicate touch to explore why communism never seems to work out in the long run." – IndieWire
D Jan Hřebejk P Tibor Búza, Zuzana Mistríková, Ľubica Orechovská, Ondřej Zima, Jan Prušinovský, Kateřiny Ondřejkové S Petr Jarchovský Dist Palace Films L Czech, Slovak w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
|ANTONIO 1, 2, 3|
Wed 9 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
A lyrical vision of young love in Lisbon, perhaps the most romantic – and the most cinematic – city in the world.
In Brazilian newcomer Leonardo Mouramateus' debut film, inspired by the tragic romance of Dostoyevsky's novella White Nights, the Portuguese capital is laced with three interconnected stories, each one seamlessly blending fantasy and reality.
Having been thrown out of his house by his father, António seeks refuge with an ex-girlfriend, but unexpectedly meets her mysterious houseguest, visiting from Brazil. A playwright struggling with the staging of his first play finds council from a young stagehand. On her way back to Brazil, Débora visits the theatre, and is carried away by her dreams.
Injecting the laconic charm of Manoel de Oliveira with the youthful vivacity of the French new wave, Antonio 1, 2, 3 heralds the arrival of a fresh, independent voice in world cinema.
"One of the best portraits of the speed and instability of the world, the fragility of relationships, of today's youth – with its contradictions, insecurities and uncertainties – but also an affirmation of the possibilities of life." – tudovaibem.com
D/S Leonardo Mouramateus P Leonardo Mouramateus, Miguel Ribeiro,Gustavo Beck WS Pascale Ramonda L Portuguese w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|BOY ON THE BRIDGE|
Thu 10 Aug 2017 11:00 am
A darkly edged coming-of-age story filled with unexpected twists.
It's summer in 1988 and 12-year-old Socrates is spending his days riding bikes around his tiny village in Cyprus and setting off makeshift firecrackers with his cousin and best friend, Marcos. But a dark shadow is being cast over their Mediterranean idyll by Marcos's father, a menacing and increasingly violent man. Inspired by his war-hero grandfather, Socrates decides to take matters into his own hands and put his bomb-making skills to use. But when things don't go to plan, Socrates is drawn into a web of intrigue and revenge that will change his life forever.
Based on British Cypriot author Eve Makis' novel Land of the Golden Apple, Boy on the Bridge is the intriguing feature film debut from director Petros Charalambous. Stuffed with memorable characters and layer upon layer of moral ambiguity, it's a complex reflection on the power and purpose of violence that will leave you debating long after the credits roll.
Unclassified: restricted to persons aged 15 and over unless accompanied by an adult. MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 14+
D Petros Charalambous P Marios Piperides, Janine Teerling S Stavros Pamballis, Eve Makis WS AMP Filmworks Production Company L Greek w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Thu 10 Aug 2017 1:15 pm
Economic hardship takes its toll on domestic life in Teresa Villaverde's mesmerising depiction of a family's struggle to stay connected.
Seventeen-year-old Marta is at a difficult stage in her life. Heartbroken from a recent break-up, she spends her days alone and stays out late into the night. The rest of the family isn't faring much better: her mother works long hours at two jobs, while her unemployed father turns to ever more reckless measures to make money. But even as the reality of financial struggle closes in on the three of them, a sense of magical possibility still glimmers through.
A quiet, patiently observed study of a family in crisis, Teresa Villaverde's Colo examines the personal consequences of Portugal's economic downturn, to offer an intimate, understated and unusual tale of material and emotional deprivation and a longing for a better life.
"Obstinately enigmatic … The way Villaverde plays with suggestion and symbolism proves immensely seductive, leaving one teased, provoked, blissfully mystified." – The Film Stage
D/P/S Teresa Villaverde WS Films Boutique L Portuguese w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Thu 10 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Full of gorgeous Tuscan scenery and architecture, this new documentary from the team behind Marwencol is an affectionate ode to tradition and community in a rapidly changing world.
Every summer, for over half a century, residents of the tiny Italian village of Monticchiello (population: 136) have put on a truly unique play. A collaborative work in which each individual acts as themselves, this ever-evolving theatre is a conduit for discussing issues that affect the community, from changing gender norms to memories of the Second World War. But as financial pressures mount and the younger generations lose interest, the villagers’ unusual production takes on heightened significance. This is their story.
Following their previous collaboration, the award-winning Marwencol (MIFF 2010), acclaimed documentarians Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen reunite for Spettacolo, a fascinating portrait of a rustic Italian town in which life and theatre overlap. This new work is both a testament to the importance of telling your own story, and a visual paean to a stunningly beautiful part of the planet.
"Breathtaking … a powerful testament to the ability of art to make sense of the world." – Moveable Feast
D Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen P Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen, Matt Radecki WS The Film Sales Company L Italian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Presented by Genovese Coffee
Thu 10 Aug 2017 6:30 pm
"Just in case Frozen had you thinking the chief concerns of young girls in old Lapland were building snowmen and breaking magic spells, along comes Sami Blood to set the record straight." – Variety
Making her striking directorial debut (and winning the Best Director of a Debut Film award at the Venice Film Festival for her efforts), Swedish-Sami filmmaker Amanda Kernell delivers a female coming-of-age story set against the little-discussed social prejudices of 1930s Sweden, told with an emotional power that will resonate with audiences universally.
Reindeer-herding Sami teenager Elle-Marja is sent to a boarding school designed to make its Indigenous students "acceptable" to white Swedish society, where she excels with her fierce intelligence. Newcomer Lene Cecilia Sparrok gives a wonderfully exuberant performance as a teenager torn between her forced desire to assimilate and burgeoning sense of self, while Kernell beautifully articulates adolescent anxiety and the impact of prejudice when one culture seeks to deny another.
"The lead performance by Lene Cecilia Sparrok is mesmerizing, easily one of the best of the year." – Pop Matters
D/S Amanda Kernell P Lars G Lindström Dist Palace Films L South Sámi, Swedish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Fri 11 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
Scoring an award at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight, Jonas Carpignano's latest film is a heart-wrenching, ultra-realist tour of the outcast and refugee communities in Italy's south, led by fast-talking Roma swindler Pio Amato.
In sun-drenched Calabria, on the forgotten borders of the European refugee crisis, 14-year-old Romani hustler Pio is making an awkward and half-hearted entry into adulthood. Surrounded by his chaotic 15-strong family, and facing up to the paucity of opportunity and reality of distrust that comes with being who he is, Pio longs for the innocence of childhood, but is being inexorably drawn into the petty crime and low-level grift that is his heritage.
Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, A Ciambra is a companion piece to filmmaker Jonas Carpignano's acclaimed Mediterranea (MIFF 2015) and his 2014 short of the same name, where we first met a then pre-teen Pio. But knowledge of the earlier films isn't required to enjoy this engrossing and emotionally piercing slice of Ken Loach-style cinema vérité, where Pio and the entire Amato clan play themselves, because A Ciambra stands on its own as a film of deep resonance and great empathy where the human drama looms so close you almost feel part of the family.
"A film that so vibrantly lives and breathes through its atmosphere, characters and setting … A Ciambra serves the fundamental cinematic purpose of transporting you to another world." – The Playlist
D/S Jonas Carpignano WS Luxbox L Italian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|THE LAST FAMILY|
Fri 11 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
One of Poland's most accomplished thespians, Andrzej Seweryn's talent was rewarded with Locarno's Best Actor prize for his role in this very unhinged film about a very unhinged family.
Polish surrealist painter Zdzisław Beksiński produced many powerful and disturbing works over the course of his career, but his home life was no less dramatic, with his reserved demeanour – along with that of his wife Zofia – tested by the destructive and charismatic presence of his son, the popular radio presenter Tomasz.
Dramatising nearly three decades in the life of this tumultuous household, from the 1970s to the 2010s, The Last Family is a heartbreaking, at times darkly comic but always arrestingly different kind of biopic. Aided by bravura performances, Jan P Matuszyński's first fictional feature masterfully depicts the conflict inside an ordinary Polish apartment block as the country outside transitions from a repressive surveillance state and into an uncertain future.
"The performances are, frankly, amazing, as is the photography of the drab housing project, an impressive updating of Kieslowski's Decalogue." – Senses of Cinema
D Jan P. Matuszyński P Leszek Bodzak, Aneta Hickinbotham S Robert Bolesto WS New Europe Film Sales L Polish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Fri 11 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
It's like Best in Show, only real … and with chickens.
The chicken-loving members of the 148-year-old Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club are busy preparing for the National Show. The club's president, Doug Bain, has brought the group championship glory over the years, but is now facing off against the next generation of poultry fanciers who seem determined to knock down this award-winning cock of the walk.
Kiwi director Slavko Martinov got the idea for the documentary after hearing about competitive chicken shows at a Melbourne craft fair. When he investigated the oldest chicken group in Christchurch, he uncovered a cutthroat world of passion, obsession, power struggles and competition from people who take the world of chicken fancying as seriously as life and death.
Pecking Order provides insight into a world of peculiar personalities and low-stake power plays, where the president of a club devoted to chickens will casually eat a bucket of KFC during a meeting. In this world, you're either a champion or you're lunch.
The year's best feel-good flockumentary.
D Slavko Martinov P Slavko Martinov, Mike Kelland, David Brechin-Smith Dist Vendetta Films TD DCP/2017
Director Slavko Martinov will be at both sessions to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.
Sun 13 Aug 2017 1:15 pm
Oscar nominees Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke explore the sensitive but rousing true tale of one of Canada's most inspiring folk artists.
Life might've burdened Maud Dowley (Hawkins, MIFF 2011's Submarine) with a severe bout of rheumatoid arthritis, but it also gave her the determination to find her own way in the world. After spending years being told by her overprotective family that she can't live a normal existence, she takes a live-in cleaning job with Nova Scotian loner Everett Lewis (Hawke, MIFF 2016's Born to be Blue). As a bond slowly grows, so does an outlet for her creative urges.
Aisling Walsh (short film Hostage, MIFF 1985) approaches Lewis' story with care and affection, honouring the woman who overcame a host of obstacles to pursue her passion for painting. With Hawkins giving a career-best performance, the real-life figure is gifted a portrayal as vibrant as her artwork. Hawke similarly excels in what becomes an intimate character study, a delicate love story and an ode to perseverance.
"The kind of biopic that hits a nerve and then has you crying throughout the rest of the film … thank you Ms. Hawkins, for that breathtaking performance." – RogerEbert.com
D Aisling Walsh P Bob Cooper, Mary Young Leckie, Mary Sexton, Susan Mullen S Sherry White Dist Transmission Films TD DCP/2016
|ETHEL & ERNEST - CAPTIONED SCREENING|
Sun 13 Aug 2017 4:15 pm
"Adapted from Raymond Briggs' graphic novel about his parents, from first date to deathbeds, Ethel & Ernest is the kind of contemplative grown-up animation that the Japanese have been making for decades but the British have never fully embraced." – The Times
Ethel and Ernest Briggs were no-one special. A lady's maid and a milkman in Depression-era England, they fell in love, got married, had a child – Raymond – and lived out their lives in a two-bedroom terrace house in south London. But together they witnessed war, upheaval, hope, heartbreak and endless love, and always found a way of muddling through, just so.
First-time director Roger Mainwood joins forces with Raymond Briggs, one of the world's most beloved illustrators, for Ethel and Ernest, a deeply affectionate and very British adaptation of Briggs' testament to his mother and father, and the lost England they represented. Beautifully animated and almost unbearably poignant, Ethel and Ernest is a gentle, thoughtful portrait of two lives so ordinary they cannot help but be extraordinary in every way.
D/S Roger Mainwood P Camilla Deakin, Ruth Fielding Dist Universal Pictures TD DCP/2016
Please note: This is an Open Captioned screening of the film. Captions will display on the screen for audience members who are Deaf and hard of hearing .
|BEUYS: ART AS A WEAPON|
Sun 13 Aug 2017 6:30 pm
"This film is about the artist of the 20th century." – Berlin Film Journal
The felt-clad, hat-wearing German performance artist was a visionary ahead of his time, his often controversial ideas on art, culture and embodying his own "brand" more vital than ever some 30 years after his death.
Andres Veiel's extensive new documentary offers an essential tribute to Beuys' fascinating life, tracing back from his feted gallery shows in the late 70s and early 80s back through his childhood in Nazi Germany, early breakthroughs and beyond. Crafted from hundreds of hours of video and audio, Veiel's film lets Beuys' work speak for itself through innovatively assembled archival footage, capturing his work – explaining art to a dead hare, sharing a gallery with a coyote, campaigning for the Greens – in all of its compelling, often very funny, glory. A master of self myth and a force for art as cultural provocation, Beuys' life was his greatest work, and Veiel's documentary holds his spirit in fond regard.
"The value of this documentary is not to bring something new to the table about Beuys, but in how it constructs a political view of his surroundings, in many cases adverse to him, through archive material, material that portraits his convictions and places this central character in a social dimension." – desistfilm
D Andres Veiel P Thomas Kufus Dist Madman Entertainment L German w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|THE SONG KEEPERS|
Mon 14 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Central Australia’s answer to The Buena Vista Social Club, The Song Keepers tells the uplifting story of women from the world’s oldest culture preserving some of the world’s oldest sacred songs, connecting Germany to Indigenous history in the process.
In the central desert region around Hermannsburg, west of Alice Springs, a hidden 140-year musical legacy of ancient Aboriginal languages and German baroque hymns is being preserved by four generations of song women who form the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir. Singing 14th-century Lutheran hymns – brought to the area by missionaries – in their own western Arrarnta and Pitjantjatjara tongues, the choir’s efforts to save these sacred songs are boosted by the arrival from Melbourne of a charismatic conductor who orchestrates a historic tour of Germany to bring the hymns back to their homeland.
With support from the MIFF Premiere Fund, award-winning filmmaker Naina Sen documented that tour, and its preparations, capturing the highs and lows as these remarkable women share their music and stories of cultural survival, identity and inclusive cross-cultural collaboration with the world. The resulting film is a joyous celebration that will world premiere at MIFF, with the full choir in attendance, who might just share a song or three!
The choir is also staging a full 90-minute concert in association with the Melbourne Recital Centre on Monday 7 August. Tickets for this choral performance are on sale separately via the Recital Centre.
D/S Naina Sen P Rachel Clements, Trisha Morton-Thomas, Naina Sen L English, Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
The Song Keepers will also screen in regional Victoria as part of the MIFF Travelling Showcase.
|YOURSELF AND YOURS|
Mon 14 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
MIFF favourite Hong Sang-soo returns with a new take on his preoccupation with miscommunications between men and women.
Young-soo is already preoccupied with personal issues when he hears from a friend that his girlfriend, Minjung, was seen out drinking in the company of other men. When confronted by this, she vigorously denies the charge, and insists they spend some time apart. The next day, Minjung appears to have gone missing, but this doesn't stop Young-soo from seeing doubles of her all around town. Are Young-soo's insecurities manifesting in the form of these doppelgängers, is Minjung playing an elaborate prank, or is trying to find out what's real and what's not beside the point?
After the superb doubled narrative of Right Now, Wrong Then (MIFF 2016), Hong now presents a more linear story that nevertheless confounds his hapless hero with more doubles than he can handle, proving that while Hong's thematic concerns remain constant, he is a wonder at finding new and unexpected ways of exploring them.
"Another excellent film by Hong, at once harsh and hilarious, that squirms with delightful discomfort around a wonderfully perverse premise." – MUBI Notebook
D/S Hong Sang-soo WS Finecut L Korean w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Mon 14 Aug 2017 6:30 pm
Gender, time, class, one’s place in the world: everything is flexible in Sally Potter’s stunning second film, including Tilda Swinton’s triumphant lead performance.
In an actor/director pairing that showcases two immense British talents at their career-defining finest, Sally Potter casts Tilda Swinton in the role she was born to play: the androgynous titular character, who lives for four centuries.
First screening at MIFF in 1993 after winning three awards at the Venice Film Festival, and sumptuously adapted from Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, Orlando follows its protagonist on a visually and emotionally eye-opening journey through English history – starting in Elizabethan times, jumping to the 20th century, and wittily exploring the role of women across a period of 400 years.
"This ravishing and witty spectacle invades the mind through eyes that are dazzled without ever being anesthetized ... a model for independent film makers who follow their own irrational muses." – The New York Times
D/S Sally Potter P Christopher Sheppard WS Hanway Films TD HDCam/1992
|WHERE YOU'RE MEANT TO BE|
Tue 15 Aug 2017 11:00 am
"Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat tours Scotland in … an infectiously entertaining, lyrical folk odyssey that reveals something unexpectedly profound about culture, language and storytelling." – Little White Lies
After a trailblazing career that helped define the sound of modern indie rock, Aidan Moffat has become newly obsessed with his Scottish musical heritage. Touring the country in search of traditional folk songs, Moffat delights in updating them for the modern age, transforming ballads of bonnie lasses and windswept seas into tales of beer-swilling barnies and no-good neds. But when a fiery old folk singer named Sheila Stewart confronts him about his disrespect for his own culture, Moffat is forced to see these songs anew.
An irreverent, high-spirited musical travelogue that evolves into something deeper, Where You're Meant to Be is a glorious testament to the richness and fire of Celtic song, and the importance of the stories we tell. A captivating collaboration between director Paul Fegan and the irascible Moffat, the film has one true star: the larger-than-life Stewart, who brings a musical tradition to vivid, roaring life.
"With its mix of dark melancholy and bawdy humour, its grime and its visual magnificence, Where You're Meant to Be feels like a celebration of the real Scotland, in all its messy, joyful chaos, as sincere and authentic as Moffat's contemporary versions of Stewart's age-old songs." – The Arts Desk
D/P Paul Fegan WS Scottish Documentary Institute TD DCP/2016
|FREE AND EASY|
Tue 15 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Take a deadpan trip to a Chinese ghost town, where magical soap, bumbling cops and a trickster monk collude in this award-winning absurdist comedy.
Set in the atmospheric, burned-out industrial landscapes of remote northern China, this wry, offbeat comedy from director Jun Geng follows a travelling soap salesman whose product has the power to cleanse his customers of both their senses and money. Throw in a pair of incompetent law enforcers, a Buddhist monk plying a dubious trade in talismans and a cast of eccentric locals in an unusual setting, and you've got a recipe for the kind of droll escapade sure to delight fans of Jarmusch, the Coens and Kaurismäki.
Jun's new feature won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance, and it's characterised by the director's expressive use of space and composition in evoking this strange, haunted nowhere town and its collection of oddballs. Visually arresting and dryly funny, it plays against convention to emerge as a genuine original.
"An offbeat, sidelong glance at Chinese society which combines a striking visual impact with underplayed, deadpan humour." – Screen Daily
D Jun Geng P Wang Zijian, Wang Xuebo, Meng Xie S Liu Bing Feng, Yuhua Geng Jun WS Stray Dogs L Cantonese w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Tue 15 Aug 2017 6:30 pm
Jindřich Polák's pioneering sci-fi masterpiece is little known, but its DNA can be seen throughout the genre, from Star Trek to 2001: A Space Odyssey … and beyond!
In 2163, the Ikarie XB-1 is on an interstellar mission to seek out new life. As its human and robotic crew navigate the dangers of deep-space, and the daily realities of life onboard a starship, they must deal with a devastating 20th-century legacy and try not to go mad.
Loosely based on The Magellanic Cloud, an early work of Solaris author Stanisław Lem that has never been translated into English, Ikarie XB-1 is an award-winning jewel of communist science fiction that remains as extraordinary today as it was in 1963. With then-revolutionary FX and production design, as well as intelligent, existential storytelling and an avant-garde electronic soundtrack from trailblazing Czech composer Zdeněk Liška, it was shot in exquisite black and white that demands a big screen – especially now that it looks better than ever thanks to a long overdue 4K restoration!
Forget the dubbed and recut American version released as Voyage to the End of the Universe; this is a rare opportunity to see the original film as it was meant to be seen.
"A game-changing film that profoundly influenced the genre and showed that science-fiction movies weren't only about special effects; they were also high art ... This Czech movie remains one of the most original and exciting science fiction films ever made." – The Guardian
D Jindřich Polák P Filmové Studio Barrandov S Pavel Juráček, Jindřich Polák WS National Film Archive, Czech Republic L Czech w/English subtitles TD DCP/1963
Tue 15 Aug 2017 9:00 pm
Fresh from Cannes, Austrian master Michael Haneke reunites with the great Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant for a cutting portrait of bourgeois European life.
In the new film from heavyweight auteur Michael Haneke (Amour, MIFF 2012; The White Ribbon, MIFF 2009), a teenage girl (Fantine Harduin) armed with a smartphone is sent to stay at the Calais mansion of her upper-middle-class relatives – presided over by the ailing, 84-year-old patriarch (Trintignant) and his two children, played by Huppert and Mathieu Kassovitz.
Updating the themes of technology and surveillance from his own Benny’s Video (MIFF 1992) and Hidden (MIFF 2005) to the era of ever-present social media, Haneke has crafted a jigsaw-like portrait of entitlement and malaise, forbidden pleasures and suicidal tendencies that’s as austerely crafted and unforgiving as any of his career.
"A satirical nightmare of haute-bourgeois European prosperity, as stark, brilliant and unforgiving as a halogen light." – The Guardian
D/S Michael Haneke P Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz Dist Transmission Films L French w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE|
Wed 16 Aug 2017 11:00 am
An Audience Award winner at Sundance, this fable of a linguist's quest to save a dying language is a gorgeous contemplation of love, time, memory and mortality.
Following the death of elderly Mexican villager Jacinta, only two speakers of her region's indigenous language remain: the feuding Evaristo and Isauro, and neither man has spoken to the other in 50 years. But when visiting linguist Martín seeks their assistance with recording their shared tongue, they're forced to revisit the events that pushed the former close friends apart.
Director Ernesto Contreras doesn't simply immerse audiences in an expressive exploration of the impact of language; he creates his own vocabulary, literally making up his own dialect – dubbed Zikril – to suit his moving, multi-layered rumination on the way that verbal communication shapes humanity. The Mexican filmmaker weaves a dense narrative brimming with poetry of both the visual and spoken kind, and matches the film's haunting spiritual and ethnographic musings with a tender but searching heart.
Winner of the World Cinema (Dramatic) Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
"Feeling like a Guillermo del Toro film in particular, it's thrilling to see such an original, mature story seek to fill its big heart with poetry." — RogerEbert.com
D Ernesto Contreras P Mónica Lozano, Luis Albores, Érika Ávila, Eamon O'Farrill, Raymond Van Der Kaaij S Carlos Contreras WS Mundial L Portuguese, Spanish, Guarani w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Wed 16 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
"A welcome rush of adrenaline, Georgian director Rezo Gigineishvili's period hijacking drama Hostages combines arthouse sensitivities, historical gravitas and good ol' action setpieces to highly satisfying results." – The Film Stage
Set in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1983, at the height of the Cold War, rising auteur Rezo Gigineishvili's film revisits the story of a group of young dissidents – many from privileged professional backgrounds – who decide to hijack a flight at gunpoint and force the plane to land in Turkey.
Mixing bracing drama and white-knuckle action, Gigineishvili takes us back to a heady, fraught time where the desire for freedom and the promise of Western culture drove young idealists from the repression of communist rule, recreating the tragic events while resisting the urge to pass moral judgement. The result is a rare combination of arthouse craft and riveting thriller.
"It's a breathlessly tense piece of work, which suggests that Gigineishvili is developing into a talent to watch." – Screen Daily
D Rezo Gigineishvili P Mikhail Finogenov, Tamara Tatishvili, Ewa Puszczynska, Boris Frumin, Vladimer Katcharava, Rezo Gigineishvili S Lasha Bugadze, Rezo Gigineishvili WS WestEnd Films L Georgian, Russian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|MY HAPPY FAMILY|
Wed 16 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
"A female liberation story set in Tbilisi, Georgia, and in a sardonically funny, touching key. Directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross could choreograph a ballet, but, lucky us, they're filmmakers." – New York Times
At 52, Georgian matriarch Manana (an incredible performance by Ia Shugliashvili) has had enough of the tiny, cramped apartment she shares with her husband, her adult kids, and her ageing parents. Inexplicably, she suddenly ups and leaves for a new life of her own, setting out for new digs and a chance at rejuvenation in middle age.
The second feature from Georgian directing team Nana & Simon, whose 90s coming-of-age tale In Bloom wowed MIFF 2013, My Happy Family is by turns funny, melancholy and emotionally perceptive, a beautifully realised piece of filmmaking about family and the ties that bind us together.
"It is life itself, in all its messiness and horror and glory." – Village Voice
D Nana & Simon P Jonas Katzenstein, Maximilian Leo, Simon Gross S Nana Ekvimishvili WS Memento Films L Georgian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|THE FACE OF ANOTHER|
Wed 16 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
"A staggering work of existential science fiction." – Fandor
When scientist Okuyama is disfigured in an industrial accident, he finds himself estranged from his family and friends. At the behest of his psychiatrist, he agrees to a radical new surgery: a face transplant. Okuyama’s new face brings with it new opportunities, and he discovers he can pass himself off as new person to everyone, even his wife. But as he becomes drawn to darker temptations, he begins to question if it’s he or the mask that is really in control.
Oscar-nominated director Hiroshi Teshigahara (1964’s Woman in the Dunes) creates a work of surreal existentialism, questioning the nature of identity and self. Adapted by Kôbô Abe (The Thick-Walled Room) from his own novel, The Face of Another features an unforgettable performance from legendary actor Tatsuya Nakadai (Yojimbo, High and Low, the Human Condition trilogy) as the tortured Okuyama.
"Undeniably a classic of 1960s cinema." – Midnight Eye
D Hiroshi Teshigahara P Nobuyo Horiba, Kiichi Ichikawa, Tadashi Ôno S Kôbô Abe WS Toho L Japanese w/English subtitles TD 35mm/1966
All images © 1966 Teshigahara Productions All Rights Reserved.
Thu 17 Aug 2017 11:45 am
Isabelle Huppert reunites with director Hong Sang-soo for a charmingly brisk stroll around the town of Cannes.
Man-hee (Kim Min-hee, The Handmaiden, MIFF 2016), a film sales assistant, has accompanied her boss to Cannes but is abruptly fired halfway through the festival. Now unmoored, Man-hee strikes up a friendship with Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a Parisian teacher and photographer who is a first-time visitor to the festival and very delighted with everything she is encountering. By chance, Claire also becomes friendly with both Man-hee’s boss and Korean director So, unaware that all three are connected to each other.
The slight narrative is more than serenely grounded by the combination of Huppert and Kim’s warm performances, and as Claire captures the tangled relationships and emotions surrounding her with each click of her camera, Hong presents an uncomplicated and refreshing meditation on the joy of chance encounters and the power of art in rejuvenating oneself.
"Claire’s Camera pairs off two acting super stars across several charming, awkward, seemingly spontaneously shot conversations. The two actresses are so charismatic that their stilted attempts to connect and communicate in the shared language of English … is something quite surreal, if not magical." – MUBI Notebook
D/S Hong Sang-Soo WS Finecut L Korean, English, French w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Thu 17 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
"If you thought that the infamous gold watch in Pulp Fiction caused a few problems, you should see what happens with the one in Glory, a sharply executed, superbly performed Bulgarian tragic dramedy." – Hollywood Reporter
Bedraggled, bearded and stuttering railway worker Tsanko is about to have his reclusive life upended after stumbling on millions of leva on the train tracks and turning it in as a gesture of good faith. Awarded a token watch by the Ministry of Transport – who manage to misplace his cherished family timepiece in the process – Tsanko is feted as a national hero by cold-hearted careerist Julia and her PR team, who get more than they bargained for in the process.
What begins as a rich common-man fable in the Frank Capra tradition soon escalates into delicious black comedy, as writer/director team Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov (coming off their festival hit The Lesson) weave a tapestry of fraud, corruption and political expediency with a fantastically complex performance from Margita Gosheva in particular. Glory was awarded a special mention for New Cinema at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival.
D Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov P Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Konstantina Stavrianou, Irini Vougioukalou S Kristina Grozeva, Decho Taralezhkov, Petar Valchanov Dist Bounty Films L Bulgarian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Thu 17 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
Kirsten Tan's Sundance award-winning debut is the warm and ever-so-strange tale of an architect, his elephant and 300 miles of mid-life crisis.
Thana is a man on the edge. Overlooked at work, ignored by his wife and slumping into middle age, his world is fast becoming a place of daily drudgery and familiar humiliations. But when he recognises a street elephant called Popeye as the one he grew up with in his tiny northern village, he buys it on the spot and starts walking the great beast home.
Produced by Anthony Chen (MIFF 2013's Ilo Ilo, for which he won the Caméra d'Or at Cannes) and winner of the Special Jury Award for Screenwriting at the Sundance Film Festival, Pop Aye is the knowing and gently surreal feature film debut from writer/director Kirsten Tan. Fuelled by an irrepressible dynamic between co-stars Thaneth Warakulnukroh and Bong, the elephant, it is a film of sly humour and unexpected pathos that proves one will never be found without the other.
"A tender and sharply etched journey … Loneliness, alienation, the ache of nostalgia and the everyday absurdity of life infuse every encounter." – Hollywood Reporter
D/S Kirsten Tan P Lai Weijie Dist Madman Entertainment L Thai w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Thu 17 Aug 2017 9:00 pm
From Cannes, this stunning, boundary-pushing new Iranian animation tackles the sexual taboos of Islamic society, revealing a world of hypocrisy and political corruption.
Pulling back the veil on a little-seen slice of Iranian street culture, this visually powerful animated feature follows the intersecting lives of three women – a sex worker, a trapped wife and a struggling musician – as they grapple with the double standards of sex, gender and religion in Tehran's politically oppressive atmosphere.
Making his feature film debut, Iranian-born, Germany-based director Ali Soozandeh weaves a provocative tapestry of life in the city, questioning the hypocrisy and political corruption of life in Tehran, where women are often victims of sexual repression. In the vein of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, it's a bold, accomplished work, using the abstraction of animation to expose harder truths about contemporary Iran.
"An audacious debut." – Hollywood Reporter
D/S Ali Soozandeh P Frank Geiger, Ali Samadi Ahadi, Mark Fencer, Armin Hofmann WS Celluloid Dreams L Farsi w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|BIG BIG WORLD|
Fri 18 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Turkey's master of magical realism returns with an award-winning sibling story set in sumptuous surroundings.
For the second time in as many films, writer/director/editor Reha Erdem (Kosmos, MIFF 2010; Times and Winds, MIFF 2007) steps into a lush natural world to explore the struggles of modern life. Like MIFF 2013's Jîn, Big Big World finds parallels between all-encompassing landscapes and the animals that walk upon them, and the savagery of coming of age at a time when finding solace seems an impossible concept.
In this fairytale-like story, all that the orphaned Ali wants is to protect his younger sister Zuhal – and he's willing to fight, flee and find cash by whatever means necessary. After escaping from the clutches of a troublesome stepfather, the pair fashion a makeshift home in a forest teeming with creatures and comfort, yet also testing in its isolation. Flitting from stark to surrealist, their quest to stay together informs an involving effort that's restrained in its dialogue but overflowing with vibrant imagery.
Winner of the Orizzonti Special Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice Film Festival.
D/S Reha Erdem P Ömer Atay WS Picture Tree International L Turkish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
Fri 18 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
"An oddly delicate fable … The Giant is among other things surely the strangest underdog sports movie of the year." – Hollywood Reporter
Abandoned by his mother at birth and largely unable to communicate due to a facial deformity, Rikard is forced to live in a small world, with the game of pétanque offering his only escape. In his dreams, however, he's a hulking figure stepping over hills and striding across plains in search of happiness. It'll take the same striving spirit to overcome the odds when he's kicked off the team after an accident, but decides to still try his luck at the Nordic championships.
First-time feature director Johannes Nyholm may be familiar to MIFF goers through his short films (La Palmas, MIFF 2011; Dreams from the Woods, MIFF 2010; The Tale of Little Puppetboy, MIFF 2009), which have also screened at Cannes. Here, he takes inspiration from his own music video for The Tallest Man on Earth, his love of pétanque and his experience working in a nursing home to create a film restrained in focus but big in impact. Indeed, it won Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 52nd Guldbagge Awards (the Swedish Oscars), and was a Special Jury Prize recipient at the 2016 San Sebastián International Film Festival.
D/S Johannes Nyholm P Maria Dahlin, Morten Kjems Juhl WS Indie Sales L Swedish w/English subtitles TD DCP/2016
|INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS|
Fri 18 Aug 2017 9:15 pm
"This sci-fi inflected 1956 horror movie may come to be seen as the defining metaphorical work of the twentieth century." – Time Out
In the town of Santa Mira, Dr Miles Bennell has encountered numerous patients each convinced that their relatives have been replaced with identical imposters. Growing suspicious, Miles begins to investigate the mystery, and discovers there’s no mass hysteria at play: this is the beginning of an alien invasion, and one that may be too far gone to stop.
This science-fiction classic from director Don Siegel (The Line Up, MIFF 1998) is considered one of the most powerful allegorical works of the McCarthy era, featuring alien villains indistinguishable from our friends and neighbours. As a thriller, it's one of the most effectively tense films of all time, with a terrifying ending that quickly became the stuff of legend. Listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top 10 best science-fiction films ever made, its themes are – alarmingly! – still as applicable in the Trump and Brexit era as they were half a century ago.
"Few modern-day movies are more genuinely frightening." – Wall Street Journal
D Don Siegel S Daniel Mainwaring WS Park Circus TD 35mm/1956
Sat 19 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Sally Potter's caustic comic satire of a broken England is a masterclass of acting from a stellar ensemble headed by Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson and Timothy Spall.
Also featuring Bruno Ganz, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones, The Party invites us to an intimate celebration hosted by Janet on the occasion of her promotion to shadow health minister. What should be a discreet soirée of the bourgeoisie quickly descends into chaos as the (mostly) genteel guests one-up each other with dramatic announcements and secrets bubble over until everything bursts.
As a semi-allegorical picture of modern British politics and society, The Party finds director Sally Potter (Ginger and Rosa, MIFF 2013) at her most playful. Calling it "absolutely a political statement", she won a Guild Film Prize at the Berlinale for this acidic chamber farce, beautifully shot in black and white by Aleksei Rodionov – who also lensed Potter's Orlando (MIFF 1993) and Yes – and exquisitely soundtracked with vintage blues, jazz, reggae and tango.
"Stingingly funny … conceived during the 2015 election, filmed over a fortnight during the Brexit referendum, The Party eviscerates a political class that has lost its way." – Evening Standard
D/S Sally Potter P Kurban Kassam, Christopher Sheppard Dist Madman Entertainment TD DCP/2017
|AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS|
Sat 19 Aug 2017 1:30 pm
Predating and influencing the better-known Metropolis, the groundbreaking, visually breathtaking Aelita, Queen of Mars was the first Soviet science fiction film. See it at MIFF with a soundtrack and score by The Spheres in collaboration with Kinotopia.
Directed by Jakov Protazanov, one of pre-revolutionary Russia’s leading filmmakers, and based on a novella by Tolstoy family scion Aleksey, Aelita tells the story of Los, an engineer who dreams of rocketing to Mars, leading to an interplanetary romance and an extra-terrestrial Marxist uprising!
The film is more complex than that, though: a philosophical, political commentary on Leninist Russia, filtered through comedy, melodrama, murder mystery and space-travel fantasy, it was a popular hit in its day (apparently, Shostakovich even wrote the music for the original film!) but was ultimately buried by the state due to Protazanov’s questionable revolutionary zeal. Regardless, in no small part due to its jaw-dropping costumes designed by Cubo-Futurist artist Alexandra Ekster, the film has become legendary. Don’t miss this rare chance to see it on the silver screen, with live accompaniment by The Spheres, in collaboration with Kinotopia.
"Aelita turns out to have been a film before its time, and indeed a work of classic sci-fi, in its extremely imaginative use of technology, costuming, and set design … [which] contributed to a rich cinematic vocabulary without which it would be hard to imagine the aesthetics of much science fiction in general." – Open Culture
The Spheres are an experimental AV ensemble who explore the conflux of post rock, sound art and silent cinematics. Kinotopia is a silent cinema series dedicated to exploring new relationships between sound and the moving image.
D Jakov Protazanov S Aleksei Fajko , Fyodor Otsep PS National Film & Sound Archive L no dialogue TD 35mm/1924
Sat 19 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
A razor-sharp portrayal of a marriage in a state of collapse, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s searing drama was awarded top prize at the Munich Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Boris and Zhenya’s relationship is all but over. Caught in a spiral of vicious slanging matches and eager to be in the company of their new lovers, the only thing keeping them together is their 12-year-old son, Alyosha. When he doesn’t come home one night, the sparring couple are forced into an increasingly desperate search, with the lovelessness of their marriage mirrored by the indifference of the society around them.
His precise, stately compositions paired with taut narratives of greed and injustice, Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan; Elena, MIFF 2011) is perhaps the greatest Russian filmmaker working today, and certainly the pre-eminent chronicler of his country’s 21st century malaise. Earning rave reviews at Cannes, where it topped the Screen International jury poll as best of the fest, Loveless is one of this year’s must-see films.
"A stark, mysterious and terrifying story of spiritual catastrophe." – The Guardian
D Andrey Zvyagintsev P Alexandre Rodnyansky, Serguey Melkumov S Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev Dist Palace Films L Russian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
|MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS|
Sat 19 Aug 2017 6:45 pm
"If you only see one feminist Indonesian Spaghetti Western this year, this should be it" – The Irish Times
Marlina is a murderer. There are four acts. But this artful take on genre tropes, selected for Cannes’ Directors' Fortnight, is a refreshing and richly observed look at female empowerment.
Director Mouly Surya is shining star of a blossoming film nation. Her 2013 film What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love won Best Film at Indonesia’s Maya Awards and featured at Sundance. Here she casts her lens upon our heroine, Marlina (veteran belle Marsha Timothy), as she faces down a group of leering gangsters invading her farm. Her tale is sure to shock, surprise and satisfy.
Stunning vistas and a dutiful musical homage to Morricone accompany her stoic journey into darkness and back into the light. As viscera-soaked as a Caravaggio and as colourful as a Gauguin, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts reveals a pioneering talent.
"At once tightly controlled and simmering with righteous fury, it’s gorgeously lensed, atmospherically scored and moves inexorably toward a gratifying payoff." – Variety
D Mouly Surya P Rama ADI, Fauzan Zidni S Mouly Surya, Rama Adi WS Asian Shadows L Indonesian w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
Sun 20 Aug 2017 11:00 am
Over 62,000 oil paintings and a cast including Chris O'Dowd and Saoirse Ronan bring the story of Vincent Van Gogh's life and death to the screen in the world's first feature-length painted animation.
It sounds mad: inspired by a letter Vincent Van Gogh penned in the week before he died, in which he noted that "we cannot speak other than by our paintings", Oscar-winning filmmaker Hugh Welchman (Peter and the Wolf) and Polish painter Dorota Kobiela decided to make a movie doing exactly that. Hiring an army of painters from across Europe, each trained in the Dutch master's style, they set out to tell his story the way he himself would. Consequently, every single frame of the resulting film, Loving Vincent, is an oil painting (12 per second!); the noir-like detective plot is drawn from the artist's many letters; and the cast – O'Dowd and Ronan alongside Douglas Booth, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner and more, with music by Clint Mansell – were chosen based on their likeness to real-life characters in Van Gogh's works.
But the results, accordingly, speak for themselves. A truly astonishing visual feast, Loving Vincent demands to be seen on the biggest of screens.
"Tears up the rule book of animation … I've not experienced anything like it before." – The Telegraph
D Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman P Hugh Welchman, Ivan Mactaggart, Sean Bobbitt S Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel, Dorota Kobiela Dist Madman Entertainment TD DCP/2017
Artist Andrew Grimmer will be at both sessions to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.
Sun 20 Aug 2017 1:45 pm
The final work by the late Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami is a minimalist hymn to the capturing of images.
Cinema lost one of its greatest exponents in 2016 with the passing of Abbas Kiarostami; his films – including Close-Up (MIFF 2003) and Taste of Cherry (MIFF 1998) – brilliant works of psychological investigation and self-reflexivity. 24 Frames, a project he spent the last three years of his life on, is his final testament, a work that strips cinema down to its barest essentials: image and time.
Taking a series of Kiarostami's own photographs as its starting point, 24 Frames uses sophisticated photo manipulation techniques to imagine what might have happened before and after each picture was taken: a lion mounts a lioness; a Bruegel painting comes to life; a young woman falls asleep beside her computer screen, the final scene of a Hollywood romance flickering away. Each tableau is the same length (four minutes 30 seconds), with motifs of birds, especially crows, and snowy landscapes recurring throughout, leading to a transcendent denouement – for both film, and filmmaker.
"Like just about all of Kiarostami’s work, it thrives in the rift between dreams and waking life, between artifice and reality ... it movingly illustrates how cinema’s true power is not to identify that divide, but rather to erase it." – IndieWire
D/S Abbas Kiarostami P Charles Gillibert, Ahmad Kiarostami WS CG Cinema L No Dialogue TD DCP/2017
|IN THE FADE|
Sun 20 Aug 2017 4:00 pm
In the performance that won her Best Actress at Cannes, Diane Kruger plays a mother dealing with the aftermath of her Kurdish husband and young son’s deaths in a neo-Nazi hate crime.
Dynamic Turkish-German director Fatih Akin (Head-On, MIFF 2004; The Edge of Heaven) returns with a morally charged thriller about Katja (Kruger), a Hamburg woman whose life is destroyed following the death of her husband and young son in a barbaric bombing attack.
Tracing Katja’s struggle from shell-shocked, suicidal drug user to empowered individual fighting for justice, Akin rekindles the edgy intensity of his earlier work while firing off some provocative and timely questions about our political response to terror attacks. Kruger, meanwhile – in a rare German-language performance – is shattering, inhabiting a tough role with fierce emotional resonance.
"Acting in her native German language, [Kruger] delivers a career-high performance as the courageous, emotional and unforgiving survivor Katja." – Hollywood Reporter
D/P Fatih Akin S Fatih Akin, Hark Bohm Dist Madman Entertainment L German w/English subtitles TD DCP/2017
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