MIFF kicks off
The 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) opened last Thursday with the Australian premiere of the Spierig Brothers’ Predestination and rolled through the weekend with 37 films dotted across the city – fashion docos, music fun, Australian premieres and international features to name a few.
This week the festival will continue to host an impressive line-up of international and local guests including:
Prolific American lo-fi auteur Joe Swanberg, in town from 6–11 August to present Happy Christmas: a candid and wry exploration of ‘adultescence’ and the divide between those who have children and those who don’t. Shot on super 16mm, it also features a guest turn from Girls creator Lena Dunham.
France’s Catherine Breillat, one of the world’s most uncompromising directors, will be here from 5–9 August for Abuse of Weakness, the terrifying story of how Breillat herself gave over $1 million to a convicted conman. Breillat will also be part of a Talking Pictures Directing Masterclass event hosted by Margaret Pomeranz on Friday 8 August.
Indie newcomer Desiree Akhavan – director, screenwriter and actor – will accompany her debut feature film, Appropriate Behavior, about a bisexual Iranian-American woman trying to find her way in modern-day Brooklyn. Akhavan is in the next series of the global cult TV show Girls and is here from 6-11 August.
MIFF will hold a Talking Pictures event on Wednesday 6 August at The Wheeler Centre – Blue Movies: Sex and Sexuality on Screen talking to screenwriters Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Ana Kokkinos (Head On, Blessed), Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior,) Joe Swanberg (Happy Christmas), and University of Melbourne Professor of Cinema Studies Barbara Creed, about using the sex scene to actually say something new and write ‘meaningful' sex for the screen in a way that isn't just sleaze.
From 6–11 August John Pirozzi, director of Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll, is here from the United States for his Backbeat film about the Khmer Rouge’s attempt to destroy everything the West had ever touched and the one thing they couldn’t destroy: rock ‘n’ roll.
The music conversations will continue with Talking Pictures – Memory Lane: Illmatic & the Golden Age of Hip Hop, reflecting on this year's Backbeat title Time Is Illmatic, about Nas' classic, groundbreaking 1994 album Illmatic. This session on Thursday 7 August, with hosts Lauren Taylor and Simon Winkler, will offer a robust discussion about the long-lasting impact of this seminal record on hip-hop scenes past and present.
Following sold-out screenings and its world premiere at the 64th Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, MIFF will present the Australian premiere screenings of the Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. Described by critics as “an impressive and important piece of filmmaking, restored with intelligence and care by the museum”, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey includes newly restored and digitised footage, in addition to the inclusion of the missing sixth reel, assembled by IWM according to the original shot list. Dr Toby Haggith, IWM’s Senior Curator, will be a guest of MIFF from 2–10 August and will head up Talking Pictures – On the Completing of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey on Sunday 10 August.
This Saturday the MIFF Centrepiece Gala is the world premiere of Cut Snake. Director Tony Ayres will be joined on the red carpet by the cast members, Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise Of An Empire, Animal Kingdom), Alex Russell (Chronicle, Carrie) and Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula). Shot in and around Melbourne, Cut Snake is a psychologically powered crime thriller set in mid-70s suburban Australia.
The next day MIFF will celebrate its inaugural Kids’ Gala with the World Premiere of Robert Connolly’s Paper Planes – its young stars Ena Imai, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke and Ed Oxenbould (Puberty Blues) will walk the red carpet at a special family-friendly screening at the Forum. Paper Planes is the story of 12-year-old Dylan who lives with his father in the West Australian outback and who discovers he is extremely good at making and flying paper planes. While attempting to refine and develop his newly realised ability, Dylan finds himself caught up in the world of competitive paper-plane making, leading to new friendships, new rivalries and new realisations about his own family.
Other guests in town for MIFF this week are:
Deepa Dhanraj, the director of Invoking Justice, and a guest as part of MIFF’s India in Flux: Living Resistance program strand that goes beyond Bollywood to present an alternate view of contemporary India. Invoking Justice is an inspiring picture of Muslim sisterhood and collective action about civil disputes in Southern Indian communities being settled by all male Jamaats (councils).
Maxim Pozdorovkin, Russia, Director: The Notorious Mr Bout – Pozdorovkin co-directed and produced Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and now turns his hand to Viktor Bout, a Russian entrepreneur in the import/export trade who makes no distinction between legal and illegal cargo, and who was the inspiration for Nicolas Cage’s character in Lord of War.
Albert Serra, Spain, Director: The Story of My Death – following his audacious treatments of Don Quixote and the Three Wise Men, the incomparable Catalan director turns his hand to the legends of Casanova and Dracula, presenting an ostentatious re-imagination of the 18th century transition from rationalism to romanticism.
Anne-Dominique Toussaint, France, Producer: Jacky in the Kingdom of Women – a twisted take on the Cinderella story that skewers sexism and fundamentalism to hilarious effect.
Anand Patwardhan, India, Director: Jai Bhim Comrade – this engrossing doco traces the ongoing struggle of India’s Dalit, or “untouchables”, through the poetry and music of Vilas Ghogre, an activist who suicided in protest over the defacement of a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar, champion of the Dalit.
Justin Olstein, Director: Curtain Call – the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne’s Southeast was once Australia’s most beloved pantomime theatre and was run by UK expats and irrepressible oddballs Terry and Carole Ann Gill. Curtain Call is the story of the struggle to save their life’s work and love from a commercial property developer.
Mike Brook and Stephen Cummings, Director and Artist: Don’t Throw Stones – based on Cummings’ scathing memoirs of the Australian music scene, which hark back to his days as the singer of ‘70s rock band The Sports. With a reputation as one of Australian rock’s greatest lyrical storytellers, Cummings is also one of the industry’s most incendiary critics.
Mark Hartley, Director: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films – when film-obsessed cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus came to America, their dream was to create a production house that would rival the big Hollywood studios. The result was Cannon Films, an outfit that soon became the stuff of legend, both on- and off-screen.
Kasimir Burgess, Director: Fell – a father waits for his daughter’s hit-and-run killer to be released from jail, tracks him down in a remote mountain town where he's begun working as a tree-feller and moves in next door. But revenge and redemption aren't always the same thing, and in the forest new life often comes to replace the old. A psychological thriller-turned deep character study set in Victoria's breathtaking Southern Alps.
Marlene Cummins, Subject: Black Panther Woman – In 1972 Aboriginal activists founded Australia's first and only Black Panther chapter in Brisbane. One of its members was Australia’s foremost Indigenous female blues writer and performer, Marlene Cummins, an idealistic teen attracted both to the group's revolutionary politics and to its founder, the charismatic, callous Dennis Walker. After ending her relationship with Dennis and leaving the party, Marlene disappeared into a crushing cycle of addiction. But an invitation to a convention of ex-Panthers in New York 40 years later finally gives her the chance to tell the world what happened to the women of her generation. This doco is directed by acclaimed Indigenous director Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae).
Molly Reynolds, Director and Rolf de Heer, Producer: Still Our Country – Reflections on a Culture – an evocative companion piece to de Heer’s Cannes-winning Charlie’s Country, this film documents the swiftly morphing lives of the Yolngu people of Ramingining in the Northern Territory. The film makes for a bold declaration of identity and a hopeful promise of a future.
Dirk de Bruyn, Subject/Producer and Steven McIntyre, Director: The House That Eye Live In – the first retrospective examination of filmmaker Dirk de Bruyn’s prolific and prodigious career. Migrating by sea from Holland as an eight-year-old, de Bruyn went on to be a doyen of Australian experimental cinema. But as this intimate film reveals, his work is suffused with the trauma of migration, and the struggle to recognise himself as a ‘new Australian’.
Anne Tsoulis, Director: These Heathen Dreams – once described by the press as “one of the most controversial figures on the Australian art scene”, avant-garde poet and playwright Christopher Barnett achieved a level of notoriety in the Melbourne underground theatre scene during the ‘70s and ‘80s, before self-exiling to France. An intimate portrait of Barnett’s life and revolutionary philosophy and a poignant and inspiring study of the power of both art and political activism.
Ian Pringle, Director: The Legend Maker – a film about professional forger Alan Figg, who operates in a world of duplicity where little is what it seems. He provides people with new identities and, often, the chance of a new life. But with age beginning to take its toll on his craft, and a thug threatening his life, Figg’s world is about to spin out of control.
Through out the festival, the Mandala Festival Lounge and Wine Bar, located in the Forum Theatre on Swanston Street, will be open daily Monday–Friday 4pm–late, Saturdays noon–8pm and Sundays noon–late.
From Monday 4 August through to Thursday 7 August, the Triple R Drive program will be broadcasting live from the Lounge at The Forum between 4 and 7pm, delivering live performances, special guests, film reviews, panel discussions and, of course, lots of great music. On Wednesday 6 August, after the Triple R broadcast and screening of the Nick Cave film 20,000 Days on Earth, DJ Fee B-Squared will pay homage to her hero with a Nick Cave-only playlist.
Full details on Festival Lounge offerings and events here www.miff.com.au/lounge