Clear your calendars, the Melbourne International Film Festival, has officially begun. Held over two and a half weeks and attracting over 200 000 visitors each year, MIFF showcases the best of the best cinema from Australia and around the world. If the thought of choosing between over 300 films sounds daunting to you, we’ve picked out our flicks that we think you’ll want to see:
Tickled | Documentary
It seemed like an innocent investigation at first: journalist David Farrier had accidentally come across the world of “competitive endurance tickling”, in which a company offers all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles for men who are willing to be filmed being tickled. A mystery that begins as a curiosity turns into a full-blown investigation as co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve navigate an extraordinary series of twists and turns to uncover the revelations at the heart of this peculiar subculture. Executive produced by Stephen Fry, Tickled is both a gripping cautionary tale and a top-notch piece of investigative journalism.
In Jackson Heights | Documentary
Jackson Heights, Queens, might just be the most culturally diverse neighbourhood not only in New York, but the entire world. Its residents speak 167 languages and intermingle in a vibrant, inclusive melting pot. A meeting of Holocaust survivors, a gay pride parade, and a hilarious training class for taxi drivers reveals a vast tapestry of people and cultures living in one impossible place. The 40th film from legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman (National Gallery, MIFF 2014) is a complex exploration of a microcosm of humanity, and how it deals with looming threats from gentrification to deportation. Ultimately, it’s a celebration that such a community can exist at all in modern America.
Elle | International Panorama
When the CEO of a company specialising in violent video games is brutally raped during a home invasion, she goes about her daily business as if nothing has happened. Deciding not to report the crime, she instead embarks on a cat-and-mouse pursuit of her assailant – a dangerous game that will feed her own sadomasochistic desires. Elle is a perverse, psychologically complex and sometimes surprisingly funny film that won huge critical acclaim at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – not least for Isabelle Huppert’s (Things to Come, also screening in this year’s program) mesmerising performance as the film’s hard-as-nails protagonist.
The Ark | Virtual Reality
The northern white rhino is the world’s most endangered animal. When Emmy-nominated filmmakers Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill began shooting The Ark, their VR documentary about the fight to save this magnificent creature, there were seven left; today there are only three, each protected 24/7 by armed bodyguards!
Following the efforts of two scientists on opposite sides of the world who are both committed to saving the rhino, The Arktakes us inside the US lab where stem cell technology is being investigated as a part Jurassic Park, part IV means of salvation; we also visit the Kenyan Conservation Park where Dr Stephen Ngulu fights day and night to protect the world’s three remaining rhinos.
Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie | Documentary
A revealing, funny and sometimes absurd film, Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie doesn’t just reiterate known facts and already-told stories, but endeavours to recreate the mindset at the heart of the notorious organisation. In his first film made for cinema, Theroux takes inspiration from The Act of Killing (MIFF 2013) while retaining his well-loved brand of personable but deadpan scepticism, even when he’s being trailed by Scientology henchmen who claim to be making their own documentary about his actions!
Captain Fantastic | International Panorama
Under the emotive directorial microscope of actor-turned-director Matt Ross (who scored the Un Certain Regard directing award at Cannes), and with glittering performances from the six youths, and gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Stéphane Fontaine, Captain Fantastic is a heartfelt exposition of the mystifying challenges of fatherhood, fundamental familial values and finding one’s sense of place in a world so often defined by societal constructs.
The Family | Australian Showcase Premiere Fund Film
Melbourne director Rosie Jones (The Triangle Wars, MIFF 2011) has spent years digging into disturbing mysteries of The Family. With survivors and cult members telling their stories on camera (the now adult children’s resilience is inspiring), alongside the Australian and international police who worked the case, this confronting MIFF Premiere Fund-supported documentary exposes not just what happened within the still-operating sect but also within the conservative Melbourne community that allowed The Family to flourish.
Paterson | Headliners
In the New Jersey town of Paterson, a man by the name of Paterson (Adam Driver, MIFF 2015’s Hungry Hearts) drives a bus. He keeps a copy of William Carlos Williams’ epic poem of the same name on his desk . And he’s also a poet.
Symmetry and order seem to dictate Paterson’s existence as he follows the same daily routine: writing lines of prose inspired by his passengers, walking his English bulldog to the local bar each night, and coming home to his big-dreaming wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, MIFF 2013’s The Patience Stone). And yet, in Jim Jarmusch’s (Gimme Danger, MIFF 2016) hands – as aided by Driver at his contemplative best, and gracefully shot by cinematographer Frederick Elmes (Coffee and Cigarettes, MIFF 2004) – a series of amusing coincidences becomes a thoughtful, playful and insightful meditation on the ebbs and flows of life.
When: July 28 – August 14 2016
Where: Various venues across Melbourne
Visit the MIFF website here.