[With less than a week until the Melbourne International Film Festival programme is launched, Julian considers how he would fill out the festival if he was given the opportunity.]
The Our Space section at MIFF has quickly become an interesting category at the festival, with a mixture of talking heads and experimental documentaries and narrative features discussing the environments we live in, both urban and rural, and how they affect our lives. From structural achievements to widespread devastation, this is a section often filled with incredibly engaging and frustratingly dull titles, and I’m sure I have found that mixture in my picks.
So, let’s take a look at my selections for the Our Space section:
Canicula | dir. Jose Alvarez | MEX
While many will argue that Jose Alvarez’s documentary is just about the crafts and rituals of the Totonac people in Veracruz’s Zapotal Santa Cruz community, the film also highlights the beautiful region and how the inhabitants use its natural resources. This is a stunning look at a long-ignored tribal group.
Chasing Ice | dir. Jeff Orlowski | USA
Orlowski’s documentary follows renowned National Geographic photographer James Balog on a harsh Arctic expedition where he uses time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. Taking viewers to never before seen areas of the Arctic, Chasing Ice provides visual evidence from our world of climate change in action.
Italy, Love It or Leave It | dir. Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi | ITA
After their gay-centric Suddenly, Last Winter, Hofer and Ragazzi take a trip through Italy in an old Fiat 500 to decide whether they should stay in the country, or leave it. Looking behind the spectacular vistas and old clichés, the documentary examines contemporary Italy, confronting whether anyone should stay in a country that seems to have abandoned its future.
Neighbouring Sounds | dir. Kleber Mendonca Filho | BRA
Expanding on his short film Eletrodoméstica, Filho has created a self-assured and gripping feature-film debut that portrays life in a middle-class neighbourhood. Examining class, paranoia, fear, and revenge in contemporary Brazil, the film features a strong cast and an incredible employment of urban space and design. With violence and noise at its core, Filho looks to have created a searing reflection on Brazilian culture.
Samsara | dir. Ron Fricke | USA
The cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi and director of Baraka is back with a brand new feature, shot on 70mm film over a period of five years in twenty-five countries on five continents. Exploring humanity’s relationship to the eternal, Samsara focuses on the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes and natural wonders.
Shanghai Calling | dir. Daniel Hsia | USA/CHN
Shot entirely on location in Shanghai, China, this is a romantic comedy set in the American “expat” community of the dynamic city. Giving a glimpse into contemporary China and how its burgeoning economy has impacted the country, the charming – if conventional – storyline is entirely overshadowed by the incredible city of Shanghai.
The Tiniest Place | dir. Tatiana Huezo Sanchez | MEX
Focusing on a remote village in the mountains of El Salvador – destroyed in the country’s civil war of the 1980s and rebuilt by its residents – the documentary looks at the profound trauma of past oppression. With pieces of military equipment still prominently displayed, Nuevo Cinquera honours the most difficult moments of their lives by incorporating it into their urban environment.
Urbanized | dir. Gary Hustwit | USA/UK
Despite a screening at Speakeasy just weeks before the festival, the $20+ price tag might be too much for some Melbournians. Even more so, this is a must-see documentary that defines the section: inviting viewers to think about the complexity of urban spaces and design’s power to shape the places we live in. From the director of Helvetica and Objectified comes another intriguing film on design.
¡Vivan las Antipodas! | dir. Victor Kossakovsky | ARG/CHI/GER/NED
An entirely positive take on the planet, Kossakovsky pairs locations on Earth that sit opposite each other. Imaginative, inventive, and visually engaging, ¡Vivan las Antipodas! is an exquisitely shot travelogue with a contemplative tone and some stunning editing. This is another strong documentary in the section.
So that’s what I would have in the programme for MIFF 2012. Have I missed anything? What would you want if you had free reign?