With the International Panorama section containing approximately 60 titles and New Talent from the EU showcasing twelve films from twelve different countries, the Melbourne International Film Festival plays host to a significant number of narrative features across its festival line-up. Whether confronting, comedic or dramatic, MIFF brings together a mixture of micro-budget, independent, and “arthouse” fair to offer viewers some of the most intriguing and outstanding films, taken from the world’s top festivals and production teams.
With so many narrative features set to play at MIFF this year, I’ve picked out twelve titles I believe deserve a spot in the festival line-up. Honourable mentions go to Adult World, Call Girl, Flower Buds, Heli, The Major, and So Much Water.
[Please note that my picks do not include films that were revealed in official MIFF announcements; mentioned in my three part feature series on titles for major Australian Film Festivals, or selected as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival.]
Adore | dir. Anne Fontaine | AUS/FRA
The director of Coco Before Chanel and Nathalie… returns with an Australian-French co-production examining two close female friends who begin relationships with each other’s son. Starring Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones) and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom), this mature and provocative adaptation of a Doris Lessing novel is sure to divide and fascinate audiences.
C.O.G. | dir. Kyle Patrick Alvarez | USA
The first feature-length adaptation of a David Sedaris work, C.O.G., gained plenty of attention at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Following the experiences of a soul-searching individual looking to learn about life on the other side, the director’s sophomore effort features stunning cinematography and strong central performances that helps this collage of Americana resonate with film audiences. A natural low-key fit for MIFF.
Drinking Buddies | dir. Joe Swanberg | USA
Showing incredible promise across eight years of features, including 2007’s Hannah Takes the Stairs starring Greta Gerwig and Mark Duplass, Joe Swanberg finally takes on a proper studio budget to create his most refined film yet. Working with cinematographer Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and boasting a cast that includes Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, this relationship drama-comedy looks set to improve on the director’s best elements, leaving viewers entirely satisfied.
The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas | dir. Elina Psykou | GRE
An unexpected gem at this year’s Berlinale, Psykou’s debut feature follows in the footsteps of Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari with a surrealist tale of a famous television presenter staging his own disappearance to boost public interest. When he begins to lose touch with his audience, the presenter begins concocting even more extravagant measures to prepare for his triumphant return. A charming and absurd addition to the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema.
Harmony Lessons | dir. Emir Baigazin | KAZ
Also from the Berlinale, where it took out the Silver Berlin Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution and the Reader Jury Prize, Baigazin’s poetic first film focuses on a teenage boy’s ostracism from the rest of his schoolmates. With stunning direction, cinematography, and performances in the dissection of a universal issue, Harmony Lessons announces the debut of a new voice in film.
Matterhorn | dir. Diedrik Ebbinge | NED
After allowing a homeless man to stay in his house, the film’s protagonist confronts his loneliness and grief by making his guest re-enact scenes from his past. The clear winner of this year’s Audience Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Matterhorn is a dry and absurd comedy featuring a highly praised deadpan central performance from lead Ton Kas.
Mother, I Love You | dir. Janis Nords | LAT
It won the Grand Prize (Generation Kplus) Award at this year’s Berlinale, as well as the Jury Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Latvian feature echoes the Dardenne Brothers’ The Kid with a Bike in its realistic portrayal of the building of a mother-son relationship. Told from the introverted son’s point-of-view, this should be a deeply moving experience for Melbourne audiences.
Pearblossom Hwy | dir. Mike Ott | USA
One of the unexpected gems at MIFF 2011 that had everyone talking was Mike Ott’s LiTTLEROCK. Writer-actress Atsuko Okatsuka and actor Cory Zacharia are both back for the director’s follow-up, which continues to look at the themes of disillusionment and coming of age while blending improvisation with real-life elements of the actors. This is another distinctive effort from Ott that many should look forward to seeing.
Short Term 12 | dir. Destin Cretton | USA
Brie Larson of 21 Jump Street and United States of Tara fame takes on the leading role in Destin Cretton’s feature-length version of his 2008 short film. Following the lives of two councillors (the other played by The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher Jr.) at a foster care facility for troubled youths, the film has wowed festival audiences, taking Grand Jury and Audience awards at SXSW and the L.A. Film Festival. The sleeper hit of the year, this is a must for the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The Tears | dir. Pablo Delgado Sánchez | MEX
Pablo Delgado Sánchez’s graduation film has already grabbed screenings at Locarno and Rotterdam, and this neo-realistic drama about the power of brotherly bonding is anchored by its two powerful central performances. As the brothers try to escape the bonds of their broken home, the younger sibling has to witness the self-destruction of his older brother. A charming and sensitive directorial debut that will have audiences buzzing.
Teddy Bears | dir. Thomas Beatty, Rebecca Fishman | USA
What if you could see cast members of Community, Happy Endings, Two and a Half Men, Parenthood and Numb3rs in the same film? Well, now it is possible with the independent feature Teddy Bears! The dark comedy sees three couples venture out on a weeklong retreat, only for one member of the group to propose an orgy to help him get over his mother’s recent passing. This is a highly original film that hopefully makes it to our shores.
Traffic Department | dir. Wojciech Smarzowski | POL
In a Warsaw police department, sex, alcohol, drugs, bribery and rampant debauchery is considered the norm – until it is disrupted by the murder of a fellow officer. This fast-paced Polish film mixes traditional footage with CCTV and mobile phone recordings to bring viewers a frantic and gripping look at a world of corruption.
So that’s what I would add to the narrative features at MIFF 2013. Have I missed anything? What would you want if you had free reign?