One of the reasons many patrons go to Australian festivals is to see the best of local cinema, weeks and months (and sometimes years) before the films get a general release. New and old faces come together in the terrific Australian Showcase section at this year’s MIFF, with Fred Schepisi’s latest film already close to selling out. To help you make the hard decisions, we’ll be giving two picks in each of our categories.
Hail | dir. Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Not for everyone, this visceral and unforgettable experience is still my top Australian film of the year. Strong performances by Daniel P. Jones and Leanne Letch create an authenticity to the central relationship, packed with raw emotion. Raw camerawork, scenes of verbal and physical assault and hallucinatory visual metaphors won’t find widespread appreciation but to a dedicated audience, this will be one of the highlights of the year.
Life in Movement | dir. Bryan Mason, Sophie Hyde
The winner of the Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, the biography of the extraordinarily talented dancer and choreographer Tanja Liedtke is a deeply affecting piece. Watching the talent of Liedtke is mesmerising and it really is one to see.
KNOWN FILMS YET TO SCREEN AT AN AUSTRALIAN FESTIVAL
The Eye of the Storm | dir. Fred Schepisi
It has been a long time since Fred Schepisi made an Australian feature (1988’s Evil Angels) but the director is back to tackle Patrick White’s acclaimed 1973 novel. Featuring an all-star cast, including Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, the seemingly eccentric film is already selling out quickly at the festival. Best to get on this one quickly!
Red Dog | dir. Kriv Stenders
I was initially sceptical about Kriv Stenders’ Red Dog, as I did not believe anyone could convincingly adapt Louis de Bernières novella. Yet over time, all of its elements – the isolated town of Dampier, the casting of Luke Ford, and the look back at what Australia and its cinema used to be – have combined into something to look forward to. An endearing feature, perhaps I was too harsh on Red Dog.
THE DARK HORSES
I Am Eleven | dir. Genevieve Bailey
An all-encompassing documentary, exploring the lives and thoughts of children from 15 countries, I Am Eleven is one I have heard mentioned but only in passing. Yet when you pay attention to the material, which gives us a glimpse into the crucial transition period of a child’s life, this is something all of us can relate to. Offering insight into how we compare and contrast in this period, I Am Eleven should be on your radar.
X | dir. Jon Hewitt
Viva Bianca might be well-known by viewers of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but they will be disappointed to hear that she shows a little less skin in Jon Hewitt’s X. Nevertheless, this raw and relentless thriller set in Sydney’s Kings Cross looks at two women at differing ends of their career and the consequences that follow. Set close to home with a known actress, X may be the explicit feature your festival schedule needs.
THE TWO MUST-SEES OF OUR FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Face To Face | dir. Michael Rymer
From the director of Angel Baby, based on David Williamson’s play of the same name, and starring Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton and Matthew Newton – need I say more? A layered ensemble piece that critiques Australian society’s still existing prejudices, Face to Face looks like a captivating and powerful indie.
Swerve | dir. Craig Lahiff
Combining its South Australian outback setting with the noir and thriller genres, Craig Lahiff’s Swerve contains a strong cast and an interesting storyline based on the consequences of a good deed. Unlikely to stick to a conventional narrative, Swerve is one of the more intriguing and enticing features in our schedule.
Hopefully this list helps decide your picks in the section. If you have already bought tickets to Australian Showcase films, we would love to know your choices and your most anticipated of the category!