To help wade through the immense list of films playing at MIFF this year, we will be breaking down each section of the programme with our recommendations, separated into four categories: known films already screened in Australia, known films yet to screen in Australia, the dark horses, and the must-sees in our schedule.
We start today with the biggest section of the programme, International Panorama, and we’re giving you five picks in each category to whittle down the 62 films to a reasonable number.
A Separation | dir. Asghar Farhadi | IRA/FRA
As you may know by now, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation is one of my favourite films of the year and won the Official Competition when it played at the Sydney Film Festival last month. It is a well-liked feature and one of the best films to come out of Iran in a number of years.
The Future | dir. Miranda July | USA/GER
One of the more divisive films to play at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, enjoyment of The Future is utterly dependent on personal taste, and your opinion of Miranda July’s earlier feature Me and You and Everyone We Know is a good indicator for her follow-up.
The Guard | dir. John Michael McDonagh | IRE
One of the relative unknowns at SFF, The Guard was a big hit at the festival, with most audience members quick to praise the hilarious comedy featuring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle. While a few critics weren’t fond of the film, this looks to be an almost certain crowd-pleaser and a good film to break-up your more “artsy” choices.
The Turin Horse | dir. Béla Tarr | HUN
Speaking of “artsy” films, Béla Tarr’s final feature, The Turin Horse, was practically universally loved at SFF and praised for its incredible languid sequences. Not recommended after a heavy day of work, The Turin Horse is an experience, rather than a conventional narrative.
Tyrannosaur | dir. Paddy Considine | UK
Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur was my most anticipated film of SFF and it did not disappoint, featuring two strong central performances and a strong handle by its first-feature director. Gripping but bleak, Tyrannosaur deserves a break afterwards to fully appreciate its content.
KNOWN FILMS YET TO SCREEN AT AN AUSTRALIAN FESTIVAL
Another Earth | dir. Mike Cahill | USA
Brit Marling caused a stir at Sundance Film Festival this year after appearing in two films, Sound of My Voice and Another Earth. Picking up the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for outstanding film with science, technology or math as a major theme, the alternate reality storyline is incredibly intriguing and considering the buzz that came out of Sundance, this is one not to miss.
The Kid with a Bike | dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne | BEL/FRA/ITA
Speaking of not to miss, the Grand Prix-winning The Kid with a Bike is by the acclaimed Dardenne brothers, who have created astounding previous pieces of cinema in Rosetta and The Child. Claimed to be as socially aware as its predecessors, there is no doubt in my mind this will be another incredible experience.
Le Havre | dir. Aki Kaurismaki | FRA/FIN/GER
It is incredible that Le Havre gained such wide acclaim at Cannes this year, considering comedy-dramas seem to always fall by the wayside at festivals for strong dramatic features. Nevertheless, the film won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize and has been compared to the works of Melville and Bresson. Called a “continual pleasure”, Le Havre sounds like a winner.
Melancholia | dir. Lars von Trier | DEN/SWE/FRA/GER
Kirsten Dunst came away from this film with the Best Actress award at Cannes and despite being an entirely divisive director, von Trier always provokes discussion, and isn’t that what you want at a film festival?
Submarine | dir. Richard Ayoade | UK
Richard Ayoade might be known for his role as Moss on the television series The I.T. Crowd, but it isn’t all that surprising that he would jump into feature direction. After strong experience in the small screen for over a decade, Ayoade has effortlessly moved into film, showing his love of classic and New Wave cinema. Hopefully the precursor to an acclaimed career, this looks to be a strong coming-of-age tale.
THE DARK HORSES
Circumstance | dir. Maryam Keshavarz | USA/IRA
I was surprised to see little mention of Circumstance from other features on the festival, as Maryam Keshavarz’s film is a co-production that moves beyond the limitations of Iranian cinema. A beautifully shot drama about friendship and love, it is a universal story of real teenage and family issues. An underrated film, I expect this one to generate some discussion in its aftermath.
Surviving Life | dir. Jan Švankmajer | CZE
A self-described surrealist, Czech director Jan Švankmajer’s work has influenced Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, among others. Yet, amazingly, his newest film, Surviving Life, has been lost in the programme list. An artistic director and storyteller at the top of his game, I urge viewers to open their minds to a man who is not only innovative but unconventional. Probably the most accessible film in his career, this is something worth your time.
Tiny Furniture | dir. Lena Dunham | USA
The winner of the Best Narrative Feature award at SXSW in 2010, Tiny Furniture has taken its time to get to Australian cinemas and has received little promotion since it won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. Nevertheless, the quirky independent comedy has been compared to Woody Allen’s work and for anyone who has studied film at university, this will speak volumes.
Tomorrow Will Be Better | dir. Dorota Kedzierzawska | POL
One of my major regrets at the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival this year was missing out on Tomorrow Will Be Better, especially after seeing Kedzierzawska’s earlier work Jestem (I Am). Matching grim narrative with uplifting photography, the films are realistic but poignant and always include stunning performances from its child actors. Kedzierzawska’s films will leave you stunned and, usually, it’s for the right reasons.
Tuesday, After Christmas | dir. Radu Muntean | ROM
Another regretful miss at BAFF this year was Muntean’s Tuesday, After Christmas, which was widely praised afterwards for its terrific central performances and impressively held takes. A seemingly gripping drama that will provide further evidence of Romania’s up-and-coming industry, this is likely to win over most festival patrons.
THE FIVE MUST-SEES OF OUR FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Footnote | dir. Joseph Cedar | ISR
We are constantly impressed by the rising quality of Israeli cinema and after strong reviews to screenings at Cannes, there was no doubt we would catch Cedar’s Footnote at MIFF.
LiTTLEROCK | dir. Mike Ott | USA
A surprise choice here. We actually had no knowledge of this film and gave it no notice until we saw Mike Ott (the man behind Analog Days) was directing. The trailer showed off a Lost in Translation film where instead of focusing on the outsiders, the film gives deep insight into the world of Littlerock. The trailer’s verbal reference to Herzog’s Stroszek also won us over.
Martha Marcy May Marlene | dir. Sean Durkin | USA
The film I unfortunately missed at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, there was no chance I was going to pass up another opportunity to see one of the bigger indie dramas of the year. Considering its widespread acclaim (bar a couple of Australian critics), this is many writers’ favourite film of the year.
Submarine | dir. Richard Ayoade | UK
I love most of Ayoade’s career and this coming-of-age tale has been on my radar since production. Strong reviews since its festival tour began have only added to my expectations.
Tomboy | dir. Celine Sciamma | FRA
This choice is simply because of Alice Tynan (of various Australian publications). I’ve noticed over time that we share similar taste in film, and at the Sydney Film Festival, Alice was only one of two critics (I know of) to see Tomboy. Both critics loved the film, so I am trusting their opinions and placing it in my must-sees.
Hopefully this list helps decide your picks in the section. If you have already bought tickets to International Panorama films, we would love to know your choices and your most anticipated of the category!