Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Senna and A Separation Win MIFF 2011

Far be it from me to raise an eyebrow to these audience poll results from the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival, but... well, that's what I'm doing. I have no doubt in my mind that Asif Kapadia's Senna and Asghar Farhadi's A Separation (formerly known as Nadar & Simin, a Separation) were the best received films of the festival since I don't know a single person who saw either of them - and there were a lot who did! - and disliked. MIFF, like Toronto, doesn't have awards that are given out to films selected as being "in competition", so winning the audience poll is as good as it gets.

Nevertheless, I do find it curious that Michael Rymer's Face to Face was supposedly the second most popular film of the festival. Having just seen this stage play adaptation this morning, I can confirm that it is indeed quite good, but out of 250+ films it's high ranking is perplexing. Or, I guess it shouldn't really, when you consider that it premiered at the festival and that the festival's new voting system (all online via the website or the iPhone app) means people don't have to give their vote out of five right there on the spot. In fact, it means you don't even need to have seen the film to rate, but merely tap your smartphone touchscreen a couple of times. How to know if the makers didn't just get their friends to vote 5/5? I guess we can never know.

The same theory applies to Jon Hewitt's X (#19), which only screened once at the festival and was, as far as I'm aware, not all that well received. It and Ivan Sen's Toomelah (#12) are two Australian films that ranked amongst the top 20 that made me question the results. Kriv Stenders' Red Dog (#4), The Slap (#9, but unseen by me), Fred Schepisi's The Eye of the Storm (#13) and Khoa Do's Falling for Sahara (#14) are less puzzling since I think all three hit their targets quite squarely on the head, especially the latter that had the advantage of screening three times to audiences usually half full of phone-crazy teenagers on school excursions.

I'm not particularly surprised to see Miranda July's The Future (#16) slide in since the crowd I saw that movie with seemed quite enraptured. That there were people wearing thick-rimmed glasses with no lenses inside them surely helped her cause. I was delighted to see Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture (#15) and Lars von Trier's Melancholia (#7) do well with audiences though, but André Øvredal's Troll Hunter (#5), Jesse Peretz's Our Idiot Brother (#3) and Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing (#18) were not titles I would have expected to land amidst the crowd that they have.

Over on the documentary list, things look pretty much as you would expect. Being topped by Senna, all the popular festival titles seem to appear, but I find it interesting that Errol Morris' Tabloid (#19) ranked so low for what is supposedly such a crowd-pleasing film. I will be seeing the film next week. Interesting to note also that Werner Herzog's The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one of the festival's most high profile titles, could only reach #14. Could that have something to do with the overwhelmingly negative reaction the film's projection received on only day 2 of the festival? I suspect so, although the film being slower than a wet week surely didn't help it's cause. I'm surprised The Triangle Wars wasn't in the top 20, actually, since the crowd I saw it with were practically foaming at the mouth during it's social uprising. And being la-di-da St Kilda residents, I would assume they all had iPhones. Hmmm.

The one definitive fact that I can ascertain from these results? Documentaries tend to have far longer titles. There are so many colons that you'd think they were Hollywood summer blockbusters!

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