Tuesday, June 5, 2012

MIFF Sneak Peak Makes the Cut

Not content to let the Sydney Film Festival have the fun and hog all the cinephile attention, the Melbourne International Film Festival came out swinging today with some big film announcements as a part of their "first glance" released this morning on their website. The poster there to the left - oh hey, we were just discussing festival posters last week - is a nice one, and a definite upgrade over last year's disappointing text-only poster. I'd like to think that the poster be a promising sign of the festival's perseverance of the film format, but that's probably too much to ask in this day and age. Even the Cannes Film Festival screened 80% of its competition titles in DCP digital formats! Blerg.

Onto the films though and joining The Sapphires (opening night) and previously announced NextGen selections, there are many promising titles lurking about. The presence of high profile films like Michael Haneke's Amour, Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, Miguel Gomes' Tabu, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, Ruby Sparks from the team behind Little Miss Sunshine, and Lynn Shelton's My Sister's Sister prove that there will definitely be plenty of titles in the feature section to get excited about. Lesser known, but equally exciting, are Christian Petzold's Barbra, plus two Australian titles, 100 Bloody Acres and Last Dance. The former, a horror comedy by debut directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes has been generative buzz since its screenplay won at Slamdance. The latter, however, has been in the news for different reasons. David Pulbrook's film was to star Gena Rowlands before the union ridiculously put their foot down on the American actress's employment. We've been through this before - international stars attract bigger audiences to local films, resulting in healthier box office and more jobs - but at least they replaced Rowlands with a local actress of equal measure, the divine Julia Blake. No matter the back story, the film should prove interesting. All of these films will find (or already have in place) local distribution, some even in the same month as the festival, so it's always good to look past the bigger titles to find the small ones that otherwise might not find a cinematic home.

MIFF can always be counted on getting some really great documentaries for their program, and this year's handful of pre-announced titles look to keep that trend going. NFL rarely gets a look in at the Australian box office unless it stars Denzel Washington, so a festival screening of Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin's Oscar-winning Undefeated should be a can't miss opportunity for festival goers. Equally enticing is Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugarman was a hit at Sundance and will likely be the same in Melbourne, meanwhile two docos that look at counter cultures, Ice-T and Andy Baybutt's Something for Nothing: The Art of Rap and Marten Persiel's examination of skate culture in East Berlin, This Ain't California, already have me salivating. LCD Soundsystem's Shut Up and Play the Hits, Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss, and Bart Layton's The Imposter will also be high on my radar. Two Australian titles, Trevor Graham's Make Hummus Not War, and Ian Darling's Paul Kelly: Stories of Me sound less promising, but could be worth keeping an eye out for some good word of mouth.

Unless something really bad happens between now and the festival, I can't see why I won't be in attendance for at least Amour, Undefeated, Something for Nothing: The Art of Rap (old school hip-hop will always get my bum in a seat) and maybe Tabu or Barbara depending on local distribution dates. The entire guide will be released on 13 July, at which point we will have literally hundreds of films to peruse and choose from. The festival runs from 2 August-19 August due to the Olympics cramping its usual slot of late July. Check out all the titles and videos at the official MIFF website. Can. Not. Wait. !!!.

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