The 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival has arrived and, as usual, picking from the gargantuan list of films is an intimidating task. The MIFF brings talent from all around the world, presenting a wonderfully diverse selection of filmmakers, performers and locations. The opportunity to travel the world through the lenses of its filmmakers is one of the festival’s main attractions.
That said, it’s easy to bypass the brilliant filmmakers right here in Australia, whose entries make for some of the most exciting films on the bill. With recent electrifying successes making waves overseas like Ben Young’s Hounds of Love (2016) and Kriv Stenders’ prequel to his beloved Red Dog (2011), Australian cinema is still showing audiences it has plenty of tales to tell on the big screen.
To help you with your MIFF picks, peruse our guide to five of the most exciting films by Australian filmmakers at this year’s festival.
Kriv Stenders has only been making films since the late 1990s, but his presence in Australian cinema is palpable. This is thanks to uplifting smash hits like Red Dog and early formal like 2007’s powerful Boxing Day.
Stenders’ MIFF entry, Australia Day, is a return to his grittier, angrier pieces of Australiana. Depicting the controversial holiday via the interconnecting vignettes, Stenders’ latest seeks to expose audiences to the country’s uncomfortable relationship with its multicultural and indigenous population.
Part documentary, part portrait, part impressionistic cinema, director Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Bastardy is an account of the life of homosexual Aboriginal elder Jack Charles. Junkie, thief and award winning actor, Charles seems like the perfect documentary subject and a revealing peek into the experiences of one of Australia’s icons, about whom audiences may know very little.
Jennifer Peedom shot to directorial stardom with Sherpa (2015), a breathtaking account of an Everest climbing expedition gone horribly wrong, focusing on its aftermath amid the Sherpa community. With Mountain, she returns to these magnificent landmarks with an experimental feature. Joined by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, narrated by Willem Defoe, Mountain replaces traditional narrative for cinematic grandeur to show audiences our planet’s most sublime land formations.
Conceived and shot in just ten days, Ellipsis is a meet-cute story that strips away all the familiar trappings of the romantic comedy and focuses on the guy (Benedict Samuel), the girl (Emily Barclay) and the city (Sydney). Actor-turned-director David Wenham’s debut feature is in the tradition of Richard Linklater’s near-perfect Before trilogy (1995 – 2013), relying on gorgeously shot locations, charismatic leads and a powerfully affecting romance.
Heavily improvised, Ellipsis has already received positive reviews and marks Wenham’s triumphant beginning as a minimalist director.
Iconic Australian actress Melissa George (Home and Away, The Slap) plays Evelyn, an impassioned florist with a unique fashion sense. 13-year-old Fin (Ed Oxenbould, Puberty Blues) is drawn into her world as a respite from his own, as he grieves the recent death of his mother. The relationship is complicated when both Fin and his father Al (Ewen Leslie) become infatuated with Evelyn.
Prescilla Cameron’s debut feature promises to be a visually lush and emotionally wrought portrait of grief and desire.
There are plenty more Australian gems hidden in the MIFF’s immense catalogue. Daniel Radcliffe stars in Wolf Creek (2005) director Greg McLean’s Survival, and a six-episode screening of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl, following on from the immensely successful first season.
This year’s festival shows international as much as local talent. Take a cinematic trip around the world – just be sure to make a few stops in your own backyard, too.
View the full MIFF lineup here.