MIFF 2011 - The Festival Guide insight

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The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF 2011) is just around the corner; it is celebrating 60 years and is one of the oldest festivals in the world. I have chosen 60 (edit 60+) films and would like to share some of the ones that stand out as being odd, interesting and engaging, along with my own analysis of the festival as a whole. The guide is out for all the public to see today (July 8th in The Age) and as a member I would like to give you a quick insight before you all start feverishly booking films.

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Opening & Closing
Let's begin with the two gala events, the Opening night film is the decidedly odd The Fairy, a Belgium/French screwball comedy about a fairy that appears and grants wishes to a lonely hotel manager. The directors will be in attendance.
However this pales in comparison to the Closing Night film Drive; Nicolas Winding Refn's heart pounding, hyper stylized heist flick. Unfortunately this will not be playing at any other time at the festival (unlike previous year schedules which did include the opening and closing night films), but is probably a pretty appropriate film to get your drink on with at the after-party despite the steep ticket price.
On an interesting note Drive replaces the world wide premiere of Red Dog, an Aussie larrikin tale about a cheeky dog and the rural town that comes to love him. Based on a true story this film will be screening at MIFF as general admission.

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Category

The categories (never genre specific, and, to be fair, it is hard to lump most modern films into just one particular genre nowadays) include some classics revamped such as International Panorama (everything not Asian), Telescope: New Talent from the EU (basically International Panorama part 2), Australian Showcase, Accent on Asia (the only place to find Asian films, sadly there is no HK films, but this is made up for by a strong lineup of Japanese and Korean cinema; almost all sourced from Cannes).
Crime Scene (films about crime... a pretty weak category that could have been spread across the others and replaced by an Animation category which does not exist!), Networked (films about the net, web 2.0 and social networking, basically docos for the most part), This Sporting Life (pretty interesting docos looking at the people, persona and psyches behind competitive sports), Documentaries, Our Space (the ever-popular section on place and location, focusing on specific documentaries covering things like city analysis, nuclear waste and the philosophy of a space), Backbeat (the immensely popular section of music docos).

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Prime Time (a pointless section that focuses on mini-movies, but does contain the epic not-to-be-missed Mysteries of Lisbon and the premiere of a new ABC show The Slap (previewing the first 3 episodes, not a great idea), MIFF 60th Retrospective (every year MIFF includes a retrospective whether it be Godard or Wakamatsu, this year, appropriately they include a selection of MIFF premieres over the last 60 years, the majority of these choices are diverse and there is probably something for everyone), NextGen (cinema made for a younger audience) Night Shift (an excellent category that never disappoints, featuring horror, the bizarre and something insane from Japan) and last but not least Shorts (short films broken up into country/Accelerator which is a 90 minute block of related short films).

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Films

Across these diverse categories lies a wonderful cinematic landscape of challenging, entertaining, informative, boring, long, speechless, fantastical, dull, bright, horrific, sad, tragic, unintelligible, angry, happy, neutral and insane movies from across the globe. Here are some highlights.

The Silence of Joan is a decidedly modern retelling of the tale of Joan of Arc, told through the perspectives of others and not her eyes. Surviving Life is a psychoanalytical comedy using innovative and bizarre animation exploring a disturbed mans subconscious to unlock his dream lover. The Turin Horse charts a week in the life of a peasant and is based on the accounts of Nietzsche witnessing a horse being whipped, this is bleak, shot in monochrome, long and post apocalyptic and not to be missed.
The Guard is an offbeat buddy cop comedy set in a small Irish town, Don Cheadle rarely disappoints and sides with a belligerent and racist Irishman to stop a drug cartel. Submarine is Richard Ayoade's debut feature, a little Godard, a little Anderson it follows a young man as he sorts out his life and falls into love, albeit awkwardly.

Mysteries of Lisbon is a stunner; a four and a half hour epic period piece costume drama that spans continents and has received rave reviews. Martha Marcy May Marlene is the account of a girl who leaves behind a cult but cannot adjust to normal life. Take Shelter sees the enigmatic Michael Shannon play a blue collar worker who constantly sees an apocalyptic storm. Michael is the mega controversial film about the true story of a pedophile who kept a 10 year old boy prisoner in his basement.
The Future is Miranda July's next effort following the unclassified Me, and You, and Everyone We Know, this one is about a couple who work full force to change their lives, with bizarre results; this film is also narrated by a cat. Another Earth is an existential romance sci-fi, a Sundance hit about a duplicate Earth that appears near our own, the trailer is below and looks incredible.

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Finisterrae is about, and stay with me here, two Russian 'ghosts' (people in sheets) who venture through artificial vistas of ear forests and plastic deer fields, hunting an oracle. She Monkeys toes the line of taboo regarding teen sexuality that goes off the deep end. X is Jon Hewitt's raw thriller set in Sydney's seedy King Cross, he will be a guest at the festival! Hanezu is a mythic love triangle that utilizes Japanese folk lore.
Guilty of Romance - Cold Fish are Sion Sono's newest films, very very pleased about this! Guilty of Romance is the unedited festival cut too! Oki's Movie - The Day He Arrives are two Hong Sang-Soo films I will promptly avoid. The Yellow Sea is a feverish and relentless follow on to The Chaser, this may as well be Chaser 2, the action scenes are top tier stuff. End of Animal is a Korean post-apocolyptic super natural thriller.
Polisse is a visceral procedural about fighting the powers that be in a small juvenile police protection unit in france.

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Bobby Fischer Against the World is an HBO documentary that analyses genius, madness and chess. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is where Herzog takes us into 3D and into some seriously interesting caves! Jiro Dreams of Sushi; Passion is an understatement regarding this master sushi chef and his delightful obsession.
The Hollywood Complex concerns dreams and delusions in the desperate search for stardom as child actors proliferate a housing complex and face the perils and tribulations of getting 'a part'. Tabloid is the true account of one of the trashiest and bizarre news stories ever, truth is stranger than fiction.
Exporting Raymond asks Everyone Loves Raymond, but will Russia as the creator goes there to adapt the smash hit comedy with hilarious results. Tales of the Night is a beautiful animation utilizing silhouettes and 3D. The Innkeepers; Ti West strikes again with this completely different slacker-horror set in a haunted Inn.
Kill List; Down Terrace was an amazing film and the followup should prove no different. Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, no comment.
The MIFF Retrospective includes the first film played at MIFF Cocteau's Beauty and The Beast, the master Bong Joon-Ho's sophomore effort Barking Dogs Never Bite, Harmony Korine's terrible terrific Gummo, Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together and Ozu's An Autumn afternoon. The Shorts includes Spike Jonze's Scenes From a Suburb which will no doubt sell out.

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Thoughts

MIFF like every other year offers an extremely diverse array of films. Something for everyone and an excellent scheduled program guide that will rarely disappoint or cause a painful clash. The overall themes of this year's MIFF is looking into the future. A lot of features are sci-fi and have fantastical elements and a lot of features cover uncertainty, isolation and the apocalypse (in some cases all three, looking at you Melancholia) but on the other spectrum are films about social, psychological and familial conflict. Look at this guide and you will see these themes prevalent on almost every page.
This year's MIFF will challenge but also excite and amaze, expect the unexpected, this could be the best MIFF yet.

See below for an interesting selection of trailers.
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