Melbourne 2013: The Program Guide Reveals Plenty Of Australian Premieres For World Fest Faves

The Melbourne International Film Festival program guide was unveiled yesterday to the media and to lucky MIFF members alike who are booking tickets as you read this (sales open to non-members on Friday).

Besides the already exciting First Glance and Cannes selections, there are nigh-on 200 feature films to occupy your time and mind these coming weeks. The usual excellent segments are: International Panorama, Telescope: films from the EU, Australian Showcase, Next Gen, Accent on Asia, Documentaries, Animation Showcase, Backbeat (music industry related), Night Shift and Shorts.

The new and exciting segments are a hot pot of diverse and strange countries and genres. Juche Days is a retrospective of North Korean films featuring a DPRK produced Kung-Fu fantasy spectacle Hong Kil Dong. Defying The Times gives focus to protest and activism films featuring Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Read J. Hurtado's review here). A League of Their Own is all about new Arabic cinema while States of Play concerns American Indies, and includes such lo-fi fare as the bizarre Computer Chess (Read Brian Clark's review here) and subdued drama Tiger Tail In Blue

Sporting Life
makes a return with a collection of personal and larger topical films such as the tennis biopic Venus and Serena and The Summit, which recounts a tragic climb on the infamous K2. Last but not least is a Giallo retrospective that will be sure to appease cult fans of all stripes. Titled Shining Violence, the line-up will be screened in 35mm, and includes Tenebrae, Deep Red, The House of Laughing Windows and more!

Some personal highlights I have not yet discussed include Nothing Bad Can Happen, the abjectly violent Cannes gem that was picked up by Drafthouse films.

Fed up with the religious establishment, a vulnerable Tore comes to Hamburg to join Christian punk movement the Jesus Freaks. Following a chance meeting where he miraculously fixes Benno's car, Tore soon moves in with this stranger's family. But a cruel Benno begins to push the young itinerant's faith through an escalating series of abusive acts. Savage and uncompromising, Nothing Bad Can Happen elicited a strong response at Cannes this year. This window to humanity's darkness combines assured direction, cinematography and score to deliver a harrowing tale of psycho-sexual sadism that builds to a shocking finale.

TIFF period feature Call Girl (Read Joshusa Chaplinsky's review here):

In 1970s Sweden, Iris is a troubled 14-year-old groomed in the world of child prostitution. As she is drawn further into a sordid industry with links to the country's elite, police are also unraveling just how far the scandal has spread through the corridors of power. With Sweden's reputation for sexual liberation as a backdrop and a looming election at stake, this compelling political thriller steeps individuals and a nation in a world of innocence lost.
Similar in tone to classic US thrillers of the 1970s and inspired by real events from the era, Call Girl generated controversy after the family of assassinated Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme accused the film of slander.

From Greece the bankrupt parable of desperation that is The Daughter:

When her father disappears in the midst of Greece's financial meltdown, 14-year-old Myrto finds herself cast adrift in a riot-stricken Athens that she no longer recognises. Laying the blame for his absence on her father's business partner, Myrto kidnaps his eight-year-old son, triggering a citywide manhunt and her own gradual descent into madness.

Jay-yong Lee returns with Behind The Camera. After the incredible Actresses (Read my review here) Lee hones his skills and expands on the parody nature of his mockumentary of the film industry.

Harmony Lessons will prove to be a difficult but worthy watch and this debut feature has garnered nothing but praise.

This debut feature from writer/director Emir Baigazin takes us to a school in a remote village of Kazakhstan, where 13-year-old Aslan is subjected to a racket of bullying and extortion with roots extending well beyond the schoolyard. Humiliated and ostracised, the gifted student's behaviour starts to become obsessive, fuelling his ideas for justice and revenge on his tormentor: the violent, intimidating gang leader Bolat.

Arvin Chen returns with drama Will you Still Love Me Tomorrow? (James Marsh's review here) instead of happy-go-lucky screwball fun akin to his previous MIFF entry Au Revoir Taipei, Chen looks to be delivering a slightly more serious effort this time around, either way I look forward to it.

Tokyo Family is a modern epic where the student (director Yamada Yoji) adapts the teacher, reshaping Ozu's masterwork Tokyo Story.

Juvenile Offender is a South Korean effort that thrilled the Tokyo Film Festival and has been gaining recognition since.

When 16-year-old Ji-gu gets out of juvenile detention, he's shocked to discover that Hyo-seung, the mother he long thought dead, is alive. Taken to live with her in her cramped, shared apartment, Ji-gu discovers that when the world outside has deemed you useless, the impossibilities of family are the only thing you have left.

I am also excited to also see the ultra visual mediation that is Leviathan (Dustin Chang's review here):

An awe-inspiring film that puts audiences on-board the monster alluded to in the film's title - a commercial fishing vessel - as well as in the oceans surrounding and sometimes near-overwhelming it, Leviathan captures the rugged, brutal lives of New England fishermen in hauntingly exquisite detail. Shot via myriad cameras passing fluidly between filmmakers, crew and even prey, this is extraordinary, visceral cinema, unlike anything you've seen before.

Drinking Buddies, which impressed at SXSW will also be making its Australian premiere at MIFF.

Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) are colleagues at a microbrewery whose flirtation-riddled friendship oozes chemistry. With both in relationships - Luke with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate with Chris (Ron Livingstone) - an overnight beach trip for the foursome becomes a tipping point.

Finally, and closing MIFF is the literally understated JC Chandor directed sophomore masterwork that is All Is Lost.

The talk of Cannes, JC Chandor's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Margin Call sees Robert Redford shine in his most physically demanding, powerful performance ever. He plays an unnamed solo sailor woken by a collision with a drifting shipping container that rips a hole in his 11-meter yacht. Taking on water, and with his navigation equipment and radio broken, he is stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with a violent storm approaching. Almost entirely dialogue-free, All Is Lost hinges on Redford's extraordinary performance and Chandor's finely nuanced script and masterfully controlled direction. Shot in widescreen mostly on the open ocean, and building slowly into an intense and engrossing high-stakes tale of survival, this is a cinematic tour de force.

Check the guide this Friday 5/07 and get booking! I will be covering MIFF daily on Twitch so check regularly from the 26th of July onwards. Happy MIFFing!
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