Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. I can’t believe that one of my favourite times of the year is finally upon us once again. Yes, that’s right everyone: it’s MIFF time! It’s that time of year once again when my adoptive home town of Melbourne celebrates one of the most prestigious film festivals in Australia: the Melbourne International Film Festival (hence MIFF for short). Over the course of 18 days the festival will be showcasing over 371 films from all over world. This will be my 4th year covering the festival for SuperMarcey.com and I really excited for it. The last three years I’ve attending MIFF have been really great experiences for me and I have a feeling this is going to be my biggest one yet (my number 1 films of the last three years have been films that I saw at the festival. Will that happen again for this year’s one? We shall see) .
There are a lot of great films playing at MIFF this year, some of which are highly anticipated by myself and many other Aussie film buffs (ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, DOPE, 99 HOMES, THE WOLFPACK, MISTRESS AMERICA, HOLDING THE MAN, FORCE OF DESTINY, THE GUEST etc.) However I’ve decided that I won’t be seeing any of these films. The reason being, just like I said in previous years, is that I want to focus on films that’ll either don’t have a release date yet or they won’t be released until much later this year or sometime next year. So which films will I be checking out instead? Out of all the films that will be playing at MIFF this year, I’ve picked 34 films. I swear my list gets bigger and bigger every year (I watched 17 films in 2012, 22 films in 2013 and 30 films in 2014). These are ones that I’m also really excited about and I can’t wait to see them at the festival. What I like my picks is that they cover all different genres of film. There’s a bit of everything: drama, horror, comedy, thriller, animated, action, foreign and documentary. Plus there are even some selections that I never heard of before until I read about them in the program guide. So which 34 films are they? Well, here’s my complete rundown of what I’ll be seeing at MIFF 2015…
ARABIAN NIGHTS – VOL. 1, THE RESTLESS ONE
DIRECTOR: Miguel Gnomes
PLOT: In Portugal, over 600 shipyard workers are being laid off. An apiarist fights off an invasion of foreign bees. An African wizard creates an aerosol spray that cures impotence in world leaders and IMF financiers. A judge puts a cockerel on trial for crowing too early. The first part of this sweeping trilogy from writer/director Miguel Gomes (Redemption, MIFF 2014; Tabu, MIFF 2012) takes the classic fable about Scheherazade and uses it as a basis for a fantastical and whimsical examination of contemporary Portugal. Working with a team of journalists tasked to gather real-life stories from around the austerity-ravaged nation, Gomes and his crew (including Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s regular cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, shooting on 16mm and 35mm) then wove those tales into a poetic, pleading and often wry modern-day fable.
ARABIAN NIGHTS – VOL. 2, THE DESOLATE ONE
DIRECTOR: Miguel Gnomes
PLOT: Scheherazade’s enchanting tales of modern Portugal continue: an elderly criminal becomes a folk hero as he successfully evades hordes of police; a stern judge oversees a case involving 13 stolen cows, mail-order brides, a genie and a machete-wielding human lie detector; a Maltese poodle shuffles between households in a recession-stricken estate, observing the people as she goes. The second part of Miguel Gomes’ docu-fiction trilogy continues to explore modern Portugal from varied and unexpected angles. This middle chapter picked up the coveted Palm Dog award at Cannes, for Maltese poodle Lucky’s performance as Dixie.
ARABIAN NIGHTS – VOL. 3, THE ENCHANTED ONE
DIRECTOR: Miguel Gnomes
PLOT: The enigmatic narrator of the trilogy finally takes centre stage. Scheherazade, the daughter of the grand vizier, weaves tales to please the king and stay her own execution. Realising she will soon run out of stories to tell, she hatches a plan to escape the palace. Meanwhile, finch hunters offer a musical analogy for Portugal’s 21st-century woes. The final instalment of Miguel Gomes’ epic triptych blends fantasy and reality indistinguishably, bringing to a close his multifaceted critique of modern-day Portugal through the lens of the most evocative of all fairytales. Each volume stands on its own but together they form what The Guardian called “the biggest splash of true innovation in Cannes, and … an unmissable art event”.
DIRECTOR: Hou Hsiao-hsien
PLOT: In ninth-century China, 10-year-old Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi) is stolen away from her father, trained to become an assassin, and tasked with eliminating corrupt governors. But 13 years later, her past comes calling: after disappointing her master by failing to complete a mission, Nie is sent back to her family with orders to kill the cousin (Chang Chen) she was once betrothed to. After eight years absence, Taiwanese master and MIFF favourite Hou Hsiao-hsien (Millennium Mambo, MIFF 2001; Flowers of Shanghai, MIFF 1998) makes a spectacular return to feature filmmaking with his graceful, patient take on the wuxia epic. Winning the best director award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, he turns a tale of love, sacrifice and swordplay into a sweeping yet delicate visual poem.
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
DIRECTOR: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
PLOT: Lonely housewife Jenjira volunteers at a makeshift hospital for soldiers suffering from a mysterious bout of narcolepsy. When one of her bedridden charges captures her attention, she enlists a medium to commune with his sleeping spirit. In a hallucinatory bond between the two women, the pain of times gone by combines with the reality of the present. In his first full-length feature since Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (MIFF 2010), Apichatpong Weerasethakul returns with a meditative and mythic rumination on the state of his nation, as set in his home town, infused with his childhood memories and enacted with his trademark serenity and patience.
DIRECTOR: Simon Stone
PLOT: Acclaimed actor and stage director Simon Stone makes his first foray into feature filmmaking with this adaptation of his award-winning play The Wild Duck. After many years away, Christian (Paul Schneider) returns to the logging town he once called home for his father’s wedding. As he reconnects with his family and childhood friends, he unearths a long-buried secret but his attempts to fix things threaten to destroy all he left behind years before. Belvoir St Theatre’s The Wild Duck, a modern update of the Ibsen original, was a smash hit for Simon Stone in 2011. Now, after achieving success with his screen-directing debut on Tim Winton’s The Turning (MIFF 2013) segment Reunion, he embraces the full cinematic scope with this sumptuous feature adaptation. Stone – who has appeared before the camera in Balibo (MIFF 2009), Jindabyne and Kokoda – has assembled a star-powered cast including MIFF Patron Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Miranda Otto and Anna Torv with Odessa Young and Sam Neill for this contemporary portrait of family love, dysfunction, deception and denial.
DIRECTOR: Jason Lei Howden
PLOT: Visual effects powerhouse Jason Lei Howden (The Hobbit, Man of Steel, Prometheus) makes his feature directorial debut with this splatter-ridden horror/comedy tribute to the detuned malevolence of heavy metal and the gleeful gore of early Peter Jackson. Brodie is an outcast metalhead until he meets his kindred spirit, Zakk. They start a band and stumble across sheet music that promises Ultimate Power to the player. Of course, they take the challenge but also summon an ancient evil in the process. Can they stop it from destroying humankind? A splatter fix that never takes itself too seriously, Deathgasm‘s 200kph gore extravaganza recalls the heyday of horror with relish.
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
DIRECTOR: Marielle Heller
PLOT: It’s 1976 and 15-year-old Minnie Goetze has just had sex for the first time: with her mother’s boyfriend (“the handsomest man in the world”)! And she really liked it. Thus catapulted into her adolescent journey of sexual awakening and empowerment, aspiring artist Minnie documents her discoveries on audiocassette in intimate and unapologetic detail. Adapting Phoebe Gloeckner’s acclaimed graphic novel, debut writer/director Marielle Heller has created a non-judgemental, funny and provocative film. Newcomer Bel Powley is breathtaking as Minnie – growing up before our eyes – with Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni and Alexander Skarsgård in particular terrific in support. Visually enlivened by colourful, creative animation, this winner of the Grand Prix of the Generation 14+ International Jury at Berlin is as hilariously poignant as it is unsettlingly authentic.
THE END OF THE TOUR
DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt
PLOT: Dave Lipsky is a struggling writer given the assignment of profiling author David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone, as Wallace embarks on a publicity tour for his novel Infinite Jest. Lipsky is both jealous and in awe of Wallace, unexpectedly forging a connection with a man acutely aware of his growing mythology. Director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, MIFF 2013) tackles the controversial cult author with stars Jesse Eisenberg and a revelatory Jason Segel as Wallace. Based on the memoir by Lipsky, the film plays off the tête-à-tête of the men’s rotating awkwardness, camaraderie and growing connection, offering a thoughtful and revealing take on a literary legend.
DIRECTORS: Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel
PLOT: John Wood lost his leg in a plane accident, and decided to keep the appendage in a barbecue grill inside a storage locker. When his payments on the locker lapsed, bargain hunter Shannon Whisnant won the contents in an auction, and refused to give the leg back to Wood. It could be a business opportunity, reasoned Whisnant, who was determined to use the severed leg as a tourist attraction. This situation was just the jumping-off point for Clay Tweel (co-director of Print the Legend, MIFF 2014) and Bryan Carberry’s hilarious and poignant documentary about lonely men, reality television, the media’s obsession with oddball stories, and the world’s strangest custody battle. An audience hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Finders Keepers is a unique, yet universal, tale.
DIRECTOR: Maya Newell
PLOT: Meet Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham, 10- to 12-year-olds each coping with growing up. As they navigate challenges of school, sport, friends and their futures, they do so within loving homes and with caring parents – who happen to be gay or lesbian. It’s a situation still debated over and legislated against, as director Maya Newell knows from experience. Inspired by her own upbringing in a same-sex household with two mums, she crafts an intimate portrait of childhood, showing the complexity that colours these four families far beyond the issue of sexual orientation. Gayby Baby provides a platform to those too often ignored: the kids themselves. As marriage equality continues to inspire discussion around the world, Newell’s documentary looks at the reality – not the rhetoric – of same-sex parenting.
DIRECTORS: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
PLOT: A cerebral nerve-strainer that builds from slow burn to unfathomable brutality, Goodnight Mommy starts with twin boys in an isolated house in the country waiting for their mother’s return. When she finally comes back, her head wrapped in bandages after plastic surgery, nothing is as it was before. Stern and distant, she shuts the family off from the outside world, which starts the boys thinking this woman is not their mother after all. Produced by Ulrich Seidl (In the Basement, MIFF 2015; Paradise trilogy, MIFF 2013), the savagely disturbing Goodnight Mommy has the rare ability to thrill fans of both high and lowbrow. Precise and excruciating, it’s “a heartbreaking tale of love and loss wrapped in one of the scariest films of the year” (MOMA).
HE NEVER DIED
DIRECTOR: Jason Krawczyk
PLOT: Do you want to live forever? The blessing is a curse for Jack. His crappy apartment has become his crypt, and the bingo and boredom has only made him more disdainful of the mortal world. After centuries of the same, trouble comes calling again. Punk legend, writer, globetrotter and raconteur Henry Rollins shines in his first lead film role as the eternally fatigued but frighteningly powerful Jack. How will a figure with lifetimes of experience deal with the arrival of his estranged teenage daughter, violent thugs and the promise of what could be love? Writer/director Jason Krawczyk has created a captivating character and effortlessly straddles noir, pitch-black comedy and horror. But it’s Rollins who makes Jack unforgettable.
HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT
DIRECTORS: Josh & Benny Safdie
PLOT: Nineteen-year-old Harley lives amongst the sleazy, rarely seen underbelly of New York City. Drug addicted and homeless, she drifts from her abusive boyfriend Ilya to the panhandling dealer Mike. Forever living in the moment, Harley searches for instances of beauty amidst the harsh reality of her world. Whilst researching another film, the Safdie brothers came across the revelatory Arielle Holmes. They encouraged her to write down her story, and then adapted her work into this film, or “opera of glass”, as they call it. Holmes plays herself opposite co-star Caleb Landry Jones (from Antiviral, X-Men: First Class and MIFF 2014’s Queen and Country), bringing an intense and unparalleled sense of authenticity to the role. For his part, Landry Jones immersed himself into the reality of life on the streets, with the result being a startlingly realistic peek into a subculture rarely encountered in contemporary cinema. Grittily shot by cinematographer Sean Price Williams (Queen of Earth, MIFF 2015; Listen Up Philip, MIFF 2014) and enlivened by a striking synth score, Heaven Knows What won the Grand Prix and Best Director awards at the Tokyo Film Festival.
THE HUNTING GROUND
DIRECTOR: Kirby Dick
PLOT: Documentarian Kirby Dick (Outrage, MIFF 2009) and producer Amy Ziering won two Emmys, a Peabody and a Sundance Audience Award for their last film, The Invisible War, a hard-hitting journalistic investigation into rape within the US military. Now they focus their attention on sexual assault at US college campuses and what they uncover is equally as shocking. It’s not just the number of attacks, which are at epidemic levels; the rampant institutional cover-ups and victim-blaming take as much toll as the original crimes. Impeccably researched and presented, The Hunting Ground is an incendiary work anchored by two survivors, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, whose courageous and innovative legal approach to seeking justice is forcing change and sparking debate on a national scale. Their success ensures the film is not just a searing indictment of rape culture, but also a message of hope and empowerment.
DIRECTOR: Karyn Kusama
PLOT: Will and Kira are on their way to the house of Will’s ex, Eden, for a dinner party. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since the death of their young son tore their relationship apart. Will is on edge from the get-go, convinced that Eden and her strangely smiling friends are up to something sinister, but the line between paranoia and grief is a narrow one, and dangerous for those who walk it. Nothing is quite as it seems in The Invitation, the insidious, deftly woven psycho-thriller from acclaimed indie director Karyn Kusama. A gripping study of delusion, fear and suspicion, The Invitation will have you squirming with self-doubt from beginning to end – the only thing that’s for certain is that you’ll never look at a dinner party invitatiton the same way again.
JOURNEY TO THE SHORE
DIRECTOR: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PLOT: Horror master Kiyoshi Kurosawa turns lost love into a measured, melancholy ghost story. Three years after losing her husband at sea and presuming him drowned and dead, grief-stricken piano teacher Mizuki finds him standing in her kitchen. Yusuke’s return isn’t cause for celebration or surprise, but the start of a moving journey, as the two travel around the Japanese countryside visiting old acquaintances marked by mourning. Focusing on character and contemplation, and steeped in Japanese customs and beliefs,Journey to the Shore proves haunting in its story as well as in its themes of redemption and reconnection. In a subdued turn, Kurosawa (Loft, MIFF 2005; Doppleganger, MIFF 2004) transitions between mystery, quiet comedy, rural drama and sensitive romance, crafting a gentle, beautiful and evocative afterlife effort.
LISTEN TO ME MARLON
DIRECTOR: Stevan Riley
PLOT: Marlon Brando was one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, a performer who masterfully channelled his inner conflict into roles as diverse as On the Waterfront‘s hapless dockworker and the sexual nihilist of Last Tango in Paris. He was also a compulsive diarist who spent decades capturing his thoughts on audiotape, building a substantial archive that has until now remained publicly unavailable. For Listen to Me Marlon, director Stevan Riley (Fire in Babylon, MIFF 2011) draws extensively from these recordings, matching Brando’s private ruminations with footage from the actor’s home movies and film work. Replete with philosophical questioning and candid admissions, this is a remarkable portrait of a brilliant and troubled man.
DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos
PLOT: Winner of this year’s Cannes Jury Prize, the new film and English-language debut from the wonderfully idiosyncratic mind of director Yorgos Lanthimos (Alps, MIFF 2012; Dogtooth, MIFF 2009) is a deadpan absurdist satire of modern romance that could only have come from the Greek auteur. In the near future, single citizens are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to pair off with a mate – or be turned into the animal of their choosing and hunted in the woods. Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Léa Seydoux, among many others, The Lobster is fiercely, unmistakably Lanthimos: by turns surreal, grimly funny and strangely moving. It’s the work of one of contemporary cinema’s true originals.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE
DIRECTOR: Joshua Oppenheimer
PLOT: Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence revisits the 1965 Indonesian genocide, this time from the perspective of the victims. The Act of Killing (MIFF 2013) was remarkable for the way it unearthed unrepentant mass murderers celebrated as heroes in their community and still enjoying unquestioned power and privilege. Shot concurrently, this companion film gives voice to their victims, who have spent decades living side-by-side with the killers, silenced by terror. Specifically, the film focuses on ophthalmologist Adi Rukun, whose brother Ramli was slaughtered during the massacre. With Oppenheimer filming, Adi embarks on a dangerous, emotional mission to break the silence by meeting Ramli’s killers and asking them to accept responsibility for their crimes. Winning the Venice Film Festival’s Grand Jury and FIPRESCI prizes and an audience award at SXSW, The Look of Silence is as deeply unsettling as its predecessor, but also more acutely personal and pointed.
LOUDER THAN BOMBS
DIRECTOR: Joachim Trier
PLOT: Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s (Oslo, 31 August, MIFF 2012) English-language debut,Louder Than Bombs explores the grief and dislocation felt by a widower (Gabriel Byrne) and his two sons (Devin Druid and Jesse Eisenberg) following the death of their wife and mother, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert). A war photographer based in Syria, Isabelle’s return to leafy suburban life after wartime violence left her in a fragile state and the possibility that her death was in fact suicide opens up old wounds for her family. Continuing Trier’s tradition of literary, multilayered narratives, Louder Than Bombs adopts a non-linear approach to present a subtle psychological drama about a family’s tragic inability to connect.
DIRECTORS: Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
PLOT: Gerry is an addicted gambler, a man who can’t keep away from the poker table despite the mountains of debt he’s accumulated. He meets the charismatic Curtis, who agrees to stake him on a trip to a legendary Mississippi poker game, where they dream of the fortune that awaits them. Filmmaking team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (2006’s Ryan Gosling drama Half-Nelson) write and direct this gently comedic heir to 1970s Hollywood, bringing to mind Robert Altman’s iconicCalifornia Split. Ben Mendelsohn is magnetic as Gerry, with Ryan Reynolds his perfect foil in Curtis; Sienna Miller and Alfre Woodard provide noteworthy support.
MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN
DIRECTOR: Liv Corfixen
PLOT: In the wake of the critical and commercial success of Drive (MIFF 2011), director Nicolas Winding Refn travelled to Thailand to shoot one of the most polarising films of recent years: the nightmarish, woozily violent Only God Forgives. Accompanying him on the trip was his wife, Liv Corfixen, who documented the project from its beginning right up until its premiere at Cannes. Taking viewers onto the film set, into the often tense environment of the couple’s apartment and along to a tarot card reading conducted by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Corfixen’s documentary is both a fascinating insight into the filmmaking process and an intimate observation of an artist’s frustrations, self-doubt and elation.
DIRECTOR: Sebastián Silva
PLOT: In his latest film, Sebastián Silva directs and stars as a Brooklyn artist trying to have a child with his boyfriend (TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe) and their best friend (Kristen Wiig), whilst developing a seismically awkward art project about the experience. Complications arise, however, when a malevolent vagrant known as “The Bishop” makes life uncomfortable for all involved. Winner of the Teddy Award for Best Queer Film at the Berlin Film Festival, Nasty Baby begins as a nuanced, satirical relationship comedy but descends into an uncomfortably twisted drama, with Silva unleashing the darker instincts he brought to past explorations of human behaviour.
DIRECTOR: Patrick Brice
PLOT: It’s awkward, making friends as an adult. When newly transplanted Seattle-ites Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) head to a Los Angeles playground with their son, it’s hard to know what to make of a dinner invite from Kurt (Jason Schwartzman). What begins as an evening playdate for the kids takes an odd turn when 30-something sexual desires and insecurities bubble to the surface. Writer/director Patrick Brice (responsible for another uneasy encounter in MIFF 2014’s Creep) has created a cringingly funny, perversely sexy comedy of modern ill manners. Screened at Sundance and Tribeca, this is Brice’s second effort in tension and discomfort, this time bringing the belly laughs and stomach churns in equal measure.
KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET
DIRECTORS: Bill Plympton, Gaetan Brizzi, Joan Gratz, Joann Sfar, Michal Socha, Mohammed Sadeed Harib, Nina Paley, Paul Brizzi, Roger Allers and Tomm Moore
PLOT: A young girl follows her mother to work one day to meet the man she cares for: a charismatic, wise poet who has been under house arrest for seven years due to his “rebellious” writing. The poet is released, and on a trip to the port he delivers lessons to the girl on the topics of freedom, life, love and death. Based on the classic book by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet boasts numerous vignettes by different directors, from Roger Allers (The Lion King) to Bill Plympton (Cheatin’, MIFF 2014) and Tomm Moore (whose new feature film, Song of the Sea, can be seen in this year’s festival). A lyrical, abstract and philosophical tale featuring the vocal talents of Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, John Krasinski and Alfred Molina.
QUEEN OF EARTH
DIRECTOR: Alex Ross Perry
PLOT: Shaken by her father’s death and a difficult breakup, Catherine retreats to the lakeside cabin of her friend Virginia in an attempt to heal. But their once-strong friendship begins to strain, with the constant presence of boy-next-door Rich further amplifying the simmering tension between the women. Writer/director Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip, MIFF 14) takes a cue from Robert Altman’s 3 Women and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona to create a psychological drama that verges toward horror, ably helped out by Sean Price Williams’ often-claustrophobic 16mm cinematography.Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss is extraordinary as the acerbic, wounded Catherine, with Katherine Waterston equally memorable as Virginia.
RAIDERS! THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE
DIRECTORS: Jeremy Coon & Tim Skousen
PLOT: In 1982, 11-year-old buddies Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos and Jayson Lamb set out to shoot a shot-by-shot remake of their favourite film, Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took several summers, a toll on their friendship and nearly their lives, but eventually they completed their passion project – minus one scene: an Indy/Nazi fight scene that proved too pyrotechnic to pull off the first time around. Nevertheless, their fan film became the stuff of legend when director Eli Roth screened it in 2002, and then the internet got wind of it. Jeremy Coon (a producer on Napoleon Dynamite) and Tim Skousen’s feel-good documentary picks up the story several years after that, when the now 40-something amateur filmmakers, grown apart and with grown-up responsibilities, reunite to film that final scene. Chock-full of extraordinary behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes from the 80s and today, and featuring interviews with the likes of Roth, John Rhys-Davies and Ain’t It Cool News‘ Harry Knowles,Raiders! charts the perils and real-life dramas of pursuing your dreams, at all costs.
DIRECTOR: Mara Eibl-Eibesfeldt
PLOT: When 12-year-old Jonas’ mother (Sylvie Testud from MIFF 2010 film Lourdes) leaves to “fight her demons”, he must step up as head of the household, becoming the unofficial guardian to his younger siblings. With food and money running out, the children retreat into a world of their own where, cloaked eerily in black & white, their home turns into one of bugs and mysticism – they make saucepan gardens, they take on insects as pets and spiderwebs encroach. Only the friendship of a young homeless man who declares himself “not quite right in the head” gives Jonas hope that he can survive as a child in an adult’s world. A tale of neglect that becomes increasingly dreamlike as the children slip further and further away from reality, The Spiderwebhouse is a challenging but sanguine film, made all the more strange knowing it is based on a true story.
DIRECTOR: Sean Baker
PLOT: An electric, wildly subversive ride through the transgender culture of Los Angeles that’s like nothing you’ve seen before. It’s Christmas Eve on the sun-blasted streets of Hollywood, and male-to-female prostitute Sin-Dee-Rella is fresh out of the joint and on a mission to track down her cheating pimp boyfriend. Together with her best friend and fellow trans sex worker Alexandra, they set out on a manic odyssey that takes them through the beautiful fringes of LA’s subculture. Shooting entirely on jacked-up iPhones, director Sean Baker (Starlet, MIFF 2013) captures the frenzied energy of his subjects and creates an almost otherworldly portrait of the city’s hyper-saturated seediness. With hints of Harmony Korine, John Waters and the simmering tensions of Do the Right Thing, Tangerine is an underground Christmas movie for naughty kids everywhere.
DIRECTOR: Jafar Panahi
PLOT: Winner of the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film at Berlin, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s latest takes to the streets of Tehran for a playful, insightful portrait of his country. Since his ban from filmmaking in Iran in 2010, Jafar Panahi has smuggled out both the acclaimed This is Not a Film (2011) and Closed Curtain (MIFF 2013) while under house arrest. His third film à clef – and his most upbeat – circumvents those restrictions again to bring his filmmaking to the people, by driving passengers around Tehran in a camera-equipped taxi. Taxi Cab Confessions by way of Kiarostami’s Ten, Panahi (in disguise as a cabbie) captures a lively and revealing snapshot of a cross-section of Iranian society, mixing the comedic with the political and blurring the director’s beloved boundaries between fiction and reality.
DIRECTORS: François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell
PLOT: The world’s first BMX post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age splatter actioner (with a dash of romance), Turbo Kid takes us to the ‘future’ of 1997. Here, The Kid (Degrassi: The Next Generation star Munro Chambers) wanders the Wasteland in search of comic books and 80s paraphernalia, which he trades for fresh water. He meets a girl named Apple but, just as he’s coming out of his shell, she is kidnapped by a bloodthirsty maniac (the inimitable Michael Ironside). Armed only with blind faith and a Nintendo Power Glove, The Kid finds a new purpose: to rid the Wasteland of evil and save the girl of his dreams. From Ant Timpson, the Executive Producer of Housebound, and featuring a spot-on era-appropriate score and oodles of gore, this retro-futuristic, 80s B-grade comedy/horror pastiche wowed SXSW crowds so much they gave it their Audience Award.
DIRECTOR: Robert Eggers
PLOT: In the mist-shrouded woods of 1630s New England, William and his devoutly puritanical family live in self-imposed isolation, their distance from the community an ascetic offering to God. But when William’s infant son Sam vanishes and the crops begin to fail, the family realises that dark forces must be at play – and that perhaps one of their own has become a conduit for the Devil. A riveting psychological thriller that calls to mind The Shining and The Crucible as much as it does The Exorcist, The Witch is the remarkably assured feature film debut from writer/director Robert Eggers (winner of the Sundance Directing Award: US Dramatic). Meticulously authentic in its period details, its unsettling fog of pulsing audio design, claustrophobic cinematography and careful plotting ensures The Witch is a mesmerising testament to the destructive power of fear that will leave you guessing until the very last minute.
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE: THE GREAT WAR OF THE UNDERWORLD
DIRECTOR: Takashi Miike
PLOT: Kamiura, a hero-worshipped Yakuza boss, is seemingly un-killable. It turns out he’s a vampire, and not immune to death if it’s delivered via a corkscrew-style beheading. Before he dies, however, he bites his trusted underling Kageyama, who vows vengeance on his beloved boss’ killer. From here, things get weird. Really weird! The latest burst of gloriously berserk creativity from the mind of MIFF favourite Takashi Miike – who could be cribbing from the unfettered imaginations of five-year-olds here – Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld has everything: rampaging violence, slapstick, volcanoes, animation, giant monsters and, of course, vampire gangsters. As long as you let go of any need for narrative logic or reality, you’ll have a total blast.
Well, there you have it. These are the 34 films I’ll be seeing at MIFF 2015. Keep a look for my video reviews for all these films over the course of the festival and also follow me at www.twitter.com/BedeJermyn for my daily random thoughts/first reactions to them as well.
– Bede Jermyn