Are you a movie buff? Do you just like the occasional movie? If you’re keen to look past the usual fare that popular cinema dishes out, you may want to check out the Melbourne International Film Festival this year. It’s due in town on July 28, and we have a list of ten movies that we think you should not miss.

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) 2016 is kicking off on July 28 and it will continue until August 14, across various locations in Melbourne. If you’re a film buff, there is a lot to choose from here that is outside the mainstream fare that Hollywood dishes out. There are short films, feature-length films, documentaries, comedies, coming-of-age dramas and everything else you might want to see.

We have picked ten films that you should check out at MIFF this year.

1. Certain Women (Director: Kelly Reichardt)
Mid-western American landscape meets women’s psychology, and in this charming tale of three intertwined vignettes, director Kelly Reichardt gives us a prism to life in rural Montana, lacing her story with insight and wit. Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart pay the women in question who are battling physical isolation and male dominance, while simultaneously trying to understand their own selves.

2. Girl Asleep (Director: Rosemary Myers)
Winner of the Adelaide Film Festival Audience Award for Most Popular Feature, this Australian-made movie depicts the terror and giddy confusion of being a fourteen-year-old adolescent in 1970s Australia. Days before her fifteenth birthday, Greta Driscoll (played by Bethany Whitmore) finds herself in the middle of a party thrown by her well-meaning parents in which all her new classmates and bullies are in attendance. Retiring to her bedroom, Greta falls asleep and tumbles down into the wonderland of her subconscious, filled with absurd and terrifying visions.

3. Indignation (Director: James Schamus)
This coming-of-age period film set in the fifties is a film adaptation of a Philip Roth novel of the same name. The film eschews typical coming-of-age platitudes to present a psychological exploration of the human condition. Hovering in the background is the Korean war, as the action follows a boy named Marcus Messner (played by Logan Lerman) who leaves his New Jersey small town for an Ohio college. He finds love, sexual awakening and heartache amidst a thorough examination of his values and intellect.

4. Christine (Director: Antonio Campos) and Kate Plays Christine (Director: Robert Greene)
These two movies go hand in hand. Both films focus on the life and death of Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter who killed herself in 1974 on air by shooting herself behind the ear with a revolver. She had had a history of depression before the event. In Christine, Rebecca Hall plays the titular character, and reportedly gives the performance of her career. In Robert Greene’s film, the director adopts a semi-documentary style and follows actress Kate Lyn Shell as she prepares to play Chubbuck in a movie that is being shot inside the movie.

5. The Neon Demon (Director: Nicholas Winding Refn)
Nicolas Winding Refn is another film-maker whose name is notorious on the festival circuit. His last film was the controversial albeit sumptuously shot Bangkok-set Ryan Gosling bloodbath, Only God Forgives. On the PR circuit for it, the rabble-rousing Danish writer/director described himself as ‘a pornographer’ with all the pride of a child wearing a shiny new fake sheriff’s badge. Refn’s latest poke in the eye of decency is a slow-burning horror movie about a model (Elle Fanning) who encounters an interesting time when she moves to Los Angeles.

This is a critique of LA’s fashion scene, but we must warn you: watch this only if you have the stomach for gore.

6. Killing Ground (Director: Damien Power)
A survival thriller to rival Straw Dogs and Funny Games, Killing Ground is a gritty, tense and unsettling film pulsing with high-stakes scenes, intensity and violence. When a couple get away from the city to a secluded campsite for a romantic getaway, they find another tent already set up there, with no sign of its owners. Then they find a child wandering alone, and their story of mad adventure and danger begins. This film will make you think twice before you book your next camping trip.

7. Life After Life (Director: Zhang Hanyi)
Is there life after death? Is death necessary for progress of the human condition? Can a ghost story be graceful in treatment and theme? These are the existential questions Life After Life asks as its dream-like scenes unfold one after the other. It features a Chinese village whose inhabitants relocate to a nearby tenement. A boy goes out collecting wood, runs away, and returns to speak in the voice of his dead mother who requests them to move a tree in their now derelict house. A spiritual, absurdist work that reminds one of Albert Camus.

8. Mune: Guardian of the Moon (Director: Alexandre Heboyan, Benoit Philippon)
Set in a fable-like world in which the Sun and the Moon are protected by warriors and powerful magic, the undersized but spirited Mune finds himself in trouble when he is unexpectedly crowned the new Guardian of the Moon. The Sun gets stolen by the guardian of the underworld, and it’s up to Mune and his friends, Sohone the Sun guardian, and Glim the wax girl, to save the world. Mune is an animated film fit for all ages, showcasing the age old fight between good and evil, and the power of believing in yourself.

9. Notes on Blindness (Director: Peter Middleton, James Spinney)
In 1983, facing complete blindness after years of deterioration in his eyesight, Melbourne-born academic John Hull attempted to come to terms with this ‘world beyond sight’ by recording hours of his thoughts and feelings onto audio cassette across a period of three years. The tapes offer a revealing and often heartbreaking account of a life in upheaval, particularly when Hull tries to describe his newborn son, whom he cannot see.

Using these recordings as their basis, writer/directors James Spinney and Peter Middleton expand upon their award-winning short film, Notes on Blindness Rainfall (MIFF 2013), and employ actors to recreate Hull’s journey, creating a fascinating hybrid documentary cinema that is visually and aurally immersive.

10. Patterson (Director: Jim Jarmusch)
At first glance, Patterson is a movie that chronicles the week of an unremarkable life, that of a bus driver named Patterson who moonlights as a poet. Symmetry and order seem to dictate his life. He has a big-dreaming wife, he writes poetic prose pieces on some of his passengers, and walks his English bulldog to the same bar every night. But a series of amusing coincidences light up this movie light up this movie and turn it into a thoughtful meditation on the ebbs and flows of life. 

Divya Singh

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