It’s a Matter of…

July 9, 2010

After the official launch Tuesday night; a lovely affair which whet the appetite of many a film fan as we finally got a first glimpse at the guide, complete with teaser trailer reel and a glass of bubbly to wash it all down; MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) is almost upon us and excitement within film-going communities is certainly starting to build. You only need to search #MIFF, #MIFFofficial or #MIFF2010 (there is still some inconsistency amongst fans and aficionados as to the definitive hashtag) on twitter to see how great the debate is over which films to book tickets for and how there is just so much more to see than anyone seems to have time or finances to fit in. 

There are two editions of the Festival Program: Popcorn & Choc Top

If for some reason you haven’t already got your hands on a copy (or worse yet, you are somehow unaware) then rush down to your local milk bar or supermarket and go pick up a copy of today’s The Age newspaper because inside is your free festival program and, depending on just how obsessed you are by the whole festival circuit and culture that it breeds, this is pretty much going to be your bible as you book and re-book in the coming days and weeks leading up to the festival.  

Of course it is practically impossible to predict what’s going to be worthy of one’s “best of the fest” just yet, but, brash as I’m feeling , I’d like to go ahead and give anyone who wants it my personal tips for selecting sessions from the guide. I am not however feeling foolishly brave enough to go through everything in the program, so do forgive me if I neglect a particular strand you’re personally passionate about. 

Special Events: 

As the title suggests, these events are special. Even if you can only make one, I would always recommend indulging in something from this unique selection because these kinds of opportunities are more often than not what make the individual year’s festival stand out in your mind. This writer is definitely excited about the Drive-In sessions that are going to take place down at Shed 4, Melbourne Docklands, specifically Program 1 as it includes Machete Maidens Unleashed (Mark Hartley, 2010), “Featuring interviews with Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Eddie Romero and a host of filmmakers, actors and critics, each with a story about a genre with no scruples, no scripts, no boundaries and – more often than not – no clothes.” (MIFF festival program, page 13.) 

New Releases: 

The most important factor when booking sessions from the selection of “new release” films, I believe, is to consider how long you will have to wait for its national release if you don’t go see it during the festival. For example, Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010) doesn’t yet have an Australian release date set and is likely to get a limited release, so this is a great opportunity to see a film that might otherwise pass me by. Conversely, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010) is a more mainstream film that will no doubt get a general release and is due to hit cinemas just days after the festival closes on August 12 2010. But not all decisions are quite so simple, The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) which is due for release August 26 2010, not at all long after the festival closes, has certainly caused me some deliberation because I just can’t bear to wait even two weeks more for what looks like the most exciting film of the year. 

The Big Screen Factor: 

It is undoubtedly true that all films are better on the big screen, and yet, as we are often forced to choose between what we fork out for in cinemas and what we are willing to tolerate on our home systems, there has to be some consideration for films which are more deserving of the “big screen experience”. For example, it’s neither a “new” film nor a festival only type of screening, but I find myself desperate to see Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966) as it screens at the Forum in this year’s Wild Things strand of the program. I have never seen this film and despite its being widely available to me, I have had no interest in watching it on either my laptop or television screen in a not entirely dark, inescapable room. On the flip side, my unwavering love for Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) and Gremlins 2 (1990) doesn’t actually mean that I will go see them during the festival: as awesome as they are, I am more than happy to watch them tucked up in bed on a small screen with the ability to pause and resume as and when I see fit. 

“Festival” Films: 

There are some films that are ONLY available to see within the confines of a film festival and you will not only not be able to track them down once the festival has come and gone but will most likely never even hear of their existence ever again (unless of course you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to see them at another film festival elsewhere in the world). These are predominantly, though not limited to, the Animation, Docos and Shorts strands of the festival. When and where else will you be able to see 85 minutes of international Experimental Shorts? For the gen Y out there I hear you say YouTube, but let’s be brutally honest, do you really want to watch something like flicker on your iPhone? 


At the end of the day, all the tips offered above matter little in comparison to what constitutes cinema for you. ‘Cause if you don’t really want to see it, have an absolute passion for it, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a special, new, big or festive. Picking one’s sessions for a film festival is a deeply personal process and your final print-out of films ought to reflect that. 

Of course, that’s not going to stop this writer from cautioning the reader against going to see Chris Morris’ Four Lions (2010), because it’s probably the most disappointing film I’ve seen all year. With nothing but positive reviews from almost all of the British press upon its release, I was surprised to find that rather than satire it’s just one sort-of-funny (though more often offensive) joke poorly sustained for a 101 minute run-time. But this of course is just my humble opinion and, if you do decide to go see it during the festival, and what’s more you think it’s the most sophisticated satire of its kind, then come find me either in the bar, or comment on my blog, and we can hash it out because film festivals are, after all, about opening up discourse and conversation on film, and that’s what’s really exciting. 

It’s a Matter of Taste: If you want to get excited, you can watch the official festival trailer here:

Melbourne International Film Festival runs July 22 – August 8 2010 and tickets are on sale now.


One Response to “It’s a Matter of…”

  1. mbd said

    good post – one other thing to consider is that many docos shown at MIFF in the past were made for TV, and are often shown on SBS in the 12 months following MIFF, so if you have to choose between a film and a doco, you might be better going with the former

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