The 70th Melbourne International Film Festival
Bringing Together Works From All Genres
Reviewed by Brendan Daynes
Bringing together works from all genres, from all over the world, this years festival showcased the vast array of talent and the eclectic point of view of artists from all over the world.
The 70th Melbourne International Film Festival celebrated this year, going into its seventh decade! During the challenges of the last two years the festival was, like all artists, able to pivot and embrace digital platforms and as a result was able to share this Melbourne icon with the rest of the nation. This festival was going to be extra special as audiences were able to return to cinemas and enjoy works on the big screen from August 2 – 21 but were also going to be able to continue to use the digital platform, MIFF Play, and stream works from anywhere they had a connection from August 11 – 18.
The headline film of the festival was the feature Of An Age, a powerful yet touching dramatic romance based in Melbourne in the late 90s. Director and writer Goran Stolevski has done an incredible job, making his mark as an Aussie film maker to keep an eye on. Opening with Nikola, (Elia Anton), a first generation Australian born to Serbian parents, inserting an appropriately vintage cassette, audiences are immediately immersed in his passion for dance. This joy is short lived as he receives a phone call from his dance partner, Ebony, (Hattie Hook), who has woken up on an unknown beach after a big night and as a result they are both now going to miss their final dance performance. Ebony enlists the help of her older brother Adam, (Them Greene), who drives Nikola across town to pick up Ebony. This is the start of an intense and tender romance between Nikola, who is just discovering his sexuality, and Adam, who is a little older and sure of himself. Of an Age could have easily become indulgent but Stolevski’s work poignantly depicts how a short lived but intense relationship can have a lifelong impact and is the perfect film to open the festival.
Another feature showcasing the talent right here in Australia is Seriously Red. In this musical comedy our leading lady Red, played by Krew Boylan who also wrote the film, is at a crossroads in her life. She is a full of life Aussie who is sick of her mundane life and has big dreams of becoming a Dolly Parton impersonator. Along the way Red starts a romance with fellow impersonator, Kenny Rogers, (Daniel Webber), and somehow loses herself as she strives for fame. Directed by Grace Otto, the film has the full support of Dolly herself. Like any good musical comedy there is a plethora of singing and dancing and the beauty of this film is that this infectious energy flows out to the audience who can’t help but join in, toe tapping and humming along to Dolly’s tunes that we know and love.
The best part of this festival is the diverse range of themes presented. From feature length romantic fantasy Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, this surprisingly captivating film can be likened to an adult version of a Disney story that sweeps audiences away into another world. Then there was Emily The Criminal, staring Audrey Plaza, where criminal activity becomes accepted and even encouraged as audiences grow fond of Emily as she gets caught up in a fraudulent crime ring.
An absolute highlight of the festival are the short films that are grouped and screened together to provide audiences with the short, sharp and sometimes eccentric points of view of filmmakers from all over the world. Hailing from the UK, queer artist, activist and drag performer Joseph Wilson expresses his point of view in Isn’t it a Beautiful World, featuring an entrancing lip sync performance to avant-garde legend Delia Derbyshire’s ‘Falling” with contemporary movement intertwined throughout. Another visual spectacle is from director Dania Bdeir titled Warsha. This short and impactful work depicts middle eastern masculinity in a construction site in Beirut. The standout of this piece is the freedom expressed by Mohammed as he embraces his passion when he is alone inside the cabin of one of the tallest and most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. His performance high above the world below him is reminiscent of a Cirque Du Soleil artist and is utterly breathtaking.
Another highlight of the festival are the documentary works. Hands down the audience favourite in this category is Moonage Daydream. This documentary is a beautiful eulogy to the man, the artist, the legend that is David Bowie. Brett Morgen has created a beautiful piece here that cleverly pays homage to a brilliant artist and this depiction is just as unique as the man himself. Tickets to this were a hot commodity but luckily this too is on commercial release.
The 70th instalment of the Melbourne International Film Festival was reimagined and the program captivated audiences by presenting work that was, as anticipated, thought provoking, entertaining and fascinating. MIFF is world class festival that provides film makers from all over the world the opportunity to showcase their point of view, their amazing talent and provides audiences with an abundance of entertainment and is an event that should be bookmarked in any artists calendar every year.
MIFF was proudly presented by principal government partners Victorian State Government and VICSCREEN as well as major government partners City of Melbourne, Australian Government and Screen Australia at various locations in the heart of Melbourne and in regional Victoria and streamed online in August 2022, 4-21 in cinemas and 11- 28 online.