Australasia/ Pacific

5 on the fly: top picks from the 70th Melbourne International Film Festival

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by Sarah Halfpenny

For their 70th anniversary year, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) returned in style with acclaimed Australian and international films, talks and special events. Here are some of the picks from their extensive program, which you can catch soon at a cinema near you.

  1. The Quiet Girl

Set in rural Ireland in 1981, this slow but beautiful film tells the story of Cáit, a quiet, neglected girl who is sent to live with distant relatives who will be her foster parents for the summer. Away from her dysfunctional, impoverished family, she blossoms in their care but discovers that even in a house that’s not meant to have secrets, she finds one. This Irish-language (English subtitled) film is beguiling and pulls at the heartstrings, with absolutely flawless acting and a perfectly pared back storytelling style.

  1. Clean

This 92-minute documentary was the Closing Night Gala film at MIFF 2022. It’s the inspirational and moving true story of how ‘trauma cleaner’ Sandra Pankhurst lived many different lives: survivor of childhood abuse, parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, motivational speaker and founder of STC, a successful Melbourne trauma cleaning business she founded in the 1990s.

Sandra’s trauma cleaning work required great compassion and resilience, helping those with problems that society deemed difficult and unsightly, and giving them respect and dignity in their time of need.

  1. Sweet As

We were lucky to attend the world premiere of this uplifting coming-of-age movie; a semi-autobiographical tale based on Indigenous director Jub Clerc’s experience as a teenager. 15-year-old Murra is thrown together on a transformative bus trip with three other teens – cantankerous Kylie, happy-go-lucky Elvis, uptight Sean – and camp leaders Michelle and Fernando for a journey through the Pilbara that will change them all.

The Q&A afterwards with the cast and crew was 45-minutes of pure joy – Jub proved to be not only talented (she won the $70,000 Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award at MIFF) but also charming and hilarious, and the actors gave great insight into working on this heartfelt project.

  1. Three Thousand Years of Longing

From Australian director George Miller (of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise fame) comes this modern fantasy fable. Whilst visiting Istanbul, a scholar of story and mythology Dr. Alithea (the fabulous Tilda Swinton) buys an old glass bottle and accidentally releases a lovelorn djinn (played by dashing Idris Elba).

The hijinks begin when the djinn grants her the customary three wishes; the problem is she’s sceptical that he’s real, and wary of making wishes, as she knows all the cautionary tales of how they’ve gone wrong!

  1. Hear My Eyes: Chopper x Springtime and Mick Harvey

‘Hear My Eyes’ screenings are special events at held at MIFF, where a new score is performed live with a memorable film. This year the unforgettable and controversial film ‘Chopper’ (made in 2000), about the infamous life and crimes of criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Reid, was the chosen film.

Melbourne supergroup Springtime joined original composer Mick Harvey to create an all-new score and performed the haunting and moody music for an enraptured audience. You can catch a performance of it in Sydney on Saturday 27th August if you’re quick!

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