By Arnel Duracak

It’s that time of year again when Australia’s oldest and most prestigious film festival returns with another host of excellent cinematic content, ranging from the local to the international, short to feature length – The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has it all.

This years program boasts an array of content and is in fact the largest program to date in the festivals 68 year history with 259 feature length films, 123 short films and 16 virtual reality experiences – so there’s plenty on offer for audiences of all kinds.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Of those features, the biggest drawcard is that of the Australian Premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s recent addition to his widespread filmography with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019). Set in the changing climate of the film industry in 1969 (most notably the transition from the Studio Era/Golden Age of Hollywood to that of New Hollywood/Hollywood Renaissance Period), the film traces TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate and come to terms with the revitalisation of the industry. Alongside them are the likes of our very own Australian Margot Robbie who transforms into Sharon Tate; Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarzs; the late Luke Perry in his final on-screen role as Wayne Maunder; another Australian in Damon Herriman who plays notorious serial killer Charles Manson; Kurt Russell as Randy, and Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme. The film has already received praise for its ability to tap into the historic significance of a period that has informed Western cinema and cinema as we know it, and is sure to receive greater attention heading into film awards season.

Adam Goodes in The Australian Dream (2019)

The Opening Night Gala will introduce audiences to Daniel Gordon’s theatrical feature documentary The Australian Dream (2019) and bring them into the world of two-time Australian Brownlow Medallist and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes. In this special World Premiere event, audiences will not only witness one of Australia’s all time greatest sportsmen opening up about his illustrious career and its high points, low points, and talk surrounding race/identity, but they will also have the opportunity to join the filmmakers and guests on the red carpet in a very intimate evening. There will also be an opportunity to join VIP guests for an afterparty and indulge in post-film conversation that is sure to top the evening off.

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

MIFF has also managed to secure screening rights to 4 of the top 5 highest rated films of the year as voted on by critics from Metacritic here. Those films include (in order of critic ranking) Céline Sciamma’s award winning Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) which has won Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. The film follows a female painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) as she secretly endeavours to paint reluctant bride to be Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).

Still from The Souvenir (2019)

Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir (2019) is also on offer and has been hailed by IndieWire as “A magnificent self-portrait of love, loss and creative awakening”. The film brings with it the infamous Tilda Swinton who will also be in another film the festival has secured, The Dead Don’t Die (2019) which is much grimmer, but stars a wondrous ensemble with the likes of Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits and Steve Buscemi. In The Souvenir though, Swinton stars alongside her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne who plays a young film student (fitting for a film festival) who becomes entangled with an untrustworthy man who her mother advises her to stay clear from. If that isn’t a big enough reason to treat your eyes to Hogg’s masterpiece, the film won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema in the Dramatic category and was even executively produced by the great Martin Scorsese.

Still from The Farewell (2019)

The next film on the list is The Farewell (2019), which is funnily enough, closing the festival on the Closing Night Gala. Tickets will be hard to come by for this Lulu Wang Comedy/Drama with the multi-talented Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Oceans 8) at the films helm, but it just shows how in demand these films really are. The film traces a family who find out their grandmother only has a short while to live, so what do they do? They keep her in the dark about it while they organise a wedding she can attend before she dies. It’s quite a clever premise that is bound to require a tissue box upon entry.

Still from Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018)

Capping off the list is Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018) which has been at the front and centre of all talk pertaining to must see films in 2019 since the start of the year. It sees Bi Gan home in on the Guizhou province in what is a very noir looking visual approach. It’s his second feature in as little as 3 years following Kaili Blues (which also screened at MIFF in 2016), and is one I myself am eagerly anticipating.

Measure for Measure (2019); The Nightingale (2018); Dark Place (2019)

Alongside all of MIFF’s International releases are also a plethora of Australian releases. From Paul Ireland’s Measure for Measure (starring esteemed Australian actor Hugo Weaving) to Jennifer Kent’s follow up to her mind-boggling and ground-breaking The Babadook (2014) in The Nightingale (2018), and of course, the multi-directed Dark Place (2019) from five up-and-coming indigenous filmmakers – these films are not to be missed.

Matthew McConaughey in The Beach Bum (2019)

Another notable inclusion is Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum (2019). Hailed by critics as one of the funniest films of the year (by the likes of David Ehrlich of IndieWire), the film acts as a pure stoner comedy, but it’s so much more. Starring Matthew McConaughey in the role his career has been leading to as the laid-back poet Moondog, freeloading off of his wife Minnie’s (our very own Isla Fisher) fortune, The Beach Bum is easily one of the most pleasing experiences to be had at the cinema from a director with a peculiar visual style and a riveting cast (including Snoop Dog, Martin Lawrence, Jimmy Buffet and Zac Efron).

The options at MIFF are endless and with the widespread nature of MIFF’s 2019 program, there’s something for everyone so It’s definitely thee festival not to be missed!
The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from August 1 to 18 and tickets are on sale now. See the full program here and book your tickets.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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