MIFF Top 5 Picks

The Melbourne International Film Festival has rolled out its new and exciting programme of feature films, short films, documentaries, presentations, VR and workshops for 2019. Featuring some 259 feature films, 123 shorts and 16 virtual reality experiences there is sure to be something for everyone. But that also means that with 31 world premieres, 160 Australian premieres and over 18 electrifying days of cinema it’s hard to narrow down what to watch. So here is my top 5 for the festival in no particular order.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I feel it’s only fair to give this film all the recognition it deserves. Here are three things which make this screening a must do for MIFF 2019. 

Not only does it have an all-star cast with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stars the much-loved Aussie, Margo Robbie. 

Forgetting that, what makes this film even more exciting and a little bit more special is Director Quentin Tarantino has confirmed he will retire after his 10th film. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be Tarantino’s 9th film meaning we need to savour all we can. 

Which brings me to my third exciting thing about this film. MIFF will screen it in all it’s true glory as it was shot in 35mm. For those that have no idea why that would be exciting, 35mm is what was filmed with way back when. It puts the viewer right in the scene with the colour, grain and life-like visual splendour.

It’s 1969 and in Hollywood it’s the Golden Age of cinema. Faded television actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are coming to the realisation their careers are slowing down. The two try to hold on to their fame and success any way they can for just a little bit longer.

The Farewell

There are two things that make me excited to see this film. Firstly, it stars the hilarious and talented Awkwafina who you’ll know from Ocean’s Eight and more recently Crazy Rich Asians. 

I’ll tell you the second thing once I explain what the film is about. 

Billi’s (Awkwafina) Grandmother, Nai Nai has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and only has weeks to live. When tradition out rules that of the truth, the family decide to not tell Nai Nai. In order to get the whole family together one last time in China (they all live in the USA) with Nai Nai, a fake wedding is planned. Billi struggles with the idea of not telling her the truth and battles with tradition and doing what she believes is the right thing by her Nai Nai.

So here is the crazy and second thing about this film I want to share with you. It’s true. The entire story is true. It’s based on the real-life event Writer and Director LuLu Wang went through. The story was so great she even shared it on the hit Podcast, This American Life.

While there is some humour throughout the drama it does hone on the battle for a younger generation between family and cultural tradition and personal westernised beliefs. 

Judy and Punch

It would be fair to say growing up any child will have experienced Punch and Judy at some point. The puppets popped up at local shopping centres during the school holidays, the local fair when it rolled through town and even making appearances on television here and there. So, when the idea of it coming to the big screen was introduced a whole lot of memories came whirling back.

Australian writer and Director Mirrah Foulkes makes her debut by turning what you know about Punch and Judy on its head. With an origin story and role reversal, the story about the Puppeteers Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) and their desperate attempt to bring back the much-loved puppet show. But in a town of questionable rule and order the two are in for more than they bargained for.

Aside from the reworking of a classic children’s entertainment puppet show, Judy and Punch comes to life from the eyes of Cinematographer Stefan Duscio. While it may not be a name you are familiar with you’ve no doubt watched some of his work. Duscio is behind the visually stunning, Jungle starring Daniel Radcliffe. He also worked on the hit TV series Barracuda which put the viewer almost inside the scene of the teenage champion swimmers and their rigorous training schedule. 

The story and visual expertise will make this a must see this MIFF.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Away from the feature films and into the Documentaries comes the true story of a woman who recorded every television station in the USA 24 hours a day for 30 years. Why? To archive it. 

It all started with the 24-hour coverage of a hostage crisis in Iran, 1979. And be it an interest to catalogue television or more an obsessive-compulsive drive, Marion managed to capture over 700,000 hours of television on VHS recordings.

While it wasn’t public knowledge networks were throwing away its archives. With thanks to Marion and her recordings the footage of the 30-year span are now available online for anyone to search. 

With so many questions surrounding this decision to lock herself away and archive all the footage, this will surely be an interesting viewing. 

The Dead Don’t Die

This one is an easy pick this MIFF festival as it stars none other than the legend himself, Bill Murray. But it doesn’t stop there, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and Danny Glover to name a few. 

It’s your classic zombie film where the dead come back to life and a select few do what they can to survive and protect their town. It starts with Chief Robertson (Murray) and Officers Ronnie Peterson (Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) investigating a complaint. Little do they know they have an epidemic on their hands with the dead coming back to life.

With the classic humour you would expect to find from a zombie comedy the on-screen talent brings another dimension of humour. The characters themselves also add another dimension of comedy as the actor’s ability to make something ridiculous, outrageously believable.

Despite the flesh-eating zombie horror, it will have you giggling throughout. But let’s be honest how could you go wrong with such a cast like that?

Worthy mentions

Little Monsters – Centrepiece Gala

Sequin in a Blue Room


Measure for Measure


The Melbourne International Film Festival starts on August 1st and runs right through to the 18th. You can book tickets online, at the box office or via the app.

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