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Nine stand-outs from the 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival program

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Monrovia, Indiana

Frederick Wiseman returns to MIFF with this portrait of one small town deep inside America. A festival stalwart, Wiseman is keenly aware of the power of editing to create meaning. His observational documentaries gradually but powerfully nudge us to find meaning in juxtaposition, to extremely compelling effect.

Words and Silk: the Imaginary and Real Worlds of Gerald Murnane

The apparently reclusive Australian author Gerald Murnane has been paradoxically everywhere lately, with a New York Times feature last year wondering if he’s the next Australian Nobel Laureate for literature. But before all that he was the subject of Phillip Tyndall’s 1989 experimental documentary, which combines a poetic look at the author’s ‘imaginary’ world with Murnane’s direct-to-camera addresses.

Words and Silk lead

In Fabric

British filmmaker Peter Strickland’s In Fabric looks like a deliciously fun horror film homage about a cursed red dress. Strickland is the subject of a retrospective this year, which includes his previous acclaimed works Barberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy. A selection of films that serve as his inspirations are also screening, including Andy Warhol collaborator Paul Morrissey’s Trash (1970) starring Joe Dallesandro.


Can you even call yourself a cinephile if you’ve never seen a single film by Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr? Probably not, which is why I’m happy to be able to rectify that thanks to MIFF screening this restoration of Tarr’s seven-and-a-half-hour-long magnum opus.


Long Day’s Journey into Night

Bi Gan’s film follows a man who returns to his hometown. It’s rocketed to the top of my to-watch list thanks to the critical acclaim it’s received for a bravura, almost hour-long continuous tracking shot, which is presented in 3D. The director has said he wanted to create an effect akin to a lucid dream.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Girlhood director Céline Sciamma helms this romantic period drama, which won both Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at this year’s Cannes. Set in the 1700s, it follows the romance between a painter and the bride-to-be who serves as her subject.

Portrait Lady


American filmmaker Penelope Spheeris is most widely known as the director of cult comedy classic Wayne’s World. She’s receiving a retrospective at this year’s festival, and I’m most keen to check out this 1983 drama, which follows teenage squatters in Los Angeles. Spheeris cast real street kids and punks as her actors.

The Lodge

Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz were the directors behind 2015’s Goodnight Mommy, a terrifying Freudian horror about the relationship between two brothers and their mum. They’ve followed that up with The Lodge, which stars Riley Keogh as a woman who is trapped in an isolated lodge with her boyfriend’s children. Alicia Silverstone co-stars.

The Distance between Us and the Sky

MIFF’s short film compilations are always worth checking out. Director Vasilis Kekatos won the Palme d’Or – Short Film at this year’s Cannes for The Distance Between Us and the Sky, about two strangers who meet in the middle of nowhere. It’s screening in International Shorts 2 alongside a selection of films including Sandhya Suri’s The Field (awarded best international short at the Toronto International Film Festival) and other award-winners.

This year’s Melbourne International Film Festival runs August 1-18

Our complete guide to the program is here.

All pics: courtesy of Melbourne International Film Festival

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