Melbourne International Film Festival 2012

THE Melbourne International Film Festival kicks off this August! Hieu Chau gives you a rundown of what to watch and the directors to look out for. 

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Taking place from August 2 to 18, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is the largest and oldest film festival in Australia.

But with more than 300 films to choose from, how do you even start whittling down a must-see shortlist?

A good way to start is to choose by country, picking out films from regions you’re curious to explore.

Or, spend a little bit more time finding out about the international directors who will have their latest features showcased at this year’s festival, and checking out some of their past works. Here are just a few:

Director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Thailand

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Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang will have his film Headshot screened at this year’s MIFF, but in 2003 he made a fantastic film called Last Life In the Universe.

Last Life In the Universe is a  moody existential drama about a suicidal Japanese man who is forced to go into hiding with a young Thai woman at a beachside retreat. It’s quite similar to Lost in Translation (2003) in that both films see lost characters forming a unique relationship out of necessity rather than want, and touch on the theme of loneliness. Atmospherically dreamy and beautifully photographed, it is a moving film that delves deep into the issues surrounding the core of our humanity.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObuMyu3NHQ[/youtube]

Director Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan

Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda whose latest film I Wish will be at MIFF, has quietly established an oeuvre of poignantly humanistic films.

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In 2004, he made the heartbreaking Nobody Knows; a film that follows four children as they struggle to survive in modern day Tokyo after their single mother abandons them. Koreeda, whose films have often dealt with the themes of life, death, loss and grief, weaves a powerful tale told entirely through the eyes of children trying to comprehend the situation that has befallen them.

Similar to the Studio Ghibli animation, Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Nobody Knows is a film that’s both beautiful and devastating.

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Director Michael Haneke, Austria

One film to watch out for at MIFF this year is Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012), which recently won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival- the highest prize a film can be awarded at the prestigious film festival – and also marks Haneke’s second Palme d’Or victory.

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His first Palme d’Or award was given to The White Ribbon (2009), a German film about the increasingly strange incidents that are happening to the children of a small community. Filmed in beautiful black and white photography and packed with a strong and eerie sense of tension, The White Ribbon is a tough film to forget.

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Director Walter Salles, Brazil

One of the big films at MIFF this year is Brazillian director Walter Salles’ film, On the Road, which boasts a strong ensemble cast of recognisable talent; Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Amy Adams.

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It also bares striking resemblance to one of his previous films, The Motorcycle Diaries.

Essentially a road-trip film The Motorcycle Diaries is a dramatization of a motorcycle road trip that a young Che Guevera undertook in his youth before he became the revolutionary figure that we know him as today.

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The Motorcycle Diaries complements On the Road as a companion piece where both films follow growth of a character through the various people they encounter in their lives.

Director Takashi Miike, Japan

One of the most ardent directors currently working in Japan today Takashi Miike is a fearless director who doesn’t limit his potential and works within an assortment of all different genres. This is made evident through the three films he has at this year’s festival: Ace Attorney, For Love’s Sake and Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai.

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If you’re interested in checking out his previous works, Audition (1999) tells the story of a Japanese man who holds a special audition for women that he thinks would make an appropriate wife for him, but the one he ends up falling for isn’t all that she appears to be.

Along with Japanese horror classic Ringu (1998), Audition helped bring Japan’s brand of unsettling horror to the Western world.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhsrsWcEspc[/youtube]

Director Wed Anderson, United States

Indie favourite Wes Anderson – whose delightfully quirky films often deal with themes of family, community and love – will show off his latest feature Moonrise Kingdom at this year’s festival.

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But before you catch this film, do revisit one of Anderson’s most beloved films, The Royal Tenenbaums.

Released in 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums is a lighthearted comedy about a family who reunites after the father announces he is terminally ill.

Despite Anderson’s indie credibility, his cast of well-known and seasoned actors, including Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gywneyth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson, show that he is a filmmaker whose directorial efforts have a large draw for major talent and that his trademark brand of wit and memorable characters continually resonate with audiences.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaMfV72q40U[/youtube]

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valeries Faris, United States

Remember Little Miss Sunshine?  The delightfully sweet film that’s huge on heart and big on laughs won over a lot of people in 2006 with its funny and sincere story about a family who embark on a cross-country road trip to enter their youngest daughter into a beauty pageant.

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The film went on to receive a total of four Academy Award nominations in 2007 and ended up winning two for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

Fast forward to present, husband and wife directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris return with the offbeat romantic comedy Ruby Sparks, which will screen at the MIFF this year.

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Director Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos will bring his latest film Alps to MIFF this year.

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Before Alps, Lanthimos released a controversial film in 2009 about extreme child rearing practices called Dogtooth, but despite the film’s deeply disturbing subject matter, it went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011.

Dogtooth itself is a scathing commentary on parenting tactics that’s dark and definitely not for the squeamish, particularly for those of you who are under the age of 18 as this has been given an R rating in Australia.

Similar in tone and style of films from other European directors such as Lars von Trier and the aforementioned Michael Haneke, the film will  get under your skin.

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The Melbourne International Film Festival takes place from August 2 to 19. For the full program, including film screenings and special events, visit the Melbourne International Film Festival website

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