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Watch How You Feel: Highlights from Melbourne International Film Festival 2015

Natalie Ng

Thu Jul 16 2015


THE annual Melbourne International Film Festival is back with its new theme “Watch How You Feel” which zones in on the key ingredient that makes films great: the emotional connection. Film buff Natalie Ng recommends her picks from the festival.


Film is all about the story and the experience. We go to films because we want to connect to a character, a feeling, an image, and understand what that evokes. We want to feel something when we watch a film. And when a film fails to make you feel anything, it’s usually the one you forget the very next day.

Capitalising on that idea of emotional connectivity, the 2015 edition of the annual Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has this year decided to run with the theme of  “Watch How You Feel”, an appropriate decision given film’s capabilities in drawing audiences into a full emotional journey.

No matter what the emotion, MIFF wants its audience to feel intensely for any film they decide to catch at the festival, even the negative ones like fear, horror, anger, sadness or disgust.

With more than 300 films from all over the world — covering every genre imaginable from a careful selection of films created by some of the world’s most prominent international directors — this year’s MIFF promises to demonstrate the universal experience of human emotion that we are all connected through.

Inspired by this year’s theme, we’ve narrowed down the highlights of the festival to match how you want to feel going into MIFF’s overwhelmingly diverse selection of films!

Watch if you want to feel… happy

Song of the Sea (Ireland)
Saturday, August 1 (1.30pm); Sunday, August 9 (11.00am); Saturday, August 15 (11.00am)

Following up from the success of The Secret of the Kells, director Tomm Moore returns to the land of animation in his newest feature, Song of the Sea.

Nominated for an Academy Award earlier in the year, Song of the Sea is a truly wonderful film that deserves to be seen by more people. The style of the film is completely stunning, original and magical, and so is the story, a take on the Irish folk tale of selkies (shape shifting water spirits).

Young Ben blames his six year old sister Saoirse for their mother’s disappearance but soon discovers his sister is a selkie. When he and Saoirse are sent off to the city for their safety, Saoirse begins to wane because the selkie part of her needs to be near the sea and it is up to Ben to save his little sister.

A touching, gorgeously made film that is deeply emotional and human, Tomm Moore is definitely a star with a future in the animated film world.

Watch if you want to feel… disgusted

The Chosen Ones (Mexico)
Sunday, August 2 (9.00pm); Thursday, August 13 (9.00pm)

The Chosen Ones competed at the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, arguably the world’s most prestigious film festival.

Produced by actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, The Chosen Ones follows the harrowing story of 14 year old Sofia, who falls in love with Ulises only to see her life take a turn for the worse when it’s learned that Ulises happens to be part of a family that run a prostitution ring.

The young couple try to escape after Ulises’s father wants him kidnap Sofia, but do so unsuccessfully, forcing Sofia into prostitution. If Ulises wants to save Sofia from sexual slavery, he must find another girl to replace her.

A must-see, The Chosen Ones is an uncompromising and difficult story about the neverending cycle of sex and violence that pervades our society

Watch if you want to feel… nostalgic

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (USA)
Saturday 8 August (6:30pm), Wednesday 12 August (6:30pm)

Female-focused coming of age films with female directors have been enjoying success lately. There’s Melanie Laurent‘s Respire, Celine Sciamma‘s Girlhood, and most recently Carol Morley‘s The Falling.

Now Marielle Heller takes on teenage-girl sexuality with The Diary of a Teenage Girl. British actress Bel Powley is slated to be a real breakout in the film and is supported by Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig, two actors both generally typecast as ‘the hunk’ and ‘the funny girl’ who’ve begun showing a real flair for dramatic acting.

Watch if you want to feel… terrified

The Witch (USA)
Thursday, August 6 (9.00pm); Friday, August 14 (9.00pm)

Drawing more from old-school horror in the vein of The Crucible and The Innocents than the gore and found footage style of modern horror is The Witch, director Robert Eggers’ remarkably assured debut feature film.

The Witch follows the story of a devoutly puritanical family in 1630s New England who live isolated from civilisation. When their infant son Samuel goes missing, and their crops begin to fail, they begin to suspect that there are occult forces at play.

The Witch won Robert Eggers the directing award earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, so audiences are in for some impressively atmospheric filmmaking, full to the brim with accurate historical detail and cinematography that is both oppressively creepy and beautiful all at the same time.

Watch if you want to feel… meditative

Cemetery of Splendour (Thailand)
Sunday, August 2 (1.30 pm); Saturday, August 15 (1.30pm)

Cemetery of Splendour is Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s return to film after winning the Palme D’Or five years ago for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. That in itself should be a treat for cinephiles and fans of his work.

As usual, Weerasethakul imbues sensitivity and a meditative, calming tone to his film, no matter how bizarre or confusing the narrative may be.

Also notable is the fact that the film focuses on the interactions and bond between two women, a lonely nurse and a spiritual medium. More films should showcase the friendships between women and it is remarkable that one of the best directors of world cinema is choosing to do that.

Melbourne International Film Festival 2015 will take place from July 30 to August 16 at various venues all around town. To see the entire program and watch how you want to feel, check out their official website.