MICHELLE CAREY is full of enthusiasm for what promises to be an electrifying 17 days of film. In what is the 59th year of MIFF, regular themed spotlights such as 'International Panorama', 'Backbeat', 'Neighbourhood Watch', and 'Next Gen' are joined by a spotlight on Indian cinema called 'Not Quite Bollywood', a selection of films featuring animals as protagonists entitled 'Wild Things', and a retrospective of the prolific North American filmmaker, Joe Dante. Special guests of the festival include actor-turned-documentary director, Adrian Grenier and Amanda Jane, director of the Australian film The Wedding Party—a MIFF Premiere fund that is slated for the opening night—together with her cast.
So what exactly can we expect from MIFF in 2010?
In what has to be considered a coup, Not Quite Bollywood brings superstar actor/producer Aamir Khan to Melbourne to present his most recent film in a gala presentation at the Regent Theatre together with its first-time director, Anusha Rizvi. Peepli Live (pictured) is a rural satire centring on farmer suicides and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize World Cinema – Dramatic at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Other films in this section include LSD: Love Sex Aur Dhokha (dir. Dibakar Banerjee), which is India's first all-digital film. LSD is structured as three stories, each covering 'Love', 'Sex' and 'Dhoka' (betrayal). Director Dibakar Banerjee will be a guest of the festival alongside Abhishek Chaubey who will launch his directorial debut, Ishqiya. Fans of the cinema will know Abhishek Chaubey's work as a writer in collaboration with Vishal Bhardwaj (Kaminey, Blood Brothers, Maqbool).
The spotlight Wild Things took form when Carey saw the documentary Sweet Grass that follows flocks of sheep as they are shepherded for the last time, across Montana's Beartooth Mountains. For Carey, the dialogue-free documentary provoked unexpected “emotions of humour and sadness” and it started her thinking about other films with animals as the protagonists. Sweet Grass screens together with Robert Bresson's 1966 masterpiece, Balthazar and the independent feature animation My Dog Tulip, based on the 1956 novel of the same name by British author J.R Ackerley and voiced by Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini. My Dog Tulip recalls Ackerley's 14 year relationship with his Alsatian, Tulip. Documentaries in the section include: Nénette by French auteur Nicolas Philibert (To Be and to Have) about a 40 year-old orangutan locked behind bars; veteran American filmmaker Frederick Wiseman's 1974 film Primate that examines the day-to-day operations and experimentations of the U.S Yerkes Primate Research Centre; and Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo by first-time feature documentary filmmaker Jessica Oreck. Says Carey, “[Orek's film] focuses on modern day Tokyo's obsessions with beetles and insects, and traces Japan's fascination with insects through literature, poetry and art”.
This year, the MIFF retrospective highlights the work of Joe Dante, who is travelling to Melbourne as a guest of the festival. Dante is the well-known director of the Hollywood films Gremlins, Piranha, The Howling and The Burbs, and is adept at working across horror, comedy and satire. In Melbourne, Dante will be presenting his first film; the four and a half-hour long The Movie Orgy, made in 1968. “The Movie Orgy is pasted together by hand using a number of Dante's favourite films in a very interesting way,” says Carey. “If you want to get academic about it you could say it's an exercise in montage but really it's a lot of fun.” MIFF will be running a midnight screening of The Movie Orgy as well as a special Q&A with Dante in conversation with the retrospective's curator, former director of the Torino Film Festival, Guilia d'Agnello Vallan. Says Carey, “A lot of these prints are very difficult to see. They are actually Dante's own personal, archival prints. In a lot of cases they are the only prints in the world.”
Fans of Adrian Grenier will be excited to know the actor will be in Melbourne to present his documentary directorial debut, Teenage Paparazzo. The film follows 13-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk as he beats his way through packs of established photographers to snap shots of the rich and famous in Los Angeles. Music fans also have plenty to look forward to in the section Backbeat, with documentaries on the musicians Devendra Banhart and Johanna Newsom (The Family Jams), Dr. Feelgood (Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential) and a new film on The Doors, When You're Strange, written and directed by multi-talented filmmaker Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek calls the documentary the “anti-Oliver Stone film”. When You're Strange is comprised of archive footage from the late '60s and early '70s.
Highlights from the Neighbourhood Watch section include Hahaha by perennial MIFF favourite Sang-soo Hong, as well as Poetry by Chang-dong Lee, which won best screenplay award at Cannes. Also screening is The Housemaid, by Sang-soo Im, a remake of the South Korean classic 1960 film of the same title recently restored by the World Cinema Foundation, the non-profit organisation established in 2007 by Martin Scorsese. MIFF will screen both versions of The Housemaid. Also featured is Independencia, by 25-year-old director Raya Martin, the first Filipino filmmaker to be accepted into the Cinéfondation Résidence of the Cannes Film Festival.
This year MIFF has again programmed a number of Chinese films after the furore that saw films withdrawn from the 2009 program. The feature documentary Petition by Zhao Liang has been re-programmed as part of the festival. Other Chinese features in 2010 include writer/director Chuan Lu's City of Life and Death—a black and white dramatisation of the rape of Nanking in 1937, and Apart Together, directed by Quanan Wang, which Carey likens to being “in the mould of Ozu”.
MIFF runs from July 22 – August 8.
SBS will publish full daily coverage of the festival including film reviews and blogs.
Learn more about the program by watching our interview with MIFF executive director, Richard Moore.