Milk Bar’s MIFF picks

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Well, it’s time for the Melbourne International Film Festival again. There are a ridiculous amount of films that I want to see at this year’s festival, but here are a select few that you guys should totally check out too:

Searching for Sugar Man
The sugar man of the title is Sixto Rodriguez, a 70s folk musician from Detroit who slipped into obscurity after two commercially unsuccessful albums. Though he largely unknown in his home country, his voice and music reached audiences around the world.

In places like South Africa and Australia he was immensely popular and his defeated and uplifting songs resonated, particularly with the oppressed in apartheid-era South Africa. This documentary follows the journey of two Rodriguez fans on their search to find the sugar man.

Berberian Sound Studio
A film about Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a hapless fellow who goes from working as a sound engineer on quiet, serene nature docos to cheap and nasty Italian horror films, and the toll it takes on him. As Gilderoy gets drawn into the sordid world of the films he is working on, he loses a lot of himself, including his sense of reality. Both unsettling and funny, this behind-the-scenes look at sound production is an ode to a much loved genre and era of filmmaking.

Room 237
Room 237 is a documentary that delves deep into Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant and unsettling film The Shining. Known for being obsessive and intensely meticulous, Kubrick and his films have been written about and debated at length by both film scholars and cult-film fans alike, with The Shining perhaps the most notorious in its polarisation.

The doco looks at the conspiracy theories that abound about the film and the supposedly hidden messages and codes within it. There have been a lot of differing points about what Kubrick was trying to say with the film, and what it is actually about, but this documentary has all the answers and more – depending on the interpretation you’re willing to go along with. But whatever that may be, this is fascinating viewing.

Into The Abyss
A documentary in the same vein as the Paradise Lost series, as only the master-of-the-medium Werner Herzog could tell. Into the Abyss tells the story of two young men, one of whom is on death-row, that plead their innocence to the triple-homicide that they were convicted for. But as the story unfolds, Herzog’s view of the death penalty becomes the focus. The film is rife with very human moments that Herzog is able to draw out of his subjects and interviewees. Herzog just keeps getting better with age.

Warriors of the Rainbow Part 1 & 2
The most expensive Taiwanese film to date is so big that it had to be split up into two parts. A small tribe of warriors called the Seediq overcome their differences with the tribes that they are warring with to stand against the Japanese Imperial Army that plans to conquer their country and crush their rebellion as it has done against every uprising it has faced. Beautifully shot and using a cast of mostly non-professional actors, Warriors of the Rainbow can be called nothing if not epic.

The Sessions
Patron-saint of independent film John Hawkes puts in an amazing performance in The Sessions as Mark, a man crippled by polio who wants to lose his virginity before he dies. Unsure of what is the right course of action, and being religious, Mark confides in Father Brendan (William H. Macy), who assures him that God will ‘look the other way’ in this instance. Mark then seeks out sex surrogate Helen Hunt to help him accomplish his desire. Though heartfelt and warm, The Sessions is ultimately a real story about the ardent need for closeness that every one of us needs.

Note: I would really have liked to add Moonrise Kingdom and Hail to this list, but both of those films are sold-out, and it would be a bit of a prick move to tell you how great they both are only for you to find out that there is no way of you actually being able to see them at the festival.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from August 2 – 19.
For more info and tickets visit miff.com.au.

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