Much to my delight, The 2017 MIFF First Glance appeared on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the annual tease of a few confirmed releases at the rapidly approaching 66th Melbourne International Film Festival, expected to be screening around 300 feature films & a few dozen shorts on the big screens of the city from the 3rd-20th of August.
In this year’s First Glance they’re showing off 25 features, as well as the short film winners from Cannes, Berlinale & Cermont Ferrand festivals.
I’ll be focusing on the films that I’m most attracted to, which as you’ll see is most of them, but I’ll try to give you an overview while I’m at it.
Click on any of the film names mentioned to see the full MIFF descriptions, which often include the trailers as well.
If you prefer to watch trailers, MIFF has created a YouTube playlist covering as many of the announced films as they can.
At this early stage, the only tickets you can buy are for the special events.
I normally avoid these longer, more geographically scattered events, in favour of a greater volume of films. But this year’s inclusion of the 1150-seat Astor Theatre for an all-night Sci-Fi marathon on the 12th of August is a welcome & tempting prospect. (Another sleep obliterated!)
It’s an excellent use of the most atmospheric cinema in Melbourne, which was opened in 1936 & has overcome many “redevelopment” attempts to remain an active cinema. I’m fascinated to see how large & diverse a crowd the marathon attracts.
No word on if The Astor will be used for other MIFF screenings. It’s a bit of a trip from the other venues, which all lie within the CBD, so I don’t expect that it will be.
The early Sci-Fi films themselves have not yet been announced. For that we must wait until the entire MIFF schedule appears, but don’t expect to see Alien or Terminator 2 on the list.
All suggestions thus far point to a curated selection of difficult-to-find & under-appreciated films of the 50s & 60s that set the tone & inspired the iconic films of the Sci-Fi & horror genres. Twelve & a half hours of them, according to the currently spartan session details.
The marathon appears to be the main feature of this year’s Sci-Fi retrospective, along with the Hear My Eyes screening of Fantastic Planet (1973).
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s live rendition of the score for There Will Be Blood (2010) accompanies a screening of the film at The Arts Centre. Tickets range from $45-$99 & are already selling well.
Before its mainstream cinema release on the 24th of August, James Gray’s telling of British explorer Percy Fawcett’s 1925 Brazilian expedition The Lost City Of Z will be screening at MIFF. I’m expecting a more thoughtful big screen experience than the adventure-filled trailer would suggest.
Tempted as I am to get my eyes on this as soon as possible, I’d suggest you save your precious festival time for something more difficult to find, then go see Z under normal film-going circumstances, once your post-festival recovery concludes.
MIFF will continue its screenings of quality Australasian television this August, showing all 6 episodes of Jane Campion’s show Top Of The Lake: China Girl season 2 back-to-back, over three two-hour sessions. Just as it screened at Cannes. It’ll be on Foxtel later this year, but seeing modern TV on the big screen rarely disappoints.
Of course, taking a look at season one seems a wise choice before investing that much MIFF schedule real estate.
I’ll definitely be seeing the documentary A Gray State, about an American alt-right documentarian who was on the verge of releasing his own film when he was murdered.
From the MIFF Schools section, known in previous years as Next Gen, the Chinese film Stonehead looks appealing.
It’s about a young boy who gets a new soccer ball & tries his best to keep it intact for when his dad gets home from working in the city.
As with all films presented in the MIFF Schools section, life lessons will certainly be learned.
What I enjoy about the world cinema selected for this section is how often these lessons are passed on while avoiding the potholes of cliché so often present in young adult storytelling.
The Endless is the only film announced so far that fits comfortably into my favourite MIFF section: Night Shift. This one looks inventive. Based on the short snippet I’ve seen, it’ll be truely great. Or terrible. Nothing in between.
The documentary Step looks almost interesting enough to get me to a dance film. Almost… but not quite.
Several films that screened at Cannes & are screening right now at the Sydney Film Festival will also make it to MIFF.
Some are also major Australian or New Zealand efforts that demand attention.
Mountain is Aussie documentarian Jennifer Peedom’s follow up to Sherpa (2015). She stays in the high parts of the world, exploring man’s need to climb ever higher. Definitely a big screen experience. She’s got big time collaborators on this adventure, including narration from Willem Dafoe. I’m predicting sell outs for this one. I expect they’ll even add additional screenings before the festival is done.
NZ doco Spookers, about the diverse staff of a horror theme park, has some serious potential to entertain & bring the feels. It’s very high on my list.
Feel good & quirky chicken fancying documentary Pecking Order looks to be the kind of doco you can see & enjoy without any lingering knowledge following you around. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Documentaries need not be sombre.
Australia Day looks to be a dramatic tale of crime & racism, set in Brisbane on my least favourite Aussie holiday. With some heavy hitters involved, I’m looking forward to it. The trailer looks promising.
Pop Aye has a plot impossible to summarise without sounding like an overloaded tabloid headline. So let’s just say it’s a road movie from Thailand about a man having a mid-life crisis & who’s reunited with his long lost… elephant.I don’t think I could miss this film & live happy.
Song To Song is Terrance Malick’s latest. A love triangle about some folks on the edge of the music business, starring Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling & Rooney Mara.
This wrap-up is in danger of becoming a longer read than the MIFF First Glance itself, so it’s best I leave you to explore the rest of it on your own.
On the 11th of July, the full MIFF schedule is unveiled to the general public. Tickets go on sale to the general public on the 14th of July, with MIFF members getting the opportunity to buy tickets on the 12th.
Once the full schedule appears I’ll put together a few more highlights for you… after I book my own tickets. #priorities
(All photos used are my own.)