MIFF guide for the disorganised

· Monday August 6, 2012

Look at you. Unhappy, overweight. Probably diseased in some way. Alone in your apartment holding an unopened MIFF program in your trembling hands. A single tear hits its cover. You yell between vicious, self-administered slaps, “This year was going to be the year you really did it. Thirty, forty films. You were going to meet the person of your dreams at the screening of an opaque Danish psychodrama and seduce them with your pronunciation of 'Krzysztof Kieślowski'. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” No tickets booked, future bleak.

Oh, sorry. Did I say you? I meant me. But you might find yourself in a similar situation regarding MIFF tickets. Which is why all of our best writers (and a couple of our shittiest ones) have hand-selected some particularly brilliant, not-sold-out diamonds from the jewellery store that is MIFF 2012 for you. Because we love you.


If there’s one-thing I learnt from attending a single cinema studies lecture years ago it’s that all horror is derived from the body: a monster’s body; a mouse’s; yours – doesn’t matter. And if there's one thing the Germans know how to do, it's making really terrifying horror films that don’t resort to US-style gore when they can just slowly build an air of sustained menace. Errors of the Human Body is all of this, and features a soundtrack by Melbourne composer Anthony Pateras that I’ve already fallen in love with, so yeah, I’ll be having conflicted feelings listening to that alongside this story of weird fucking science. - Chris Harrigan


Bad Brains didn't rewrite punk. They tore it up. Led by the charismatic if controversial vocalist HR, the black rastas from Washington DC began as a jazz/funk-fusion act. But when they mixed reggae with lightening fast hardcore they became one of the most influential and innovative bands in the history of punk. While Bad Brains: A Band in DC comes with the standard host of talking heads (Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl and the late Adam Yauch amongst others) it's worth sitting through Rollins banging on if only to see some of the amazing archival live concert footage of the band playing at buzz speed - all flailing dreadlocks, sweat and crowd mayhem. - Tim Scott


Billy Bob Thornton never struck as worthy of his onetime fame, but there’s a dim, dolorous quality to his southern drawl that gets to me: I think it’s that Carson McCullers wisdom-of-fools thing. This film (which BB directed) seems particularly full of that endearing, naïve sagacity, but the draw card is undoubtedly the ensemble cast of old American men, from an LSD-tripping Robert Duvall to Kevin Bacon as an old Tim Riggins. - Chris Harrigan


I just die for anything Gainsbourg and Birkin. Such a glamourous couple with an underlying note of destructiveness and doom. This documentary is a collection of Super 8 footage from their family holidays in the '70s. It's all been pieced together by Birkin and screens alongside Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait. - Marissa Shirbin


I think that we can all agree that being bullied is the absolute worst. “Get over it”, “it’s character building”, “have you tried bribing them?“ - some excerpts of terrible advice you probably received as a child in response to the situation. Sadly, not all of us had the moxie to take the Veronica Sawyer approach to combating these big bad (insecure and deeply disturbed) boneheads back in the day. Whilst Lee Hirsch’s new documentary doesn’t claim to offer a once-and-for-all magic formula to the problem, it does promise to take you into the lives and minds of some inspiring kids around the world who are dealing with it on a daily basis. The idea is to keep the conversation going after the film ends. Bring a friend for solidarity’s sake and a hug afterwards. - Nathania Gilson


Last year in this feature I recommended you see Attenberg on the strength of Dogtooth (MIFF 2009). Now I'm recommending you see Alps on the strength of Attenberg. Yorgos Lanthimos, (director of Dogtooth, producer of and actor in Attenberg) again disrupts normal modes of human behaviour in a story about people impersonating the recently dead to facilitate the recovery of the grieving. He says it's an inversion of the coddled, stunted children of his previous film. Concerning people entering a fabricated world rather than escaping it. Let's hope the purported 'new weird wave' of Greek cinema hits a trifecta at MIFF. - Kane Daniel


Having already cast a directorial hand over documentaries about Joy Division and Radiohead, Grant Gee’s attempt to retrace the journey in W.G. Sebald’s Rings Of Saturn promises to be one huge haunted ballroom of a film. With Patience (After Sebald) being the first major feature about the literary titan, the task must have been a daunting one, but Gee has had the perfect idea of commissioning an aptly ghostly soundtrack by ambient upstart Leyland ‘The Caretaker’ Kirby. Considering Sebald’s fixation on the potency of memory and a lingering sense of loss, Kirby’s accompaniment of distant pianos dissolving into white noise is about as fitting as it possibly could be. - Thomas Blatchford


It would have been inconceivable not long ago for a performance artist to be given a major mid-career retrospective - mainly because performance art exists in the time it happens, not 50 years afterwards. But in the summer of 2010 MoMA and Marina Abramović managed it by combining videos, installations, re-stagings of her old works and a major new performance - The Artist Is Present – for which Abramović sat motionless for seven hours every day for two and a half months gazing intently into the eyes of one museum visitor at a time. She shot to global fame after about a week (gifs! James Franco! making people cry!). Everyone was wondering how she was doing it. What was under the dress? How did she go to the toilet? Would she hold out? What did it all mean? This documentary answers many of these burning questions, following Abramović for a year in the lead-up to the longest endurance work in the history of art. - Penny Modra


Along with the first teaser for P T Anderson's The Master (hell, and the second one and the full length one) no trailer has left me more excited to see a film in the last year than the trailer for The Sound of My Voice. The directorial debut for Zal Batmanglij, co-written by star Brit Marling (who also co-wrote and starred in Another Earth) it's a tale of investigative journalists inveigling themselves into a cult led by a woman who claims to from 2054. It seems science fictional in the way J G Ballard's writing was. Implicit, rather than explicit. I'm assuming critical complaints about an unsatisfying third act are from some dummies who can't handle a little ambiguity. Tara, for example, liked it and she's no dummy. - Kane Daniel


In East Germany, where the psychological repression from the constant, institutionalised fear in place to protect people from “deviant cultural influences” has its own name, skateboarding was a big middle finger to the Stasi. This Ain’t California is the coming-of-age tale of three teens in the semi-secret ‘Rollbrettfahrer’ street skating scene of 1980s GDR. Or, to further reduce it: soviet architecture, super-8 footage, DIY skateboards, repressive regimes that were dismantled at a time before personal comprehension / before you were born, punk music. - Natasha Theoharous


Takashi Miike makes a triumphant return after cutting his way through MIFF '11 audiences with 13 Assassins. Still playing with warriors, Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai follows a disgraced ronin struggling to survive in a time of peace. Expect flashbacks, swords and probably tears. - Alex Mann


Short films are kind of like the less popular sister of the feature film. She’s younger, shorter, takes more risks and is often prone to thought-provokingly weird and beautiful outbursts. This season’s 'Accelerator 2' short film program features a drunken taxi ride, a war-torn romance, some New Zealand realism, some Cannes-approved drama, and Allen Brough looking like he’s about to go berserk. - Sam West


Ever since Martha Marcy May Marlene I have really been looking forward to another Elizabeth Olsen film. And here she is! Olsen plays a college student who meets an older ex-student Jesse (Josh Radnor) when he returns to visit an old teacher. An indie film about growing up. Which I guess is what most indie films are about. - Marissa Shirbin