MIFF 2016: 15 films to see at the Melbourne International Film Festival

MIFF 2016: 15 must see films at the Melbourne International Film Festival

With 345 films including 244 features, 92 shorts, 9 Virtual Reality experiences, 22 Talking Picture events, 24 world premieres and 157 Australian premieres at MIFF this year, marking the program with your highlighter in the right places is always a tough task.

In the list of 15 below, we’ve done some of the hard work for you by watching as part of our Sydney Film Festival and Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2016 coverage.

Of course, you can ignore us completely and, like Fleetwood Mac, go your own way. Let us know in the comments below what you’re excited about seeing at MIFF this year.


Nicolas Winding Refn’s incredibly stylish and divisive film is sure to be a popular one at MIFF this year. Following Drive and Only God Forgives, the intriguing promise of a mix of “Italian giallo and Alejandro Jodorowsky, Black Swan and Suspiria” is just too good to ignore. IndieWire described the reaction as a mixture of walk-outs, yelling at the screen, and five star reviews, which seems like a perfect selection for MIFF.


A bittersweet love story that defies convention, focusing on the intimate moments between two strong female leads. With strong performances by Riley Keough and Jena Malone,  it doesn’t always provide us with the expected happy endings that are expected of such narratives, but nevertheless serve as a testament to the notion of enduring love. Our pick for favourite of the festival. Full Review >>


Often over-the-top, but also gorgeously shot and erotic to the point of parody. In other words, it’s the latest masterpiece from Park Chan-wook. Straddling the fine line between pointed satire and male fantasy, it also embraces its comic outlandishness at every opportunity. Park’s relocation of the Sarah Waters’ book to 1930s Korea ensures that commentary on class structures and female empowerment remain firmly intact in the translation. So too does Park’s penchant for a ripping vengeance yarn. At times completely insane, THE HANDMAIDEN is a true cinematic experience. Read Full Review >>


Truth is stranger than fiction in a head-shaking, hilarious and ridiculously tense doco about the world of competitive tickling that’s full of twists. Narrated by Farrier’s wry and comical attitude, a mixture of Louis Theroux’s bullshit detector and John Oliver’s outsider observations, TICKLED is nevertheless an often terrifying examination of cyber-bullying and intimidation. Full Review >>


Sotiris Dounoukos’ adaptation of Helen Garner’s 2007 book (Joe Cinque’s Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law) about the death of a Canberra man due to a heroin overdose, will make its debut at the festival this year. It’s a massive coup for the festival, who put Dounoukos’ A Single Body through the MIFF Accelerator program in 2014. It went on to win the Toronto Film Festival’s Best International Short Film award. It stars Maggie Naouri and Jerome Meyer, with Gia Carides and Tony Nikolakopoulos as Joe’s parents.

Joe Cinque's Consolation


Got a spare 5 hours? Get to the end and take comfort in the fact that you saw this instead of the 8-hour film from the Philippines. Unless you saw both. We just did the maths and figured you could choose both of these or see another 7 or 8 films in the same time you spent at these. Despite that, we’re recommending it. Really. The trailer below is less than 2 minutes, representing 0.6% of the film.


US politics is in sharp focus at the moment, thanks to the pending elections, but former US Senator Anthony Weiner (aka Carlos Danger) became most famous for his penis. Primarily because he kept sending pictures of it to people. Resigning from office in 2011 due to a ‘sexting’ scandal, and unsuccessfully running for mayor in 2013, he was the butt of jokes on the talk show circuit for months.  Tracing his last mayoral campaign, this fly-on-the-wall doco from Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinbergwon U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year as well. Full Review >>


Juno Kuosmanen’s THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI took the top prize at Cannes this year. The film concerns the titular Finnish boxing champs true story of his 1962 fight against American featherweight champ Davey Moore. “Thank you for your weird taste in cinema,” said Kuosmanen upon receiving the award.


An observational documentary about the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, Gianfranco Rosi’s Golden Bear winning film contrasts tradition with the passage of the mostly Syrian refugees. Not using any narration or much on-screen text, it simply lets us watch the reality of the refugee tragedy. If you are running (or voting) in the upcoming Australian or US elections, FIRE AT SEA should be mandatory viewing.


Jim Jarmusch returns with a quiet and literally poetic portrait of a bus driver (Adam Driver) and his wife (Golshifteh Farahani) in New Jersey. Similar to the work Jarmusch produced between Permanent Vacation and Night on Earth, there is an unhurried minimalism to this film. PATERSON finds the poetry in the everyday, and it’s just a wonderful way to pass the time. Full Review >>


Jim Jarmusch’s second film in the festival is a chronicle of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, beginning with their downfall in 1973 and going back to see how the band came together, fell apart and went on to influence rock and roll for the following forty years. Told through interviews with Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt and more, archival and stock footage, it’s a very different document to other rock profiles. Essential for Stooges fans, although others may have to do some rock homework in advance.


Terence Davies’ (Of Time and the City, The House of Mirth) film follows an appearance at the Sydney Film Festival with a very special screening at MIFF. Set just prior to World War I, it’s a coming-of-age story about a Scottish farmer’s daughter who wants to escape the abuse of her father, but is torn between that and the love of the land she is from. Even more exciting is the arrival of Davies as a festival guest.


Delving into territory dominated by Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze, director Rosemary Myers brings a touch of magical realism to Australian sensibilities, blending theatre and film effortlessly. Built around a coming-of-age story for socially awkward Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore). GIRL ASLEEP is ultimately an empowering film for young women, with a positive message about self-image and refuting male entitlement. Full Review >>


Hong Sang-soo’s (Oki’s Movie, The Day He Arrives) latest is a “twice-told tale” that follows a familiar theme for the filmmaker. it follows a director arriving to give a lecture, and starting a discussion with someone. They may or may not be falling for each other – and then the film abruptly begins again. Expect this one to engage in a conversation with all of the film literate fans of the audience, or just charm the pants off you.


Direct from winning the Un Certain Regard Special Prize at Cannes, Studio Ghibli’s co-produced film is masterclass in visual storytelling. Without using any dialogue, it tells the story of a man who washes ashore on an isolated island, but his repeated attempts to escape are stymied by an unseen force. Oftentimes abstract and lyrical, the story unfolds in a gentle and dreamlike fashion, and director Michael Dudok de Wit has ensured that the Studio Ghibli legacy will continue outside of Japan and into a new generation of filmmakers. Full Review >>