Melbourne International Film Festival 2016: The Plus Ones’ guide to the must-see films

Celebrating 65 years of cinematic goodness, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is once again bringing an enormous line-up of international and local films to our beautiful city.  It’s a huge event on Australia’s cultural calendar and brings many films Melbourne audiences would not otherwise have a chance of seeing. Here is The Plus Ones’ first glance guide to MIFF 2016.

The Death and Life of Otto Bloom

The Death and Life of Otto Bloom

1 – Be proud of Australian made films

  • The Death and Life of Otto Bloom: When neuropsychologist Dr. Ada Fitzgerald was called in to examine Otto Bloom, a young man with amnesia and an uncanny ability to predict upcoming events. Is he a psychic, a time traveller, a madman or living proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity?
  • Madly (USA/Argentina/Australia/UK/India/Japan): six short films from six filmmaking talents including Australian actor/director Mia Wasikowska.  Hopping between continents, subjects, styles and moods, Madly is a series of tales about affection, romance, sexual experimentation and human connection in all its forms.
  • Ella: A heartwarming portrait of Ella Havelka, who made history in 2013 by becoming the first Indigenous dancer at the Australian Ballet.


2 – See a film that makes you think differently

  • Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (USA): from celebrated filmmaker Werner Herzog who returns with an entertaining, characteristically idiosyncratic look at the connected world, the hope that this technology inspires – and the deepest fears it provokes.
  • Zero Days (USA): Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney his investigative eye to the frightening world of state-sponsored cyber warfare and their terrible repercussions.
  • Life, Animated (USA): a powerful, emotional film about a young boy with autism who is able to open up through animated Disney films, which scored director Roger Ross Williams the award for best directing (US Documentary) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
  • Sonita (Germany/Switzerland/Iran): winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, this documentary tells the inspiring story of a gutsy 14-year-old Afghan refugee whose dream is to become the next Rihanna, but rather than money and fame, Sonita raps about misogyny and oppression. When her mother tries to sell Sonita herself into a forced marriage, the subjects of her art suddenly become very real and dangerous.
Louis Theroux My Scientology Movie

Louis Theroux My Scientology Movie

3 – Have a laugh with some friends

  • Tickled (New Zealand): journalist David Farrier investigates the world of competitive endurance tickling.
  • Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (UK/USA): a revealing, hilarious and absurd film, his first made for the cinema, in which Louis Theroux goes straight to the source to know what life is like inside the Church of Scientology.
  • Weiner (USA): Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. A fascinating look at US Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner during his now-infamous mayoral campaign


4 – See lots of short films

  • Curmudgeons (USA): directed and produced by and starring Danny DeVito alongside co-star David Margulies.
  • Roast Battle (USA): Jason Reitman’s documentary which throws us into a night at LA’s Comedy Store where comedians exchange insults as brutal as they are hilarious.
  • Belladonna (Croatia): winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.


5 – Watch something weird, new and exciting

  • High-Rise: based on a book by Ballard, a physiologist moves into a sleek apartment block which caters to its residents’ every physical need. But as the building’s physical services fail, its social structures melt and the tower’s inhabitants succumb to a Pandora’s box of human debauchery. High-Rise is described as a ‘gloriously unhinged work of darkly comic dystopian surrealism’.
  • Chevalier (Greece): Marooned while their ship undergoes repairs, six men engage in an increasingly bizarre game of one-upmanship.
  • Men & Chicken (Denmark): the first directorial effort in ten years from Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen, is a black comedy about two half-brothers who, upon learning they were adopted, go in search of their real father.
  • Virtual reality (VR) sessions: re-writing the rules of how we create and consume entertainment, the implications and possibilities of VR is exciting. A keynote session with Madagascar director and immersive cinema pioneer Eric Darnell will be great for filmmakers and lovers of cool tech. For people who just want to see something cool multimedia artist Oscar Raby has a enchantingly surreal fairytale The Turning Forest. This real-time visual and audio project inspired by Where the Wild Things Are and The Neverending Story will be a breathtaking festival experience.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

6 – Gossip about the films over mulled wine
One thing this writer knows from experience is dissecting and discussing films with other movie lovers is often the best part of MIFF. Did you just see a gripping Russian thriller or a weird film about a psychotic car tire? You should talk about it over some mulled wine.  Here are some recommended bars (conveniently close to cinemas) to talk cinema:

– Tomas
Tomas is a filmmaker, writer, coffee addict and tall person who does not play basketball. You can follow him at @TomasZagoda.

The full MIFF program has over 300 films. Purchase tickets from 8 July (presale for MIFF members on 6 & 7 July). The 2016 festival runs 28 July to 14 August.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones are invited guests of Asha Holmes Publicity.
Image credit: MIFF.