What to see at Melbourne International Film Festival 2020

We are huge fans of our yearly dose of quality cinema at Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), so it was great to find out that the festival was able to stay alive online! Introducing MIFF 68½ — a Digital Film Festival for 2020.

Streaming online from 6-23 August 2020, MIFF 68½ is a reimagined celebration of cinema, featuring a suite of films and special events. With the adoption of streaming technology, Melbourne’s iconic film festival will deliver a very welcome cinematic escape to audiences across Australia for the first time.

The curated program highlights around 40 features and many short films and special events, including films planned for the festival’s intended 2020 edition alongside discovery highlights by emerging filmmakers. Here’s some of our recommendations:

Animated Shorts
The animated shorts are a highlight of each MIFF, and what we found amazing about MIFF 68½ is that this program is absolutely free! Yes, you can enjoy lots of brilliant short animated films from around the world for absolutely nothing. We recommend checking out ‘Mother Bunker’, a stop motion animation about a robotic drag queen who performs in a post-apocalyptic bunker. Other highlights include ‘Wade’ and ‘Something to Remember’.

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
Figuring out whether to ask her crush to the formal is hard enough. But when Ellie accidentally outs herself to her mother, things become tricky on a whole other level. Enter Ellie’s aunt, a deceased lesbian activist who visits the world of the living to offer some spectral assistance. Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) is a super sweet comedy-drama about family, acceptance, generational difference and the rollercoaster of adolescence, with nuggets of Australian LGBTQIA+ history thrown into the mix (if a little watered down to be straight friendly). We loved that this was a modern queer story that had a positive ending when so many of this year’s MIFF program features the classic gay tragedy ending. Prepare to have your heart warmed.

No Hard Feelings
Set in the clubs and house parties of Berlin, Parvis spends his nights hitting the clubs or hooking up with strangers. His hedonism – and his shame around his Iranian heritage – is challenged when petty theft sentences him to community service in a refugee shelter. There, he meets Iranian refugee Amon and his sister Banafshe, and as love blossoms between the two young men, a renewed love for their shared origins likewise grows.

No Hard Feelings is stylish, striking and vibrant, brought to life a brilliant soundtrack that includes songs in Farsi, Afrobeats tracks and indie stars like Grimes. This film did fall into the classic gay tragedy trope of never allowing queer characters to have a happy ending, which sadly is often the case. We also love that the gay sex scenes are depicted unapologetically real and unflinchingly raw. ‘No Hard Feelings’ is a bold feature debut that explores queerness, assimilation, cultural displacement and coming of age.

Shiva Baby
Black dress code turns into black comedy as a young woman attending a Jewish funeral service is forced to navigate her uptight parents, former girlfriend and current sugar daddy. When her older lover and an ex-girlfriend-turned-frenemy both turn up to the shiva, too, the screwball stakes are raised. To get out of this alive, Danielle has to survive neurotic parents, nosy relatives, passive-aggressive jibes with her ex, and the baby for whom her sugar daddy is an actual daddy.
Shiva Baby is a claustrophobic comedy of awkwardness.

Black Bear
This year’s Program Spotlight is Black Bear. Aubrey Plaza stats in this psychodrama about a creatively blocked filmmaker who wedges herself between a squabbling couple. As barbs fly aplenty and frictions are channelled into fiction, events are soon thrown off-kilter. The story is told in three ways, and will leave you pondering which one was the real life, and does anything really matter.

Dark City Beneath the Beat
To many outsiders, Baltimore is the setting of The Wire or the city where the 2015 death of Freddie Gray sparked weeks of anti-racism protests, but to multi-talented rapper and filmmaker TT The Artist, it is a thriving hub of musical creativity and expression. Home to the melting-pot genre known as Bmore club, a pulse-pounding mix of hip-hop, breakbeat and choppy house sounds, Baltimore comes alive in breathtaking fashion in this technicolour love letter that challenges our perceptions of the city. While Baltimore was shown in a positive light, with a host of interesting characters, the film makers never shy away from the dark underbelly and the rough lives many of the subjects have experienced.

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

Melbourne International Film Festival streams to your home from 6-23 August 2020. Book Here.

Disclaimer: The Plus Ones were invited guests of MIFF and Common State PR.
Images: Supplied