Melbourne International Film Festival 2015 – The Year of the Documentary

Another weekend, much later in the year since my last entry on this blog, finds me yet again at my desk with a faithful cup of coffee and the echoes of the work weeks hangover in my head.*

The not quite finished 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival has been taking up a fair chunk of my free time over the last two weeks. As it is one of my favourite (or perhaps my favourite full stop) Melbourne Festivals this is a thing made of happiness.

Most years I buy a mini-pass for MIFF.** After I have bought the pass I tend to flail around for a bit reading the guide and getting really overwhelmed as to what films I want to see and what times I have free to actually go see films.*** I have a fairly good system going for how to navigate the MIFF queues but have yet to nail down a fool-proof way of booking films and including everyone in my life who is interested in seeing films – ooops – something to work on in the future.

For 2015 the films I saw were:

  1. Phoenix (Drama, Germany)
  2. Robot Overlords (Young Adult, UK)
  3. Results (Drama, US)
  4. Iris (Documentary, US)
  5. Speed Sisters (Documentary, Various?)
  6. Raiders! (Documentary, US)
  7. Accelorator 1 (Drama Shorts, Australia/New Zealand)
  8. Cartel Land (Documentary, US/Mexico)
  9. Prophet’s Prey (Documentary, US)
  10. Only the Dead (Documentary, Australia)

Unintentionally 2015 became the year of the documentary with seven of the picks coming out of that category. Overall I enjoyed every film that I saw – it was probably one of the most even years in terms of my picks being all interesting, well made and absorbing. I think, though, if I had realised the pattern of so many documentaries (almost) back to back moving towards heavier and heavier topics and content, I would have tried to break it up and book something lighter in.

As it was I watched a lot of Almighty Johnsons and Teen Mom 2^ in between film sessions to chill out, and I am definitely still processing the last three documentaries – they all told clear stories but I am trying to decide if I needed to know those stories, especially in the graphic detail they portrayed. Cartel Land was a real mind play in the way it was told and was well put together in the different stories it told. Cartel land also made their point about the violence of the situation without having to show incredibly graphic scenes – though they showed the aftermath of this violence which is unfortunately not as shocking as it once was. Only the Dead, however, did show incredibly graphic footage and I am, as yet, undecided if it is justifiable in terms of what the documentary was actually about.

I have to say that Iris was probably the stand out of an excellent crowd of films. I think this was in part because of the focus of the documentary, Iris Apfel was so incredible. It is also rare, in my experience though my prejudices might be speaking here, to find a discussion of fashion and style which does not have a focus on feminine beauty – and this was so refreshing.

The last thing to note was that 2015 is the first year without the Greater Union Theaters on Russell St. They have been sold and are being redeveloped into apartments (I think). It felt a little strange and lot not like MIFF, for at least the first few sessions, not having that venue anymore. On the positive side it meant I got to branch out and see MIFF in different places, including the weirdness of seeing festival films at Hoyts Melbourne Central.

*Really I have no idea what’s happened this year but I seem to have fallen off the bandwagon for quite a few things for a rather formative part of the year.

** Good for ten films (plus 3 extras that I can never use  – cos day job). If value discussion is your thing: though the price has gone up over the years I have been attending the festival, the individual tickets on the mini-pass come out as several dollars cheaper than a normal ticket at Hoyts and other cinemas in Melbourne (not quite as cheap as a ten pass at Nova). A single ticket to the festival is similar in price to Hoyts so the mini-pass is financially worth it if you intend to go to a lot of films over the two week period. It seems a bit daunting but the festival does run for three weekends so ten films is not quite as crazy as it seems.

***By which I mean what films fit into my nana schedule – I am too old to enjoy the really late night films these days (especially this year with the work schedule of crazy coinciding over the last two weeks).

^We got free netflix and foxtel when we signed up for NBN, I am now watching all sorts of awesome reality tv and mainlining all sorts of series.


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