This is my first blog about MIFF 2019. Starting with a complete overview of my ratings, with D indicating documentaries. I’ll move on to more detailed critiques of the films over time. Unusually some of these are already on general release.

Normally it takes much longer for instance the wonderful documentary The Eulogy is only now being shown after being screened at MIFF 2018. It’s a very inventive film, using the late Richard Gill to investigate the truth of Paul Keating’s claim that the pianist Geoffrey Tozer was unfairly treated by the Australian arts establishment. Keating agreed to re-enact for the film the very beautiful eulogy he gave at Tozer’s memorial service held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 2009. This forms the backbone of the film; having seen it I agree with Keating!

Of the films shown at MIFF 2019 referred to below, advance screenings of Hearts And Bone are being shown at the Nova now so its general release must be soon. I might have been a bit harsh in my judgement – one tends to become so at a festival – but whilst the performances were all great, I thought the script had a couple of glaring missteps which affected my response.

On the other hand I might have been a bit too generous to Amazing Grace which has had rave reviews. I thought it was okay as an historical recording of Aretha Franklin in her prime. But gospel music is not really my thing!

I understand the Australian film Angel Mine is due for general release shortly and I strongly recommend it. Terrific performances and terrific script. Set in Melbourne so you can also do a bit of sleuthing about where scenes are shot. There’s a glimpse of Alfred Crescent at one point.

As usual this year I started with the intention of seeing fewer films and this seemed likely as I got off to a slow start which I explain in a separate blog. But, as is also usual, over the course of the festival I added more and more, so I saw 48 films all up, 17 of which I rated highly. But I wondered whether I saw any really great ones that will stay with me. We will see.


* Wild Goose Lake
*Cold Case (D)
*Provincial Actors
*The Unknown Saint
* Meeting Gorbachev (D)
* Mr Jones
* Bellbird
* The Day Shall Come
* Burning Bush
* Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains
* Pain And Glory
* Jinpa
* Vai
* Emu Runner
* Angel of Mine
* God Exists, Her Name Is Petruyna
* Noah Land

I really recommend all of these films. Most of them should get a general release in commercial cinemas, or at least at ACMI. I really do recommend ACMI membership for this reason; they often show movies from the festival circuit. Though it may take a while. Burning Bush probably won’t. It was part of the Agnieszka Holland retrospective and consisted of three episodes of a television show about the period following Jan Palach protesting the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It might be on Netflix or other streaming services so look out for it there. Pain And Glory may already have finished; if not get to it soon.

# Family Tour
# The Gift: Johnny Cash (D)
# Once In Trubcevsk
# aKasha
# Hotel By The River
# Sword of Trust
# Days of the Whale
# H is for Happiness
# Suzy Q (D)
# Journey to a Mother’s Room
# The Orphanage
# Daffodils

Distinguishing between five and four stars is a bit tricky. These were also all pretty good. They are roughly in order of preference. Its less certain they will get released commercially. Family Tour was very topical, about a dissident Chinese film director based in Hong Kong connecting with her mother the only way open to her – by following a tour group in Taiwan. Interesting about how things have tightened up in China. The two music documentaries were great. H is for Happiness is a very sweet Australian film and you should see it if it gets a release. The New Zealand film Daffodils was a very quirky musical!

^ Brittany Runs A Marathon
^ Long Time No Sea
^ Marianne And Leonard (D)
^ Nothing Fancy (D)
^ Okko’s Inn
^ The Whistlers
^ Hearts and Bones
^ Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (D)
^ Amazing Grace (D)

Brittany Runs a Marathon may already have been screened. It’s a traditional US indie film about overcoming adversity but with great performances. I was really disappointed in the Marianne And Leonard documentary; a regurgitation of lots of previously seen (by me at any rate) Leonard footage and not much about Marianne!

His Lost Name
Tomorrow Man
The Seer And The Unseen (D)
Australia: Wild Top End (D)
A Brother’s Love

These were all just so-so. Tomorrow Man might get a release because it stars John Lithgow who I like and who was good in it as was his co-star Ronnie Meisner. He plays a survivalist and she’s a hoarder. A late romance with a difference. I thought it all a bit contrived.

The Souvenir
Smoke Between Trees
Ghost Tropic
Aquarela (D)

Everyone in the film industry seems to be raving about The Souvenir but I hated it. Having read a number of reviews it makes more sense, but as my brother who used to teach film-making says, if you have to hand out leaflets explaining a film it has failed!


2 Responses to MIFF 2019 – Overview

  1. Joe Burke says:

    Well maybe a bit harsh on the Souvenir but otherwise very fair. ( I’m over influenced by leaflets but even at the time I was thinking ah yeah) Pretty much agree with the ranking though. It was a good festival. My random thoughts and impressions – Iron Fists and Kung-Fu kicks almost a B grade style documentary – lauded the role of Hong Kong cinema and completely ignored China. Agree that Family Tour is very good – ( and has resonances with the Farewell) – Provincial Actors is a great film about the personal cost of resistance and Burning Bush changed form as it went along – a very telling story. Angel of Mine is a very pointed look at Australian family life. Really good. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains rambles a bit but has some great scenes – including with umbrellas. The Whistlers is a pretty weird take on the crooked cop and femme – fatale. He is as impassive as Randolph Scott. The scene in Vai with the mother and the daughter their canoes bobbing in the water, school bell calling in distance, and the advice from mum, sullenly received on coaxing the crab out of the shell was beautiful. Noah’s Land was a personal favourite -the story just unfolds at a pace and in a way – you just keep finding out what is going on – and it is resolved with great effect. I missed it, but given what I have heard I just can’t wait to see Wild Goose Lake. Look forward to the full reviews!

  2. [...] My big movie event as usual was MIFF in August which I was pleased to get to after my health issues. I was also pleased to get up on the big screen with my tweets, although this only happened a couple of times. I still managed to see over fifty films. Here’s my one and only blog on the whole festival. [...]

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