The program for the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival came out on Friday and I’ve finally selected the 20 films that I will see this year. From previous experience I find that 20 -30 films is the ideal amount for me. Any more than that usually results in too many films blurring into one and me getting really sick! Maybe I’m getting old but I find that 2 films per day is ideal (3 max) and I try to avoid anything with a start time after 10pm. I also like to keep some days free to recover and catch up on regularly released films, as there is a lot of good stuff getting a general release in Australia while MIFF is on. So I’ve picked 20 films (two mini-passes worth) and there will inevitably be a few more added on as word of mouth during the festival brings to my attention things that I hadn’t previously considered.
My selection process this year was the simplest it has ever been as I only chose films that I felt I would enjoy, be stimulated by or that I was curious about for whatever reason. That sounds simple enough but in previous years I have made the mistake of seeing films that looked worthy so I therefore felt I should see. Such films usually turn out to be mind-numbingly dull. I have also made the mistake in the past of picking all the films with the Contains scenes that may offend warning, thinking that these would all be amazingly transgressive films that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. With some notable exceptions, the films with this warning are usually disappointing horror films and it didn’t matter whether or not I would be able to see them again. I have also avoided feeling as if I needed to sample at least one film from each special program, although by default I think I’ve sort of done that anyway.
As a general rule I try to avoid seeing anything with a release date that is soon after the festival. Admittedly I am seeing some stuff that is getting released in Australia later in the year because I like the festival atmosphere so much more than going to a regular screening. But really, seeing films getting released one or two weeks after – or even during – the festival just seems silly. (See the link at the end of this post for a list of films with an general Australian release date.)
Also, be careful of anything that contains descriptions such as “It’s as if David Lynch directed a zombie film on acid” or “Michael Mann meets Tim Burton with puppets”. Always be suspicious of films that need to be promoted with comparative descriptions like this.
I would also advise that you resist the temptation to get caught up in current trends in national cinema. For ages Iranian cinema was highly fashionable and at the moment Eastern European cinema seems to be the latest fad. Just because a film comes from a country that is currently the hot country in world cinema, it doesn’t mean that it is automatically a masterpiece despite what some people would desperately like to believe.
Anyway, good luck with your selections and I hope that you enjoy the majority of the films you pick (it is always inevitable that there will be a few duds). Check out the Melbourne Film Blog as Paul Martin, whom you may recognise from his various comments here on Cinema Autopsy, has put together an excellent collection of MIFF resources including:
- Films in MIFF getting a general release (or have an Australian distributor)
- MIFF sessions that have sold out or are close to selling out
- Links to other blogs and websites that will be covering MIFF
Paul will be continuously updating all these pages and I’ve already found them very useful.
Of course during MIFF you can expect regular updates on Cinema Autopsy about the films I’ve seen plus I’ll try to keep up with posting full reviews of films getting a general release both here in Australia and around the world. After that I think I will probably take most of the rest of August off!