All the must-see music films to catch at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival

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All the must-see music films to catch at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival

'Dark City Beneath the Beat'
Words by Arielle Richards

MIFF has a bunch of stellar films on offer for music lovers this year.

The 2020 Melbourne International Film Festival is upon us, offering a bountiful selection of world-celebrated features, documentaries and shorts to enjoy from your very own home, courtesy of MIFF’s first-ever streamable program. Thankfully for us music fans, there is a stellar selection of music-focused films, including several world and Australian premieres. So as not to overwhelm you with the festival’s mammoth full program, we dug in to pick out the must-see features, documentaries and shorts screening as part of MIFF for all you music lovers.

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky

Comedian and MIFF ambassador, Steven Oliver, subverts the long-held perception of Captain James Cook’s discovery of Australia, retelling the story from a First Nations perspective. The truth of the genocide, colonisation and destruction of the land’s sovereign inhabitants resulting from the arrival of the HMB Endeavour on this country’s shores is reimagined through songlines. A musical defiance of the settler-state narrative, the film features incredible performances by Mo’Ju, Alice Skye, Kev Carmody, Trials, Birdz, Mau Power and Fred Leone.

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky debuts on Sunday August 16 at 7pm. Book your tickets here

Dark City Beneath the Beat

Rapper and filmmaker TT The Artist presents this vibrant, energetic love letter to her home city Baltimore. A mashup of music video and documentary, Dark City Beneath the Beat overturns expectations of the city, seeking to celebrate its club music culture and status as a creative melting pot through TT’s eyes. The film is driven by a focus on Baltimore’s very own genre, Bmore club – an irresistible blend of hip hop, breakbeat and staccato house that will have you on your feet in no time. With a soundtrack composed by Bmore musicians and artists, the film blends a passion for a city and its people with a distinctively pragmatic approach to destigmatization.


Dark City Beneath the Beat is available with an exclusive pre-feature short, T, an experimental short film about the T Ball, Miami’s annual celebration and commemoration of those who have passed from this world. A dazzling exploration of grief, joy, and everything in between, T is a raw yet exuberant documentary-style revelation into the effects of violence, racial disadvantage and the power of creativity to overcome grief.

Book in to watch T and Dark City Beneath the Beat here

On the Record

In 2017 Drew Dixon, A&R manager at the iconic Def Jam Records during the mid-’90s, went public with rape allegations against Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons. The film features a dissection of the allegations against Simmons, complemented by the testimonies of fellow victims, as well as a deeply personal recount of the trauma Dixon experienced. Knowledge of the repercussions for speaking out had kept her from seeking justice for 22 years. The film is a masterful investigation into the music industry’s historic toxicity and rape culture. It is also a culturally significant exploration of the challenges women of colour continue to face when speaking out, during the age of #MeToo and beyond.

Secure your tickets for On the Record here

Mogul Mowgli

Riz Ahmed plays British-Pakistani rapper Zed, whose route to success is disrupted by a degenerative autoimmune disease. After Zed’s global tour is cancelled, he leaves New York to live with his family in the UK where the film oscillates between magical realism and the raw realities of illness. Ahmed’s real-life rap background as Riz MC shines through during invigorating hip hop scenes while he wrestles with his identity and history, confronted by the Pakistani family he had left behind two years earlier. Director Bassam Tariq, along with Ahmed as co-writer and co-producer, explores community and family in this profound feature.

Tickets for Mogul Mowgli are available for pre-purchase here


The legendary Miles Davis graces the screen in his sole major feature film role as jazz legend Billy Cross in Rolf de Heer’s 1991 Australiana classic. Remastered and restored, Dingo begins as Cross’ plane lands in a remote WA town, Poona Flat, where he and his band offer an impromptu concert, leaving a lasting impression on young trumpet player John ‘Dingo’ Anderson (Colin Friels). With an incredible, masterful score composed by Davis himself and fellow legend Michel Legrand – the film is an extraordinary work and a must-see for both jazz and Aussie film fans alike.

Secure your ticket for Dingo here

The Go-Go’s

Director Alison Ellwood presents a riveting portrait of the titular band the Go-Go’s, hailed as the first commercially successful all-female band to play their own music and write their own songs. Stitched together from archival footage and present-day interviews with the band members themselves, The Go-Go’s is a charming and playful montage of a group who jubilantly defied the sexist norms of the ’80s music industry. Exploring the highs and lows of the band’s trajectory, including the ramifications of drug use and abuse, business conflicts and the mainstream-ification of their beloved punk scene, the film is a tribute to the group who always had “the beat”.

Check out The Go-Go’s here

Speak So I Can See You

Not defined as a music film, per se, but nevertheless an interesting watch for fans of all things audio, Marija Stojnić’s Speak So I Can See You is a meditative aural exploration on the transformative power of radio. The film focuses on Radio Belgrade, Serbia’s only radio broadcaster to offer listeners a plethora of cultural programming, including philosophy, literature, drama and an array of experimental music. The film is itself an experimental time capsule. Utilizing observational modes of shooting, Stojnić explores the station’s impact on the daily lives of its listeners and examines the relationships between them and the people who collaborate to create the 90-year-old station’s broadcasts.

Reserve tickets to Speak So I Can See You here

Day in the Life

The latest instalment from the Karrabing Film Collective blends archival audio, footage and media clips to bring you “another day in the colony”. Woven together with hip hop rhythms, Day in the Life follows an Indigenous community as they wrestle with the impacts of settler-state violence, poverty, and the ongoing indignities of colonisation. The works created by the Karrabing Film Collective showcase First Nations life under colonial violence, highlighting Aboriginal resilience and utilizing film for liberation. The high-paced short is available as a pre-feature exclusive to The Giverny Document (Single Channel), an experimental documentary feature which interrogates the enforcement of systemic violence on Black bodies, and celebrates women of colour for their resilience and ability to creatively redirect their trauma.

Secure your tickets to Day in the Life and The Giverny Document (Single Channel) here

Melbourne International Film Festival website runs from Thursday August 6 until Sunday August 23. Head to the MIFF website for tickets and the full program. 

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