The best foreign films to see at Melbourne International Film Festival
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06.06.2024

The best foreign films to see at Melbourne International Film Festival

best films Melbourne Film Festival

Melbourne International Film Festival has revealed a handful of foreign films from its expansive program of 250+ films to whet the appetite of festival-goers ahead of the 2024 main event.

To see the full Melbourne International Film Festival program (so far), head here. You can also read about the very special opening night film, from local legend Adam Elliot, here.

Melbourne International Film Festival 2024

  • Melbourne International Film Festival 2024 runs 8-25 August
  • Adam Elliot’s Memoir of a Snail will make its Australian Premiere premiere at the 2024 Melbourne International Film Festival Opening Night Gala on Thursday 8 August
  • The Music on Film Gala screening of Ellis Park, presented by Triple R, will take place on Saturday 10 August
  • The Family Gala screening of Magic Beach will take place on Sunday 18 August

Find Melbourne’s latest film, TV, literature and gaming news here.

I Saw the TV Glow

Following up the lo-fi, high concept We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, director Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow once again crafts a story about the ways that technology, art and pop culture can be lifelines for outsiders, this time interweaving themes of gender, queerness and identity. With elevated twists on genre, music by Caroline Polachek and yeule, and a plethora of pop-culture easter eggs (including appearances by Phoebe Bridgers, Snail Mail and Fred Durst), I Saw the TV Glow is bound to become one of the most talked-about films of the year.

Blue Sun Palace

Recent Cannes Critics’ Week award winner, Constance Tsang’s Blue Sun Palace investigates the complexities of the migrant experience alongside a warm, empathetic study of the universality of the human hunger for connection. Starring Golden Horse winning actor (and Tsai Ming-liang favourite) Lee Kang-Sheng, the story begins in New York City where two recently arrived Chinese workers are navigating the demands of family back home and the difficulties of their new lives working in a massage parlour, when an unexpected act of violence brings the pair together in an unlikely bond.

Cuckoo

Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer goes head-to-head with Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens in Cuckoo, the frightfully weird second feature from German writer-director Tilman Singer (Luz) which set Berlinale audiences a flutter thanks to its wild and wacky, stylish yet sinister spin on the horror genre.

Didi

Surveying a coming-of-age marked by MySpace and Motorola flip phones during the heady days of the 2000s, Didi is the double-Sundance-winning semi-autobiographical debut feature by Sean Wang. Sharing nostalgic DNA with Eighth Grade and Mid 90s, Didi further cements Wang’s directorial talent following a recent Oscar nomination for his short Nai Nai & Wài Pó.

A Different Man

Awarded Berlinale’s Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance, Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) plays a wannabe actor who learns that confidence isn’t skin-deep in the deliciously twisted A24-backed, A Different Man. Channelling David Cronenberg, David Lynch and Ari Kaurismäki in his film’s blend of body-horror, dark comedy and surrealism, indie auteur Aaron Schimberg shrewdly takes a scalpel to misplaced ambition and the superficiality of modern society.

Flathead

Executive-produced by Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Hail, MIFF 2012; Bastardy, MIFF 2008), Jaydon Martin’s directorial feature debut, Flathead, scooped a Special Jury Award as part of Rotterdam’s Tiger Competition. Shot in an alluringly cinematic black-and-white, this intimate portrait blurs narrative and nonfiction to memorialise a working-class community in rural Queensland and their dealings with loss, masculinity and faith.

Fungi: Web of Life

From Australian production house Stranger Than Fiction Films and screening exclusively in IMAX, Fungi: Web of Life follows UK biologist Dr Merlin Sheldrake on a mission to educate the population about fungi’s possibilities, advocate for their preservation and, in his own words, give this kingdom of life “a kingdom’s worth of attention”. Lulled by the soothing narration of Björk – a fellow fungi lover – and featuring mesmerising time lapse footage, this 3D documentary makes for a journey that’s both meditative and awe-inspiring.

Future Council

Continuing the socially driven work of his previous films, the world premiere Future Council sees Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film; 2040) take eight inspiring young minds – including singer-songwriter Ruby Rodgers, the granddaughter of rock legend Jimmy Barnes – on the ultimate school excursion: a road trip across Europe in his vegetable-oil-powered, bright-yellow school bus to seek solutions to the climate crisis. What results is an optimistic portrait of what could be possible if adults actually listen to the kids set to inherit the (increasingly uninhabitable) Earth.

Grand Theft Hamlet

Winner of SXSW’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature, Grand Theft Hamlet sees two locked-down actors take Shakespeare to the least likely stage imaginable: the streets of multiplayer video game Grand Theft Auto. What begins as a playful collusion between the simulated thuggery of online gaming, the violent mayhem of Shakespeare’s Denmark and the real-world camaraderie of theatre dorks swiftly develops into a surprisingly poignant story about unbridled creativity even during the worst of times.

La Cocina

Based on Arnold Wesker’s play The Kitchen and starring Rooney Mara (Song to Song, MIFF 2017), La Cocina was a Berlinale competition standout for its gorgeously shot, righteously angry portrait of kitchen workers stewing in the pressure-cooker conditions of a New York City bistro. Director Alonso Ruizpalacio (Museum, MIFF 2018) contrasts his film’s kitchen-confidential chaos with moments of quiet humanity, with stately compositions, gliding tracking shots and immaculate black-and-white cinematography further enhancing the palette.

Look Into My Eyes

Director Lana Wilson’s earlier work – including the Taylor Swift concert film Miss Americana and Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields – has scaled the heights of fame and the image of celebrity. In this A24-backed documentary, her intimate meticulous approach takes viewers past the beaded curtain to meet seven psychics and their clients. Like a clairvoyant, Look Into My Eyes present insights that transcend, seeking to empathetically shed light on the profound impulses for compassion, connection and closure.

Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros

Venerated filmmaker and MIFF favourite Frederick Wiseman’s 44th feature documentary turns the lens on the kitchens of Michelin Three-star French restaurants and the family that runs it in a genuine farm-to-table film. Unlike the small pleasures of its title, Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros is a tremendous Epicurean delight, patiently following the Troisgros gastronomic dynasty from the market to the dining room and everything in between for a four-hour feast for the senses.

My Favourite Cake

Tender and funny yet politically daring, the double-Berlinale-winning late-life romance, My Favourite Cake, is a warm, charming and incisive depiction of older women’s inner lives that also breaks several entrenched Iranian cinematic taboos. The tender bubble of intimacy that writer-directors Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha (Ballad of a White Cow, MIFF 2021) have crafted in this gentle crowd pleaser is only made even more precious by its precariousness, with the pair unable to accept their awards in person as the Iranian government had confiscated their passports.

Occupied City

Oscar winner Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years a Slave) is known for tackling important themes in ambitious projects; in Occupied City, he shifts his gaze to his adopted home of Amsterdam. Shooting throughout the COVID-19 pandemic he reveals the traumatising events from WWII that continue to haunt every corner of the city to this day. Building on the meticulous research of wife and fellow filmmaker Bianca Stigter’s book Atlas of an Occupied City, McQueen interweaves footage of schools, parks, homes, museums, businesses and the red-light district with revelatory, sometimes harrowing testimonies from locals, who reflect on the inter-bleeding of history and memory, trauma and healing.

She Loved Blossoms More

Premiering at Tribeca, Yannis Veslemes’s outlandish and otherworldly film follows three brothers as they attempt to lure their long-gone mother back to the world of the living using a time machine concocted from a wardrobe. As they deal with their delusional father and a girlfriend who plies them with drugs, their wayward experiments catapult them into a time-warped journey of grief and longing that is as visually arresting as it is comedic and disturbing.

Teaches of Peaches

Celebrate the world of gender-punk icon Peaches in the audacious Teddy Award–winning documentary, Teaches of Peaches. Alongside footage of the singer’s in-your-face breakthrough in the early 2000s, directors Philipp Fussenegger and Judy Landkammer grant audiences front-row access to one of the wildest tours of the decade as Peaches marks 20 years of her album of the same name. On hand for interviews are Feist, Chilly Gonzales, Shirley Manson, Black Cracker and more as they explore the enduring influence of this one-of-a-kind queer punk legend.

We Were Dangerous

Fiercely feminist and imbued with a wicked sense of humour, We Were Dangerous is an ambitious and comedic drama from debut Māori filmmaker Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and executive producer Taika Waititi. Life on the island is ruled by sublime acting stand-outs of Rima Te Wiata (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Erana James (The Wilds) and Nathalie Morris (Petrol, MIFF 2022) who team-up in this emotive subversion of the ‘coming-of-age delinquent’ narrative.

Welcome Space Brothers

Director Jodi Wille has spent 25 years exploring alternative spiritual communities. Now, Welcome Space Brothers enters the world of the Unarians: California–based cosmic visionaries who use ‘fourth-dimensional physics’ and filmmaking to connect with extraterrestrials and their own past lives. In this affectionate celebration of extra-outsider art, executive-produced by Elijah Wood, Wille captures the exuberance that self-taught creativity can bring ordinary people in search of meaning.

The full program will launch on Thursday 11 July. Audiences are encouraged to plan ahead, with MIFF Mulitpasses and MIFF Memberships – which offer exclusive pre-sale access – available for purchase now via miff.com.au/tickets