MIFF ’08 reflection (part 1)

Another year, another MIFF. It’s a week out and more than anything I’m surprised that I managed to see more than fifty films in 2 weeks. Now is as good a time as any to do an overview of my experience at this year’s MIFF. I’m going to get through all the films I saw and finish with a top ten of highlights and duds.

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (dir. Mark Hartley)

Trailer here.

Frenetically edited doco on Australian exploitation films ranging from ocker comedies like the Barrie Mackenzie movies to some under-appreciated genre films. The film works best as a “1001 Movies You Must See” kind of guide but is less successful when it’s trying to argue that Saw III and Rogue are part of some renaissance in Australian filmmaking. Say it ain’t so.

SON OF RAMBOW (dir. Garth Jennings)

Trailer here.

Garth Jennings has made some brilliant videoclips as one half of Hammer and Tongs but their feature debut, an adaptation of HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY was so bitterly dissapointing. He’s won back some goodwill with this story about two kids who bond over their love of filmmaking. He’s not a great director of actors even though the boy who plays the French exchange student is brilliant. Still, this is a cute and likeable movie in a similar vein to Michel Gondry’s BE KIND REWIND even if it’s not quite as intelligent or inventive as that movie.

12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST (dir. Corneliu Porumboiu)

Trailer here.

This is obviously a smart movie but it’s also a dull movie. Two men go onto a talk show on a community television station to argue over whether a revolution actually happened in their town. Thematically interesting. Shit boring.

BEN X (dir. Nic Balthazar)

Trailer here.

This irritating movie about a boy with Asperger’s who is bullied and retreats into the world of online gaming is made in the same hyperkinetic, overly mannered vein as Tom Tykwer’s films. If you’re like me and you thought Princess and the Warrior was a load of crap, avoid this one.

CARGO 200 (dir. Aleksei Balabanov)

This great Russian movie starts off slow with scenes involving two men having a philosophical debate before descending into a deranged exploitation mindfuck as a soldier kidnaps a girl and inflicts all kinds of nasty things on her, the least of which is bottle rape. A truly disturbing look at the atmosphere of the USSR in 1984.

PLOY (dir. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)

Trailer here.

PLOY plays out pretty much exactly like LOST IN TRANSLATION except that in this version the dude with the midlife crisis decides to bring along his annoying wife. This is fairly disposable stuff including the useless dream sequences.

THE RED AWN (Cai Shangjun)

This is a simply told, beautiful film about a troubled youth growing up in rural China as the country becomes urbanised. The plot revolves around a 17 year old boy who was abandoned by his father. His father turns up out of the blue lookig for reconciliation and takes him along on a trip throughout the country working as harvesters despite the boy’s resentment.

A JIHAD FOR LOVE (dir. Parez Sharma)

Trailer here.

This is a shoddily produced documentary on LGBTI Muslims living in Muslim countries. Apparenty made on zero budget and distributed before any of the stories explored reached any kind of logical conclusion. See BE LIKE OTHERS for a far superior take on the same subject.

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