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Eighties computers, Pakistani runaways, and deadpan funerals: the obscure gems of MIFF 2013

When MIFF’s cinematic tsunami hits, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and take shelter with familiar names. Yes, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha is as funny and charming as everyone says; yes, you’ll need two to three cocktails in you to properly enjoy Pedro Almodóvar’s opening night farce I’m So Excited! But what are the too-easily-missed films you should hunt down? We asked MIFF’s programmers for their own deep cuts.

Artistic Director Michelle Carey:

2 Autumns, 3 Winters: “The new film from young French director, Sébastien Betbeder, looking at the lives of three thirty-something friends over the period of two years. There are no car chases, monsters or CGI here, just a beautifully written, unashamedly talky film about friendships and the tapestry of life, full of direct-to-camera address and playful allusion. For fans of Eric Rohmer and the French new wave.”

Computer Chess: “American filmmaker Andrew Bujalski continues his run of ever-inventive lo-fi cinema of the everyday. Putting his beloved 16mm camera in the cupboard for his first ‘period’ film, he here employs an analogue black-and-white VHS aesthetic to sneak a peek into the lives of early '80s computer programmers, holed up in a three-star hotel for a computer chess convention. Much bizarreness ensues.”

The Dance of Reality: “One of my favourite films of Cannes. This characteristically bonkers comeback from 84-year-old Chilean multihyphenate visionary Alejandro Jodorowsky uses an ‘imaginary autobiography’ backdrop for dreamlike, funny, nightmarish imagery, including thousands of sardines crashing to a beach shore and an angry mob of protesting limbless workers.”

Programmer Al Cossar:

These Birds Walk: “This small but resonant film paints a mesmerising portrait of a young runaway in the chaos of Karachi. His friendship grows with an ambulance driver – more used to dealing with corpses than kids – tasked with negotiating the safe return of runaways to homes that are either desperate to find them, have disowned them, or never wanted them in the first place.”

Workers: “Jose Luis Valle’s Workers is not for everyone, but if you’ve got a keen sense of patience and a keener sense of the absurd, there’s a whole lot that you’ll love here. It’s off-kilterly silly but never loses sight of the sharp political commentary surrounding parallel stories of an illegal immigrant in a lightbulb factory, and a maid who finds herself in the service of her deceased employer’s dog.”

Harana: “Benito Bautista’s personal journey to keep alive the dying Filipino musical legacy of harana is a fond, tender account of the almost long-forgotten art of serenading under a girl’s window. It’s as sweetly winning as that sounds, full of nostalgia, and an ode to things lost, passed down, and the things we fight to keep. Take a date.”

Programmer Thomas Caldwell:

Capturing Dad: “One of my favourite films in the Next Gen program is this wonderful Japanese film about sisters awkwardly attending the funeral of a father they never knew. It’s a sophisticated portrayal of family dynamics that’s touching without resorting to sentiment – and there’s some great black humour. The final surreal gag had me laughing well throughout the credits.”

Desire Shorts: “I love putting together shorts packaged based on themes, and this year there were several shorts that explored issues of human desire. The Swedish film Undress Me is one of the most honest and raw explorations of gender and sexuality I’ve seen. For Dorian (Canada) and The Gift (Australia) focus on parents coming to grips with the fact their teenage children are sexual beings, and Clay is a great French drama about a blind sculptor who uses her hands to ‘see’ her young model.”

The Weight of Elephants: “This is an absolutely heartbreaking film about a sensitive and lonely 11-year-old boy named Adrian. It captures him losing himself in an imaginary world without literally depicting what he is imagining. As Adrian, newcomer Demos Murphy is astonishing. I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed by a child actor.”

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from July 25-Aug 11

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Updated on 23 Jun 2014.

By Martyn Pedler   |  

MIFF 2013: The Programmers' Deep Cuts video

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