DRY WINTER (MIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Kyle Davis’s Dry Winter taps into a recent tradition in Australian independent cinema of low-key portraits of outsiders looking for a way in, capturing a spirit of authenticity through the use of non-professional actors. Even further capturing the spirit of true independent filmmaking, this project was far from the product of established industry insiders – Davis, along with the bulk of the film’s crew, are all graduates of Adelaide’s Flinders University. But this is no student film; Dry Winter is a confident, poetic portrait of lost time and treading water in the small-town wastelands of rural Australia.

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POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHÉ (MIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

“My mother was a punk rock icon”, filmmaker Celeste Bell says as the film begins. “People often ask me if she was a good mum. It’s hard to know what to say.” Beginning at the end of her mother’s life with Marianne’s funeral, Bell continues to explain how “surreal” the event was, surrounded by people who were mourning an image, while she was suffering the loss of her mother, with whom we discover as the film continues, she had a tumultuous yet ultimately warm and close relationship.

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EL PLANETA (MIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Playing a vaguely fictionalized version of herself alongside a similarly quasi-autobiographical performance by her own mother, US-based Argentine-born director, writer and actor Amalia Ulman’s El Planeta is a charming lo-fi feminist comedy about a mother-and-daughter grifting duo. El Planeta is refreshingly original in its rethinking of the grifter film, adding humor but never it sacrificing its humanity.

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ELLIE & ABBIE (& ELLIE’S DEAD AUNT) (MIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

To call Australian filmmaker Monica Zanetti’s Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) a delight is an understatement. It’s a wholly charming if not at-first seemingly pedestrian coming-of-age queer love story between high school girls in Sydney, but when Ellie’s eponymous “dead aunt” Tara enters the picture, this seemingly light-hearted romantic romp finds its depths.

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ANNE AT 13,0000 FT (MIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Anne at 13,000 Ft is about learning how to fly. Or at least, trying to learn how to fly. The film opens with its eponymous Anne – played in a career-making performance by Deragh Campbell – skydiving at her best friend Sarah’s bachelorette party.

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LA LLORONA (MIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

La Llorona is less a typical horror film than it is a powerful political drama that employs horror codes, conventions and iconography – and a specific folkloric figure – to speak to a historical atrocity so great in scale as to almost be otherwise incomprehensible. In the right hands, horror can be turned into something with almost indescribably enormous ideological potency.

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ROSE PLAYS JULIE (MIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Rose Plays Julie is not shy in its approach to the thematic intersection of power, gender difference and violence and how they feed into the lived experience of women in particular. But it approaches its subject matter with a sophisticated balance of sensitivity and frankness that make these themes both poignant and, at times, far from subtle.

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JUST 6.5 (MIFF 2020)- Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Fast, smart and thrilling, Just 6.5 is a wild ride into the dark side of Iranian genre cinema. With a climax that demands we rethink the entire ethical construct of how the judicial system treats drug related offenses, Just 6.5 sees Saeed Roustayi excel with his sophomore feature.

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In The Muck of It: The Films of Ann Turner — Profile by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

I’m sitting in a small private booth at the Australian Mediatheque at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image, waiting

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Melbourne International Film Festival 2017’s PIONEERING WOMEN Program — Jennifer Merin reports

The success of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) focused international attention on Australian women filmmakers. Australia’s film feminism is being

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