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Still from Dark City Beneath the Beat featuring a small girl dancing in the centre of a crowd
Photograph: Supplied / MIFF

Melbourne International Film Festival reviews 2020

Need a little help deciding what to watch at MIFF 2020? Here's what our critics have to say

Written by
Time Out editors
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Melbourne International Film Festival might look a little different this year, but you can bet there are still stacks of fantastic Australian and international flicks still to see.

The scale of the festival can be quite daunting – luckily Time Out's crack team of critics has put in the hard yards to review some of our top picks. Whether you're after an enlightening doco, a chilling thriller or a hot new drama, here's your guide on what to watch this MIFF.

Recommended: We spoke to MIFF artistic director Al Cossar about the 2020 lineup.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
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If you’re looking for a gloriously frenetic way to whip up your weekend, then treat yourself to Dark City Beneath the Beat. Currently screening digitally as part of MIFF 2020, it's rising star rapper and producer TT the Artist's propulsive love letter to Baltimore’s banging music scene. Not since the Pope of Trash himself, John Waters, has a director captured with such irreverent glee the crackling creative energy emanating from that city’s streets. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, Nightcrawler) staggered as a drug-addicted thrash rock drummer losing his hearing in Sound of Metal; now he’s at it again in Mogul Mowgli. Co-written with director Bassam Tariq, Ahmed borrows from the heavy breathing, slam-poetry style of his solo album The Long Goodbye to depict Zed. Zed's about to break the big time in New York and his girlfriend (Aiysha Hart) is less than impressed with his constant absence and suggests he takes a time out to reconnect with family in London. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Depicting the final day of a hangdog hangout called the Roaring 20’s, located well off of the plastic fantastic glitz of the Las Vegas strip, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets makes you wonder if gentrification is even the right term for whatever is going on here. Diving into this doco is a bit like hanging around in Star Wars’ Mos Eisley cantina long after Luke, Han and the gang have gone, leaving a slain bounty hunter and a severed arm behind them. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Maybe there is a vengeful supernatural force haunting the Monteverde family in La Llorona – or maybe (as usual) the greatest evil simply lies within the hearts of men. La Llorona is a slow-burning psychological thriller. Despite whiffs of the nether realms, calling it a horror would imply this film will scare you – it will not. That’s not to say it’s not an insightful dive into the bloody genocide of Guatemala’s indigenous Maya. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Nimic stars Matt Dillon as a cellist whose life is upended when a stranger he meets on the train begins copying his every movement. And yes, we mean every. His children, wife and profession are up for grabs as the doppelgänger (who looks nothing like him) helps herself to his life.  There is scant dialogue in the piece, but a score of discordant strings, overly stylised acting and that ubiquitous fisheye lens infuses every scene with an off-putting menace.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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German-Iranian director Faraz Shariat's gorgeously mould-breaking debut announces itself with all the endearing energy and erotic chemistry of a Xavier Dolan film. Picking up the queer Teddy Award at the Berlinale a few short months (and what feels like a millions years ago) in the Beforetime, it’s a super-cute treat served up online as part of this year’s digital-only Melbourne International Film Festival.

 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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If you’re the sort of person who gets enraged by a film that keeps you guessing what the hell’s going on the whole way through then leaves you hanging anyway, look away now. If, instead, you get an electric thrill from a wholly unpredictable rollercoaster that wickedly refuses to conform, then you’re in for one hell of a treat with She Dies Tomorrow.

 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Last year was a tough year to be an award-worthy "international film with a predominantly non-English dialogue track". While Parasite's Best Picture Oscar win was a genuine history-in-the-making surprise, its earlier collection of the newly renamed Best International Film gong was not. Bong Joon Ho's juggernaut overshadowed the competition for much of last year and left little daylight for its rivals to find their audience. Which is a pity as Polish finalist Corpus Christi, finally making its Australian debut at MIFF this year, deserved a wider discussion. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The ongoing civil unrest that has wracked Hong Kong since 2019, sparked by a proposed extradition bill, has carved divisions between everyday Hong Kongers. In spite of this, Hong Kong Moments and its director, Zhou Bing, valiantly present the disparate opinions in a way that unites Hong Kongers, rather than divide them.

 

Interview: Paper Champions

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