Psychomania (1973)
Psychomania (1973)
Psychomania (1973)
Stories & Ideas

Wed 18 Aug 2021

Highlights from MIFF Play – Melbourne International Film Festival's online program

Film Pop culture Representation Short film Streaming

From docos on folk horror and groundbreaking musicians to Aussie shorts and immersive experiences, the MIFF Play online program is not to be missed. See these gems before they disappear at midnight on Sun 22 Aug.

Bandar Band

Manijeh Hekmat | Germany, Iran | 2021 | Language: Farsi with English subtitles

Amir, his heavily pregnant wife and their close friend contend with the flooded roads of southern Iran in an effort to reach Tehran by nightfall for a career-boosting gig.

Despite being set mostly inside a cramped van, there is an openness to the film that is utterly delightful. The trio’s unflinching optimism in the wake of multiple obstacles in their path, along with the fantastic musical interludes, makes this truly emotional viewing.

Also, don't miss Majid Majidi's Sun Children (2020), and Behtash Sanaeeha's and Maryam Moghaddam's Ballad of a White Cow (2021) as part of MIFF's New Iranian Cinema program.

Kate Fitzpatrick, MIFF Programmer

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: a history of folk horror

Kier-La Janisse | USA | 2021 | English, Portuguese with English subtitles

Kier-La Janisse’s extensive examination of the folk horror genre will have you reaching for a notepad and pen so you can jot down the titles of the 200+ films it cites. At three hours, it is a true deep dive into the witchy netherworld and spans tales from across the globe.

To complement Woodlands Dark (although barely scratching the sorcery surface), check out Don Sharp's Psychomania (1973) – undead bikies, wealthy witches, Satanic butlers and magic frogs. What more could you want from a cult post-Hammer horror?

Kate Fitzpatrick, MIFF Programmer

Dry Winter

Kyle Davis | Australia | 2021 | English

A young couple in their twenties drift through their lives in a small country town. The film does a great job of authentically depicting, in a slow and observational way, that time in your life when you just hang out, do your job without any ambition or commitment and are content to do so. The cinematography showcases the landscape in a very beautiful way and made me yearn to travel again after 18 months in Melbourne. Kyle Davis is a talent to watch!

The film screens with a terrific short film called Craftsman, about a young woman finding her way back to her cultural identity and who she wants to be.

Kate Fitzpatrick, MIFF Programmer


Extend your reality with MIFF’s program of XR experiences. The program is available to everyone, worldwide, even if you don’t have a headset. It’s an exciting new space that we are excited to share with you all, VR tragics and neophytes alike. And it’s entirely free!

Kate Fitzpatrick, MIFF Programmer

Coming Home In The Dark

James Ashcroft | New Zealand | 2021 | English

“It’s the capacity to get to the core of things,” says Daniel Gillies’ philosophising psychopath Mandrake. “To strip away that self-deceit.” The character name is a wink to The Phantom creator Lee Falk’s Mandrake The Magician, one of the first comic book superheroes, and just one of the many sick subversions that makes James Ashcroft’s debut Coming Home In The Dark so memorable. Based on Owen Marshall’s equally bleak short story of the same name, the film follows an ill-fated family on a hike who cross paths with two nomads played by Matthias Luafutu and Gillies. Best known for his work on supernatural soap The Originals, this is a career defining moment for Gillies whose nuanced and nasty performance turns Mandrake into the kind of ‘killer with a code’ that genre fans obsess over i.e Anton Chigurh or Hannibal Lecter. Packed To The Rafters’ Erik Thomson gets to pivot as a dad in crisis, while one of Aotearoa’s greatest stage and screen actresses Miriama McDowell brings added grit and weight to the proceedings. The film hinges on a quartet of powerful performances, none more so than Luafutu whose haunted portrayal is quieter than his cast mates, but lingers. He’s one to watch. Ashcroft’s expansion of the source material by incorporating real-world terrors like the Epuni Boys’ Home and echoes of Colonial horror make it a smart, sinister slasher that unravels over a long country road. It also makes it a uniquely New Zealand nightmare.

– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator, ACMI

Music on Film

MIFF always provides a delectable selection of music focused documentaries. This year, take a journey through some incredibly formative years for popular music, via stories that shine a light on the women whose contributions were essential to the evolution of folk, punk and electronic music. Start in the sixties with Richard Peete's and Robert Yapkowitz's Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (2020), a portrait of a lesser known yet influential figure of the 60s folk scene. Lisa Rovner's Sisters with Transistors (2020) utilises narration by Laurie Anderson, a key figure in the New York art scene that closely followed the folk explosion, to create an immersive soundscape that brings the work of female pioneers of electronic music to the forefront. Celeste Bell's and Paul Sng's Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché (2021) re-examines the legacy of the lead singer of English punk rock band X-Ray Spex, digging deeper into the racism and sexism rife in the industry.

My honourable mentions from the program:

  • Ninjababy (Yngvild Sve Flikke, 2020) – a self-assured, sweet and hilarious Norwegian film that avoids all the rom com cliches
  • Set! (Scott Gawlik, 2021) – a delightful look at the world of competitive table setting
  • Australian Shorts – this selection features the cream of the crop of fresh filmmaking voices. All MIFF shorts programs are free to rent – check out Accelerator Shorts: MIFF 68½ as well.

– Tiana Stefanic, Festivals and Events Coordinator, ACMI


Within minutes of Swiss director Andreas Fontana’s Azor, I was pleasantly immersed in its myriad of mysteries. The film is inspired by a diary that Fontana’s own grandfather, a banker, used to record meetings with clients embroiled in the acts of state-terrorism inflicted by the military junta in Argentina’s “Dirty War” era in 1980. Thrillingly capturing a country and a people living in trepidation, without descending into clichéd scenes of violence or large-scale pandemonium, Fontana instead mesmerisingly navigates us through a prickly maze of elegant hotels, grandiose country estates and exclusive clubs for the country’s elite. The film is anchored by a sensational lead performance from Fabrizio Rongione (Two Days, One Night). Turn off the lights and lose yourself in the lavish production design and subtle cinematography... and don’t try figure out what is going on. The ending is perfect.

– Benjamin Haller, Membership and Engagement Officer, ACMI

Get 15% off

Become an ACMI Member today and get a 15% discount across all MIFF Play titles until 11.59pm on Sunday 22 August.

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