Content warning: sexual violence. See support services here.

MIFF is back! The Melbourne International Film Festival (which has been running since 1952) is happening from 1-18 August 2019. The three-week film extravaganza will see some of the best works from around the globe playing on screens at some of Melbourne’s most iconic venues, including Cinema Nova, the Capitol and the Forum theatre. With over 400 films to choose from, a quick scroll through the programme may leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. 

Luckily, we’ve done the hard yards for you and put together a list of some of the films that we reckon deserve your attention — plus they’re all female-directed! Enjoy.

Seahorse Unclassified 18+

Director: Jeanie Finlay (2019) Language: English

This heart-warming doco from Jeanie Finlay follows the incredible story of Freddy McConnell, a transgender man determined to conceive and deliver his own chid. Seahorse (so-named for being one of the only species in which males are the ones to give birth) offers an intimate look into McConnell’s unique struggles to conceive, including resistance from his family and community. Seahorse makes us question what we believe to be ‘natural’, and offers a nuanced exploration of issues of gender, biology, family and what it means to be human. 

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In My Blood It Runs PG

Director: Maya Newell Language: English (2019)

In My Blood It Runs (2019)

Maya Newell (Gayby Baby) is back with another stirring documentary. In My Blood It Runs takes us into the world of 10-year-old Dujuan, an Arrernte/Garrwa boy growing up in Alice Springs. Though he is clearly gifted (he speaks three languages and is a child-healer) Dujuan’s strengths go unnoticed at his westernised primary school. The film follows the trials of Dujuan and his family as his struggles with school and tendency to act out in class come under increasing scrutiny from the police and welfare system. In My Blood It Runs tackles big issues such as race, structural discrimination and the tension between Indigenous culture and colonial practices. 

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Leftover Women Unclassified 18+

Directors: Hilla Medalia, Shosh Shlam Language: Mandarin with English subtitles

Being single can be tough at the best of times, but for women in China, it’s a social epidemic. Leftover Women follows three Chinese women whose status as single women over the age of 27 years renders them ‘sheng nu’ (leftover women). The women are labelled selfish for being career-driven, subjected to government-sponsored dating events and made to endure humiliating consultations with ‘relationships experts’. 

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The Nightingale Unclassified 18+

Jennifer Kent’s latest film The Nightingale (2019)

CW: high impact sexual violence and depictions of violence against children

Tackling brutal issues like sexual violence and Australia’s bleak history of colonial oppression, Jennifer Kent’s latest film The Nightingale is unquestionably divisive. Set in 1825 during white occupation, the film revolves around an Irish convict in Tasmania who seeks revenge against the British officer who committed an act of violence against her family. Kent’s previous film, The Babadook, is widely considered a classic example of modern horror (and if horror is your jam, this film is a must-see).

The Nightingale is an unflinching look at violence, misogyny and racism, lauded by some film goers for its honesty, and panned by others due to on screen depictions of rape. Many of the loudest critiques of the film have been from male members of the film review establishment, so if you are able to watch this kind of subject matter, head along and make up your own mind.

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No Time for Quiet

Directors: Hylton Shaw, Samantha Dinning Language: English

Don’t miss local doco fave, No Time for Quiet (2019)

Another awesome doco straight from our very own backyard, No Time for Quiet follows the stories of a diverse group of teens as they take part in GIRLS ROCK! a week-long holiday program that aims to empower girls, women, trans and gender diverse people through music, workshops and performances.

It goes beyond showcasing typical teen-angst and gets to the heart of real issues such as mental health, gender, identity and belonging. This flick is sure to leave you feeling bold, empowered, and hopeful. FYI: the Trust has been proud to support  GIRLS ROCK! with a number of community grants over the years.

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4 Feet: Blind Date Unclassified 18+

4 Feet: Blind Date (2019) Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ana Volenweider.

Directors: María Belén Poncio, Damián Turkieh (VR Director) Language: English, Spanish with English subtitles

This short film out of Argentina follows the story of 18-year-old Juana, a blue-haired, a wheelchair-user determined to explore her sexuality, and sets up a blind date with the explicit goal of hooking-up. Written by wheelchair user and disability-rights activist, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, the film breaks down the stigma surrounding sexuality and disability. 

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These are just a few of our top picks for MIFF 2019. The full program can be found here — make sure you snap up your tickets before they sell out.