Looking for relief from the dross that dominates multiplex screening schedules? Prefer your cinematic stories to be engaging and enlightening, offering up insights into people, places, cultures and ideas that are not typically at the forefront of mainstream Hollywood fare? If so, the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) is for you. Whilst the reborn BIFF has struggled to regain its status as the cultural and social beacon it was prior to being mothballed for a few years, the festival remains the only opportunity to see many local and international films that might otherwise fail to secure a cinema release in Australia.
The 2019 BIFF schedule includes feature films, documentaries, short films and retrospective screenings across several program streams. Running from October 3 to 13, BIFF 2019 will also feature a range of special events, including panel discussions, post-screening Q&A sessions and presentations from industry practitioners, while the Queensland Emerging Screen Talent Conference and the inaugural BIFF Short Film Awards will run in conjunction with the festival.
Included in the feature program is Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the Best Screenplay winner from the Cannes Film Festival that has garnered rave reviews. The latest releases from acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almavador (Pain and Glory), Japanese pulp auteur Takashi Miike (First Love), Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan (Matthias and Maxime) and indie darling Jim Jarmusch (The Dead Don’t Die) are also on the schedule, along with an extensive selection of productions from throughout Asia, Europe, Russia, Africa, South America, Canada, Britain and the United States. Of these, Aaron Schimberg’s film-within-a-film satire Chained for Life, the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Jury Prize-winning The Souvenir and Colombian drama Monos seem certain to make an impression.
Australian filmmakers are also well represented with nine local productions included in the feature program, including Hearts and Bones and Measure for Measure, both of which feature Hugo Weaving. Other Australian films on the festival schedule include Emu Runner, Sequin in a Blue Room, Slam and Gabe Forsythe’s zombie comedy Little Monsters starring Academy Award winner Lupito Nyong’o. The decision to program dark comedy Judy and Punch, pairing one of Australia’s very best (and underappreciated) actresses in Mia Wasikowska with Damon Herriman, as part of the opening night festivities with no subsequent screenings, will no doubt prove a frustration for those who, as a result, will be unable to catch the highly anticipated debut feature from director Mirrah Foulkes.
Documentary lovers are also well catered for with more than 25 feature-length productions from Australia and around the world, while short films will also be showcased through five program strands that include a special showcase featuring two films from Pia Borg, the only Australian filmmaker to have their work featured at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival
Baz Luhrmann features prominently in the BIFF schedule this year, with a retrospective program featuring his five feature films (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia and The Great Gatsby), plus a quartet of films personally selected by Luhrmann. Along with Federico Fellini’s 81/2, Bob Fosse’s autobiographical masterwork All the Jazz and a ‘final cut’ of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Luhrmann has also programmed Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic 452-minute version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Other retrospective screenings include a digitally remastered version of Harry Houdini’s The Grim Game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the film’s release, accompanied by a new live score on GoMA’s 1929 Wurlitzer Organ, while the 1924 Russian science fiction classic Aelita: Queen of Mars will also get a live score accompaniment courtesy of beatboxer Ton Thum and percussionist Ben Walsh.
For more information about BIFF 2019, head to the festival website at or connect via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.