For everyone MIFF Schools: From your classroom to the world

“We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls.”

So said American film critic Roger Ebert, illuminating why film is a powerful tool for teachers guiding students through our multicultural world.

The Melbourne International Film Festival’s (MIFF) Schools program is the perfect fit, offering eight international films mapped to the Victorian curriculum. Tickets are free for teachers and $14 per student, with free Professional Learning webinars as a bonus.

We spoke to MIFF Schools programmer Kate Fitzpatrick for her top tips.

FUTURE COUNCIL, suitable for all ages

Australian director Damon Gameau (2040, That Sugar Film) assembles an inspiring bunch of bright young minds from across the globe – including rockstar Jimmy Barnes’ granddaughter Ruby Rodgers – taking them on a Euro road trip in a vegetable oil-powered school bus as they bond over exploring climate crisis solutions.

“Damon has an easy rapport with this determined and eloquent group of kids,” Kate says. “I wish I was half as motivated as they are when I was their age.”

WINNERS, suitable for ages 10+

German-based filmmaker Soleen Yusef’s family fled from Iraq when she was nine. That experience informs her rousing second feature about an 11-year-old Syrian refugee, Mona, finding her feet through soccer, which should appeal to Matildas fans.

“I like that this was a different perspective for a German language film,” Kate says. “It’s all about fitting in through teamwork.”

PIGSY, suitable for all ages

Chinese mythological epic Journey to the West – previously adapted in Japanese TV show Monkey – receives a slick sci-fi update with this gorgeously animated adventure from Taiwanese filmmaker Chiu Li Wei.

“I was a big fan of Monkey when I was little, so this film spoke to me,” Kate says. “It’s a brightly coloured thrill ride and so much fun for kids.”

NORMAL, suitable for ages 14+

French filmmaker Olivier Babinet’s loose adaptation of the play The Monster in the Hall centres abundantly imaginative Lucie, 14, caring for her unreliable dad, who has multiple sclerosis, after the death of her mum. When a social worker plans a home visit, they must get creative.

“Lucie has an overactive imagination and a massive crush on a boy at school,” Kate says. “She enlists him to help her family pass as ‘normal.’”

ALEMANIA, suitable for ages 12+

Argentinian filmmaker María Zanetti’s heart-wrenching debut feature tells an intimate coming-of-age story about a teenage girl, Lola, who wants to go on a study trip to Germany. But her parents, struggling to cope with her older sister’s mental health challenges, aren’t convinced.

“I found this really tender,” Kate says. “It’s a beautiful portrait of Lola’s tenuous bond with a sister to whom she was once very close.”

MOVING, suitable for ages 12+

Picking up an award at the Venice Film Festival for this lush new restoration, Japanese director Shinji Sōmai’s 1993 classic is a gentle drama exploring the realities of divorce, as seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Renko.

“This is magical,” Kate says. “Plays like a Kore-eda film, with a transporting magical realist sequence in the final act.”

SHE SAT THERE LIKE ALL NORMAL ONES, suitable for ages 12+

Receiving a special commendation at the Berlin Internation Film Festival, Chinese filmmaker Qu Youjia’s bracing film follows awkward teenager Zhuang, who covers for his unrequited crush and fellow track teammate, Meng, when she steals a starter pistol.

“Such a dreamy, quirky story,” Kate says. “It examines the academic pressure some Chinese students get from their parents and society.”

THE CONCIERGE, suitable for all ages

This luminous manga film from Japanese director Yoshimi Itazu – who worked on Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved The Boy and the Heron – imagines a department store where all the customers are animals, including woolly mammoths!

“Just a delight from start to finish,” Kate says. “Gorgeous animation and a sweet tale with a harsh sting for us rotten humans and our destructive effect on the environment.”

The MIFF Schools program runs from 5-28 August. Find out more here.

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