This year’s 70th-anniversary celebration provides plenty of classroom conversation-sparking opportunities on environmental concerns, refugees, First Nations stories, and body positivity.
The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) returns to cinemas this year while continuing to offer streaming options, fielding a fascinating schools program that’s as brilliant as ever for teachers who want to introduce critical and creative thinking through film.
You can book an outing to participating cinemas with your class for $12 per student, with teachers totally free, or opt to stream a film in your classroom via the festival’s digital platform, MIFF Play, for $35 for one viewing valid between 22-26 August.
The brilliant schools program line-up has been hand-picked to map to the Victorian curriculum learning areas for the arts, humanities, science and languages, ethical and intercultural understanding, and personal and social capabilities. Each movie is paired with a professional learning webinar hosted by MIFF’s film-analysis expert Dr Josh Nelson, who guides teachers to additional resources and offers inspiration for incorporating screenings into your classrooms.
We Are Still Here, suitable for ages 12+
If you want a rigorous discussion about race, colonial history and First Nations excellence, this powerful anthology film stitches together an exciting collection of short stories forged by filmmakers from Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific islands. Covering 1000 years, from before the cataclysmic arrival of Captain Cook, to a far-flung future where mending our disconnect from the land is more important than ever, all of the interwoven chapters celebrate First Nations excellence.
Franklin, suitable for ages 8+
If you want to focus on sustainability, the climate crisis and the history of political activism in Australia, then this MIFF Premiere Fund-supported documentary is ideal. It takes a look at the fraught battle to save the serene wilderness of the Franklin River wilderness when Tasmania’s Hydro-Electric Commission threatened to build a dam there during the ‘80s. Told from the perspective of the son of one of the key activists, it also includes contributions from former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Embrace Kids, suitable for ages 8+
If you’re worried about the influence of social media platforms, celebrity culture and advertising geared towards younger people and want to have a healthy conversation about body positivity, this Australian doco is an excellent option. It combines music, animation and expert advice to help out and have fun at the same time. You’ll spot comedian Celeste Barber, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil, First Nations pop duo Electric Fields, and hear from body image experts about learning to love how you look and resist social pressure.
Futura, suitable for ages 12+
If you have students who are learning Italian, this gorgeous documentary tasks three of the beautiful Mediterranean country’s coolest directors with hitting the road to chat to young people they find along the way. They posed the same question: “How do you imagine your future?” And soon enough, the pandemic crashed the party, prompting all sorts of questions about hope, fear, anxiety and ambition. The responses are also a great way in to debate our responsibilities to future generations and connection to our past.
My Small Land, suitable for ages 12+
A protégé of revered Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, this debut film from Emma Kawawada offers a great way to discuss refugee rights, discrimination and culture with your students, as well as being a great pick for those learning Japanese. It’s focused on the plight of Kurdish asylum seekers in the Pacific Island country, and particularly the dilemma faced by adults who have lived almost their whole lives in one place only to face forced expulsion to a land you never really knew.
The Crossing, suitable for ages 11+
If you want a way to approach the ramifications of war and the turmoil of human displacement caused in its wake, this striking, French-language animated movie approaches difficult terrain in an almost dark fairy tale style achieved by using oil paint on glass panels. Depicting the plight of young siblings separated in the flight from their European village in the dead of night, it never loses sight of hope and holds tight to family bonds even as it depicts an all-too-familiar refugee crisis.
Yuni, suitable for ages 14+
A prize-winner at the Toronto International Film Festival, this third feature from fast-rising Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini is a great conversation starter on women’s rights, access to education and family expectation. It follows a 16-year-old girl who wants to go to qualify for a uni scholarship so she can pursue a career in science. But her conservative, superstitious grandmother has other plans, including an arranged marriage. This coming-of-age story encourages exploring identity.