This year’s MIFF schools program contains diverse films to meet the curriculum and prompt weighty classroom discussions on all manner of topics from poverty to religion, autism to friendship, and just about everything in between.
We live in strange and unusual times, with major events constantly blipping in and out of existence (rest in peace Rising, we barely knew you). But after a year existing online only, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is back for real. Well, partly. They’re braving a hybrid model that will see the much-loved movie showcase running in-cinemas (surprise lockdowns allowing) from 5–15 August, then heading online 14–22 August.
Once the main shindig is done and dusted, the MIFF Schools program picks up the digital baton, streaming five brilliant films into classrooms across the country. The schools sidebar is designed to integrate with the Victorian Curriculum, containing topics of interest for the arts, humanities, science and languages learning areas. They also represent key languages taught in Victorian schools: French, Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese and German.
A great educational tool for widening horizons, opening up interesting conversations, each of the five films can be booked for $35 per stream, hosted on the MIFF Play digital platform from 2–16 September. 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.
A School in Cerro Hueso, suitable for ages 13+
Argentinian filmmaker Betania Cappato’s emotional rollercoaster of a film draws on her lived experience growing up with a brother on the autism spectrum. It centres on parents and biologists Julia and Antonio, searching for a school that will welcome their non-verbal, six-year-old daughter Ema. Worn down by countless rejections, they finally find the perfect place. It just means moving from cosmopolitan Santa Fe to a small town. Billed as a moving reflection on family, friendship, acceptance and how the nature can open up our inner world, it’s a great way to introduce the idea of neurodiversity.
It’s a Summer Film! suitable for ages 10+
This fun Japanese coming-of-age film from director Sōshi Matsumoto features a high school kid called Barefoot who’s obsessed with old samurai ‘chanbara’ movies, so much so that she sets about filming one of her own. Which leads her to leading man Rintaro, who happens to be a time traveller from the future. A little bit whacky, it’s a great jumping off point to celebrate the joys of friendship, self-belief, teamwork and the power of movies.
The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite, suitable for ages 12+
Time travel also features in Pierre Coré’s heartfelt French comedy that allows two young women who look remarkably alike, but are separated by 80 years, to swap places. Rising star Lila Gueneau Lefas plays both the role of Marguerite, who has lost her father in the chaos of WWII, and contemporary Margot, whose dad has run off with his new girlfriend. The discovery of a handy magic chest seems them swap situations and learn more about the other as they track down the missing dads. It’s a good starting point for discussing conflict, gender expectations and loss.
The Day Is Over, suitable for ages 11+
There’s a missing dad at the heart of Chinese director Qi Rui’s Mandarin-language debut too. Inspired by real events and shot in the highlands of his home province of Hunan, it features schoolgirl Zhang’s quest to track down her migrant-worker father in the big city of Shenzhen, leaving her remote village behind. Presenting an odyssey with plenty of hurdles to overcome along the way, this one’s attracted a lot of buzz and approaches ideas of family, economic and social realities, and technology and communication.
Mission Ulja Funk, suitable for ages 8+
This one goes out to the stargazers and mischief makers, as German director Barbara Kronenberg presents the out-there road trip of 12-year-old astronomy geek Ulja and her hearse-stealing classmate Henk, as they head off in hot pursuit of an asteroid pointed straight at Belarus. Little do they know that Ulja’s unsurprisingly cranky grandmother is trapped in the boot. Racing across Eastern Europe, this film is a hoot, and creates a conversation around science, religion, intergenerational conflict and the immigrant experience.