Enviro film picks for Melbourne International Film Festival

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During MIFF, the EFFA team are like kids in a candy store, planning and preparing for the two-and-a-half weeks of cinematic treasures soon to be on offer.

Like EFFA, MIFF will also feature some incredible environmental documentaries exploring themes from climate change and food ethics to the treatment of nuclear waste and Indigenous land rights.

To help guide you through MIFF’s biggest edition yet, we’ve asked members of our programming team to share the screenings they’re most looking forward to in this year’s outrageously stacked program...

- Nathan Senn, Program Manager


Birds of Passage

Recommended by Carolin Saan (Features Programmer) 

Birds of Passage (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra) promises to be a visual epic that intertwines some of the most fascinating genres. It looks like an absorbing narco-thriller which balances the storytelling tradition of the indigenous Colombian Wayuu family with crime films and the western genre.

Although the Wayúu’s Guajira land is a resource-rich desert region in northern Colombia, the Indigenous community does not benefit from the local mining or any other commercial interests. Instead, the Wayuu fend for themselves, like they have done for centuries before the alijuna (or outsiders) emerged. Following in the footsteps of Embrace of the Serpent, it is bound to be great.

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Eating Animals

Jennifer McAuliffe (Features Programmer) 

Produced and narrated by Natalie Portman, Eating Animals is a film based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling book of the same title.

Both the book and film take a rounded look into how the food we put into our bodies is farmed and the effects it may have on us and the environment. The film’s aim is not to turn you towards becoming a vegetarian or a vegan but to give you a better awareness of what happens in these factory farms behind “closed doors,” which gives us the agency to make informed choices as consumers.

While this film explores the American farming Industry, I believe this film will spark viewers to take a closer look into their own local industries and give their voice the power to fight for more sustainable farming practices.

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Experimental shorts

Mark Newbound (Features Programmer) 

I’m interested in the possibilities that open up for film when it’s no longer bound by the conventions of form or the need to relate a deliberate narrative. This doesn’t always work of course (these are experiments after all), but when it does it can offer fresh insights on a subject and on what can be done with the medium.

So here’s hoping the folks at MIFF have done a good job of sifting for successful experiments, and we can have a good night out at the movies. There are at least a few on the program that appear to have a nature or social justice angle.

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Ryuichi Sakatmoto: Coda

Nathan Senn (Program Manager)

With Ryuichi Sakatmoto: Coda director Stephen Nomura Schible offers up a career-spanning profile of the acclaimed titular composer.

Charting his early days as a sonic pioneer in the experimental Yellow Magic Orchestra to his explorations in classical minimalism (scoring such classic films as Merry Christmas Mr. LawrenceThe Last Emperor and The Revenant), the film offers unprecedented insight into the artistic process of a living legend.

Through the film, we learn that Sakamoto is a staunch environmentalist, having used his fame to campaign against climate change and protest against the handling of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Most fascinatingly, we also see how nature and the environment directly inspire some of his most moving arrangements. For lovers of film, art and the environment, this one is a must-see.

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Sophie Booth (Features Programmer) 

Arctic (Joe Penna) is a seemingly ambitious directorial debut for someone who has built their fame on YouTube.

Brazilian local, Joe Penna has taken to Iceland to create a story of survival, that some critics are heralding as the best of its kind. With Mads Mikkelsen at the helm portraying a deserted pilot in the Icelandic no-mans-land, it’s easy to understand the excitement that’s spreading for this film.

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