Seven Must-See Films at the 2017 Queensland Film Festival

See Samuel L. Jackson's powerful race relations doco and Robert Pattinson as a low-level crim in a film fresh from Cannes.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 11, 2017

Three years ago, Brisbane welcomed a new film festival. While cinematic celebrations have never been far from the city's screens, Queensland Film Festival arrived with a condensed, curated program and a specific mission. Sure, every fest promises to champion movies you won't see elsewhere; however QFF's efforts were immediately evident in every film choice. In this year's lineup, for example, cinephiles can catch a candy-coloured exploration of sexuality from a Japanese provocateur, a retrospective dedicated to an influential Czech auteur and a pioneering '80s Aussie musical from one of the country's greatest female filmmakers — and, as always, that's just the beginning.

Running from July 13 to 23, and primarily based at New Farm Cinemas, QFF 2017 spans teen icons, Korean masters, incisive polemics on race and brightly lit fireworks displays, with room to spare for terrorist thrillers, home-grown dramas and psychedelic reflections as well. Every film only screens once, so picking wisely is recommended — we've compiled a list of must-sees to help.


Another year, another film from Korean director Hong Sang-soo. Or two, actually. QFF 2017 kicks off with one of his latest, Claire's Camera and also features the filmmaker's On the Beach at Night Alone — and lest you go thinking the latter is old news, it premiered at this year's Berlinale just months before the former made its debut at Cannes. Yep, Hong is certainly prolific, however his naturalistic, breezy, observational style works well with his fondness for making as many movies as he can. And, when pumping out several features in 12 months involves enlisting Isabelle Huppert to play a teacher visiting the world's biggest film fest, well, Hong proves that he can do anything really.


In 2014, as film festival time came round, Spring had genre buffs talking. Come for the seemingly familiar premise, stay for the twists, turns and insights that filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead offered up. Three years later, the duo returns with their next title to do the same all over again. The Endless starts as a cult drama, but, as it shifts through both horror and science fiction, it earns comparisons to the efforts of Upstream Color's Shane Carruth for a reason. Cult flicks about cults might have become somewhat common, but sometimes that status couldn't be more appropriate.


It's human nature to stare at the sky whenever fireworks ascend to the heavens. We hear the popping sound, spy the bright flashes of light and simply can't help ourselves. Set in the tiny town at the heart of Mexico's fireworks industry, Brimstone & Glory captures that feeling more effectively than anyone could've expected. Indeed, the gorgeous and immersive documentary commits the vibrance of watching colourful explosions twinkling above to film as it charts the locale's National Pyrotechnic Festival, and proves as spellbinding as the substance at its centre.


One of the greatest silent films ever made took on the tale of Joan of Arc. In the nearly a century since, the historical figure has been played by Ingrid Bergman twice, popped up in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and formed the basis of Milla Jovovich and Luc Besson's post-The Fifth Element effort. Still, it's safe to say that none of the many movie depictions of the French heroine have proven quite like Bruno Dumont's musical Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. Featuring non-professional actors, the film that results is both silly and serious, and light and philosophical — and likely to be polarising, just like plenty of the Slack Bay director's other works.


We've already noted that QFF features movies that you won't see anywhere else, and that many of the flicks on its slate don't neatly fall into easy categories, even when it appears as though they might at first glance. Add terrorist thriller Nocturama to both piles. Moody and magnetic, Bertrand Bonello's latest effort charts Parisian youths making a statement, in a film that also aims to do just that. It also plays with the narrative and visual treatment of its tale, while proving pertinent to our times — and mesmerising.


Folks, thank the film gods for Twilight. Do it. Without it, we wouldn't have two of today's most talented actors making such interesting — and excellent — projects. Take the Robert Pattinson-starring Good Time, for example. The fast-paced flick mightn't offer a good time for his character, a low-level crim running around New York trying to rustle up some cash to get his brother out of jail after a bank robbery, but it's a mighty good time for audiences. Directing duo Josh and Ben Safdie (the latter of which also stars as Pattinson's brother) ramp up the energy and tension, shoot with gritty vividness, and bring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Captain Phillips Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi along for the ride. And then there's the pulsating score — trust us, Oneohtrix Point Never won the soundtrack award at this year's Cannes Film Festival for a damn good reason.


In I Am Not Your Negro, Samuel L. Jackson lends his voice to the words of American essayist James Baldwin. He does an outstanding job at capturing the tone and passion required, but it's the text itself, rather than the star uttering it, that's truly remarkable. Stepping through the state of race relations in the U.S. by focusing on the lives and deaths of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., every syllable spoken couldn't be more perceptive — or, even though they were written decades ago, still relevant today. It's little wonder that the film was nominated for best documentary at this year's Oscars, with director Raoul Peck matching the verbal content with an illuminating compilation of footage from the '50s and '60s. 

Need more QFF recommendations? Here you go. We also loved Certain Women when it released in Sydney and Melbourne cinemas, were keen on The Lure at last year's Sundance, and got excited about The Untamed at this year's Sydney Film Festival.

Queensland Film Festival runs from July 13 to 23 at New Farm Cinemas. To view the full program or buy tickets, head to the festival website.

Published on July 11, 2017 by Sarah Ward
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