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Five IRL Brisbane Film Festivals to Add to Your Movie-Watching Diary

Choc tops, popcorn and surround sound await.
By Concrete Playground
October 18, 2021
By Concrete Playground
October 18, 2021


Choc tops, popcorn and surround sound await.

For the past two years, we've all been streaming flicks on our laptops and phones while we've been spending more time at home. But there's nothing quite like putting your bum on a seat in an actual picture palace — especially when you're jumping into a whole film fest, pop-up cinema or movie-filled season filled with big-screen delights.

Excitingly, you can do that IRL at more than a few events around Brisbane over the next few months. We've rounded up some of our faves right here, so you can add them to your diary — and, when the time comes, order an extra large popcorn, then get stuck into some serious viewing.

  • 5
    Italian Film Festival 2021

    International travel will be back on the cards for Australians this year, but you’ll be able to get a 26-film glimpse of Italy first. The reason: the 2021 Italian Film Festival. As it does every year, it’s showcasing a stacked lineup of new and classic cinema from its chosen part of the globe, as part of its touring program.

    For Brisbanites, this year’s fest will run from Wednesday, October 20–Sunday, November 14 at Palace James Street and Palace Centro. The fest opens with The Ties — and with a marriage in crisis. Starring Alba Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro) and Luigi Lo Cascio (Human Capital), and helmed by Daniele Luchetti (La Nostra Vita, My Brother is an Only Child), this moving film follows a couple’s tumultuous romance over the course of decades. It comes to the Italian Film Festival after opening last year’s Venice Film Festival, and becoming the first Italian movie in more than a decade to do the latter.

    Other highlights include Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight winner To Chiara, about a 15-year-old who discovers her father might have criminal ties; Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors, which is set across a Rome apartment block; Hidden Away, a biopic about artist Antonio Ligabue; and You Came Back, a thriller that makes ample use of Venice’s lagoons. Or, there’s also comedy Three Perfect Daughters; drama Tigers, about footballer Martin Bengtsson; and Sirley, which sees director Elisa Amoruso draw upon her adolescence for her first fictional film.

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  • 4
    Brisbane International Film Festival 2021

    BIFF is back, with the Brisbane International Film Festival unleashing 103 films at a heap fo Brissie cinemas between Thursday, October 21–Sunday, October 31. Movie lovers, get ready to spend 11 days in the city’s cinemas watching everything from Edgar Wright’s latest, an Oscar Isaac-starring gambling drama and this year’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner, through to flicks based on Twitter threads, new works from acclaimed directors and Nicolas Cage‘s latest OTT effort (yes, another one).

    Those aforementioned highlights include Last Night in Soho, which sees Shaun of the Dead filmmaker Wright embrace psychological thrills; The Card Counter, starring not only Isaac but Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip); and Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, owner of the best movie title you’re likely to see anytime soon. And, it also covers Zola, the wild drama based on that viral 148-tweet thread; Vortex, the latest film from Love‘s Gaspar Noe; Memoria, which sees Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendour) team up with Tilda Swinton for his English-language debut (and for BIFF’s closing night slot) — and Prisoners of the Ghostland, where Cage joins forces with inimitable Japanese director Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?Tokyo Tribe).

    Other must-sees:  The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, with the Leah Purcell-starring and -directed film kicking off this year’s festival; Petite Maman, the eagerly anticipated new film from Portrait of a Lady on Fire‘s Céline Sciamma; and The Worst Person in the World, the Norwegian comedy-drama that picked the Best Actress prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Or, there’s also Australian documentary River, Hugo Weaving and Tilda Cobham-Hervey-starring Aussie thriller Lone Wolf, and eagerly awaited drama Bergman Island from Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come), too.

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  • 3
    British Film Festival 2021

    Brisbane movie lovers, prepare to be spoiled for choice when it comes to getting your next big-screen fix. The annual British Film Festival is screening its 31-movie lineup of Brit flicks at Palace James Street and Palace Centro between Wednesday, November 3–Wednesday, December 1 — and gracing the fest’s titles is a who’s who of UK acting talent.

    If you’re a fan of The Crown‘s Olivia Colman, Claire Foy and Josh O’Connor — or of everyone from Jamie Dornan, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch to Helen Mirren, Michael Caine, Joanna Lumley and Peter Capaldi — you’ll be spying plenty of familiar faces. The festival will open with true tale The Duke, starring Mirren and Jim Broadbent, with the latter playing a 60-year-old taxi driver who stole a portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. From there, highlights include the Kenneth Branagh-directed Belfast, about growing up in 1960s Northern Ireland; Last Night in Soho, Edgar Wright’s new thriller featuring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie; romantic period drama Mothering Sunday, with Colman, Firth and O’Connor; and Best Sellers, a literary comedy with Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza.

    Or, there’s also Stardust, a biopic about the one and only David Bowie — and The Electrical Life of Louis Wan, about the eponymous artist, with Cumberbatch and Foy leading the cast. Plus, opera singing in the Scottish highlands drives the Lumley-starring Falling for Figaro, which also features Australian Patti Cake$ actor Danielle Macdonald; Benediction marks the return of filmmaker Terence Davies (Sunset Song), this time focusing on English poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon; and Firth pops up again in World War II-set drama Operation Mincemeat with Succession‘s Matthew Macfadyen.

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  • 2
    Japanese Film Festival 2021

    Actually seeing Mount Fuji for yourself might be off the cards at the moment, but you can learn more about acclaimed artist Katsushika Hokusai’s and his work at Australia’s annual Japanese Film Festival. It’s back for its 25th year in 2021, screening in Brisbane at Palace Barracks and Palace James Street from Thursday, November 11–Sunday, November 21, with biopic Hokusai kicking off the festival on opening night.

    Also on the 21-movie program: Oscar submission True Mothers, which sees acclaimed filmmaker Naomi Kawase spin a story about adoption; Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a Berlinale 2021 Silver Bear for director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi; and The Deer King, an animated film that steps into a world plagued by disease — and follows two survivors who might have the cure.

    Or, you can check out Under the Open Sky, about an ex-yakuza starting again after 13 years in prison; hostage thriller Masked Ward, which comes to the screen from the pages of a medical mystery novel; and comedy Not Quite Dead Yet, about a singer who wishes for her dad’s demise.

    Image: © 2021 NEOPA / Fictive and Copyright © 2020 HOKUSAI MOVIE.

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  • 1
    Ghost Stories: Spirits, Hauntings and Worlds Beyond

    Things are getting a little scary at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. Spooky, even. Haunted as well. Until Sunday, November 28, the venue’s Australian Cinematheque is dedicating its big screen to movies of the ghostly variety. If it’s about spirits, spectres, apparitions, poltergeists, haunted houses and the like, it’ll be playing here — and for free.

    Playing on Wednesday and Friday nights, as well as on Saturday and Sunday during the day, the Ghost Stories: Spirits, Hauntings and Worlds Beyond lineup is filled with plenty of all-time greats that you’d expect to see in such a program. Yes, all work and no play will make Jack Nicholson grab an axe in The Shining. And yes, you’ll also get Spirited Away, descend into The Fog, take a trip to Lake Mungo and get acquainted with The Others.

    Also on the bill: J-horror standouts Ring and Pulse, the inimitable thrills of 1977 Japanese cult classic House, and the sublime Kristen Stewart-starring Personal Shopper. Or, from the eclectic selection, you can also get immersed in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, and enjoy a dark fairy tale inspired by Mexico’s drug wars via Tigers Are Not Afraid.

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