Melbourne International Film Festival, which is running from 2-19 August 2018. Tonight were my first two MIFF films, which had a bit of a music theme. I began the evening at Hoyts Melbourne Central for the documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. about the life and career of the Sri Lankan/British rapper Matangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, best known as M.I.A. Drawing on her own personal footage and that shot by longtime friend Stephen Loveridge, it showed her teen years as a Sri Lankan refugee in London (her father, a leader of the Tamil resistant movement, remained in Sri Lanka), time in art school, filming on the road with Justine Frischmann of Elastica, trips back to Sri Lanka, and rise as a musician. While her debut album Arular was critically acclaimed, it was the global success of the Grammy nominated song "Paper Planes" off her second album Kala that made her well known worldwide. M.I.A.'s political activism, particularly around Tamil people in Sri Lanka, has often caused media controversy for her career, with a key flash point also being her performance with Madonna at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show where she flipped off the camera. This film was an insightful portrait on M.I.A. and gave me a better understanding of her art, activism and music.
Juliet, Naked, which was adapted from Nick Hornby's novel. Set in the British coastal town of Sandcliff, the film stars Chris O'Dowd as Duncan, an obsessive fan of 90's alternative US rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) who has long since disappeared from music. One day Duncan's long suffering girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne) opens a package addressed to Duncan that contains the demo recording of Crowe's album Juliet (titled Juliet, Naked). While she listens to it and thinks it's insipid, Duncan loves it and posts a long review about it to the fan site/forum he runs. When Annie then posts a negative review, Tucker Crowe himself gets in touch with her to say he agrees with her assessment, and they begin to secretly correspond with each other about their lives. Duncan and Annie break up shortly thereafter, and Tucker ends up coming to London to visit his daughter who is having a baby and arranges to meet Annie. It's not all smooth sailing, but this Gen-X midlife crisis film was quite funny and sweet, with great performances by the whole cast.