Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram

The Music-Lover’s Guide To The Melbourne International Film Festival

21 July 2023 | 3:03 pm | Ellie Robinson

Our good mates at Mountain Goat Beer and Triple R are presenting the ‘Music On Film’ program at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). Here are our top picks, and a breakdown on everything in the program.

'It's Only Life After All'

'It's Only Life After All' (MIFF)

This year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) – its 71st edition, running over August 3-20 in cinemas and August 18-27 online – is shaping up to be one of its all-time biggest, with more than 300 presentations on the cards across all of Naarm/Melbourne’s biggest cinemas and entertainment venues. And it’s not just for diehard movie buffs: the Music On Film program, presented and sponsored by our good friends at Mountain Goat Beer, will showcase nine of the most exciting documentaries we’ve had on our radars in a long while. 

Making the deal even sweeter, Mountain Goat have crafted a beer just for the MIFF’s Music On Film program, scientifically tailored to pair perfectly with mind-bending movies about monumental musicians (and, of course, buttery movie theatre popcorn – aka cinephile kryptonite). It’s called Eyes And Ears, and it’s inspired by the soundtrack always blasting out of their Richmond brewery, which they say comprises “anything from ’60s soul, ’70s new wave punk, ‘90s bangers or current local Indie up-and-comers”. We’ve been told it’s “light bodied and eminently quaffable”, with “an assertive tropical fruit aroma and distinctive hop haze” – say no more.

As we gear up for an August absolutely stacked with great films, killer tunes and delicious beers, we’ve delved into the Music On Film program to find our top three picks. Check them out below, then explore the full program for yourself and get ready for one hell of a trip to the movies (or nine).


Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Australia’s music industry owes an incalculable debt to the late, great Michael Gudinski, a genius entrepreneur and a diehard music lover in equal measures. Born in August of 1952, he found a passion for music at a young age, cutting his teeth as a teenager in Melbourne plugging dance hall events. But as soon as he turned 18, he set his sights on the big league, forming his first artist agency (Consolidated Rock) in 1970, and then Mushroom Records some two years later.

Though it struggled to survive at first, Mushroom would go on to become the biggest and most revered name in Australian music. One of its biggest endeavours, launched in November of 1979, was the Frontier Touring brand, which Gudinski co-founded with Michael Chugg and Philip Jacobsen. Another label, Melodian Records (co-founded with Molly Meldrum) followed in 1988, with several other efforts mounted by Gudinski over the following three decades. 

Gudinski lived and breathed music right up until his death, at age 68, in March of 2021. Eager to bring live music back to Australian television – the hook being that up-and-coming artists should have as many avenues as possible to reach a wider audience – he created The Sound for ABC TV in 2020. That year, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he was determined to ensure Australia’s live music landscape wouldn’t die. He booked the historic Music From The Home Front concert in just nine days, and although it launched after his passing, he laid the groundwork for Victoria’s scene-saving Always Live campaign (which brought acts like the Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa and Billy Joel to our shores for world-exclusive performances).

As fellow music icon Jimmy Barnes said in the official trailer for Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story, this headstrong rock’n’roller was “always looking for something that somebody hasn’t heard yet”. Directed by Paul Goldman, (who also helmed previous MIFF hits Suburban Mayhem and Australian Rules) and co-produced by Bethany Jones (Molly: The Real Thing), the film chronicles the ups and downs of Gudinski’s entire career, with footage including personal accounts from Gudinski himself, plus interviews with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran and Dave Grohl.

Ego will be screened for the very first time at MIFF 2023, and you can bet your rarest vinyl record that we’ll be there, double-fisting cans of Eyes And Ears, cheering on the undying legacy of Australian music’s biggest champion.


  • ORIGIN: Australia

  • RUNTIME: 111 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECT: Michael Gudinski

  • DIRECTOR: Paul Goldman

  • PRODUCERS: Bethany Jones, Paige McGinley and Paul Goldman 

  • SCREENWRITERS: Bethany Jones, Paul Goldman and Sara Edwards

  • CINEMATOGRAPHER: Joanne Donahoe-Beckwith

  • EDITOR: Sara Edwards

  • PREMIERE STATUS: Australian Premiere and World Premiere

  • DISTRIBUTOR: Mushroom Studios


  • Friday August 11 – 7:00pm, The Pivotonian Cinema Geelong

  • Friday August 11 – 7:30pm, Capitol Cinema Warrnambool

  • Friday August 11 – 7:30pm, Paramount Cinemas Echuca

  • Friday August 11 – 7:45pm, Theatre Royal Castlemaine

  • Friday August 11 – 7:45pm, Sun Cinema Bright

  • Friday August 11 – 7:45pm, Peninsula Cinemas Rosebud

  • Friday August 11 – 8:00pm, Star Cinema Bendigo

  • Sunday August 13 – 6:30pm, The Capitol

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.


Few bands have tenures as storied – or primed for unravelling in documentary form – as the Indigo Girls. The iconic duo (comprising Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who both sing and play guitar) formed in 1985 and fast became favourites in the Georgia folk scene for their uniquely bold and bewitching harmonies, emotive spark and tonal breadth. They released one album independently – Strange Fire in 1987 – before they cracked the mainstream with thunderous aplomb, went Gold and got poached by Epic Records. They were bonafide icons from the start, but oh, how things would evolve from there.

For starters, Ray and Saliers are both outspoken political activists, using their platform loudly and proudly to champion equal rights for women, Native Americans and the LGBTQ+ community – especially notable given the often hostile nature of the folk and country scenes in America’s south – as well as environmental causes and the fight to abolish the death penalty. Even some three decades into their career, the Indigo Girls were fighting the good fight: in 2013, they performed at the notoriously transphobic Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, but did so out of protest, using their time onstage to remonstrate its “cis women only” policies and donating their entire performance fee to trans rights charities. 

Both open lesbians themselves, the pair have long been regarded as queer icons – and rightfully so. They were among the first openly queer artists to go Platinum in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and their concerts have been known to serve as miniature pride gatherings in their own rights.

All the while, Ray and Saliers have remained at the top of their game creatively, releasing 14 stellar studio albums (the most recent being 2020’s Look Long) in the years that followed Strange Fire

Directed by Alexandria Bombach (helmer of MIFF 2018 hit On Her Shoulders), It’s Only Life After All gives equal focus to the Indigo Girls’ timeless tunes and idiosyncratic personalities – rather than fill the film with other artists’ ravings of them, Bombach recruited Ray and Saliers to tell their own stories, weaved around rare footage of their halcyon days (including previously unseen home videos) and some of their most iconic performances.

MIFF 2023 marks the Australian premiere for It’s Only Life After All, screening twice in August. As folk fanatics and proud queer people ourselves, we wouldn’t miss it for the world!


  • ORIGIN: United States

  • RUNTIME: 123 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECTS: Amy Ray and Emily Saliers

  • DIRECTOR: Alexandria Bombach

  • PRODUCERS: Anya Rous, Jess Devaney and Kathlyn Horan 

  • CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Alexandria Bombach, Erick Stoll and Ryan Thompson

  • COMPOSER: Lyris Hung

  • EDITOR: Alexandria Bombach

  • PREMIERE STATUS: Australian Premiere


  • Saturday August 12 – 1:15pm, Kino 1

  • Saturday August 19 – 1:00pm, Kino 2

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.


Before Nick Cave linked up with The Bad Seeds, he was the manic and maniacal frontman of The Birthday Party, one of the most legendary bands in Australian rock for better and for worse. Their (truly unhinged) story began with the punk eruption of the mid 1970s, when the rock scene en masse swapped its love affair with cheesy guitar solos and OTT outfits for riotous hooks and a distinct slick of filth. 

They released one album as The Boys Next Door – 1979’s Door, Door – before rebranding in 1980 and taking on the world with their eyes widened equally by ambition and hard drugs. Their now-eponymous second album dropped the same year, followed by Prayers On Fire in April ’81 and Junkyard the next May… And then in the middle of 1983, after one final blowout in Melbourne, their clashing personalities and craving for chaos caught up with them: The Birthday Party was no more.

All in all, the five-piece powerhouse lasted just six years – around the time it takes a band to mint their first demos in today’s age. But in that time, The Birthday Party established an absolutely incredible legacy – one that remains as strong as ever four decades after their breakup – taking the world by storm and crafting a sound entirely their own (blending post-punk and goth-rock with noise, blues, free jazz and rockabilly flavours) and influencing dozens upon dozens of bands that went on to find their own swathes of success. 

Mutiny In Heaven celebrates all of it with no filter, showing The Birthday Party at their rawest and most raucous. The film, directed by Ian White, is promised to be “stuffed with rare and unseen photos, artwork, letters and diaries, unreleased tracks and studio footage”, as well as new interviews with and “sardonic recollections of their youthful hopes and dreams” from the band’s surviving members (plus newly unearthed interviews with guitarist/songwriter Rowland S. Howard, filmed shortly before his death in 2009).

If you know the story of The Birthday Party, you’ll know it’s perfectly suited for a documentary – messy, brash and a little sad in parts, but overwhelmingly triumphant. And at MIFF 2023, we’ll be seeing Mutiny In Heaven screened publicly for the very first time: the world premiere is on Saturday August 12 at the Astor Theatre... Catch you there, right?


  • ORIGIN: Australia

  • RUNTIME: 98 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECTS: Mick Harvey, Nick Cave, Phill Calvert, Rowland S. Howard and Tracy Pew

  • DIRECTOR: Ian White

  • PRODUCERS: Bill Lord, Ian White, Michael Murphy, Mick Harvey, Stuart Souter and Wim Wenders 

  • COMPOSER: J.P.Shilo

  • EDITOR: Aaron J March

  • PREMIERE STATUS: World Premiere



  • Saturday August 12 – 6:30pm, The Astor Theatre

  • Friday August 18 – 9:30pm, The Forum

  • Sunday August 20 – 7:00pm, Star Cinema Bendigo

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

While the trio of flicks above are the ones we’re frothing hardest for, all nine in the Music On Film program look fantastic: we’re especially keen to dive into the turbulent story of Joan Baez’ rise to fame (Joan Baez I Am A Noise), celebrate queerness in music even more with the Little Richard doco I Am Everything, and learn about what made the ‘70s so great for album covers with the story of Hipgnosis as told in Squaring The Circle

Here’s a full breakdown of the remaining six films on the itinerary:

Abebe – Butterfly Song


  • ORIGIN: Australia and Papua New Guinea

  • RUNTIME: 94 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECTS: David Bridie, George Telek, Helen Mountford, John Phillips, Martin Flanagan, Namila Benson, Patrick McCluskey, Paulie Stewart, Phil Wales, Pius Wasi and Tania Nugent

  • DIRECTOR: Rosie Jones

  • PRODUCERS: Jake Coombes, Jason Byrne and Michael Agar

  • CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Joey Knox and Nathan Guy

  • COMPOSERS: David Bridie and George Telek

  • EDITOR: Sara Edwards

  • PREMIERE STATUS: World Premiere



Discover the musical legacy and enduring friendship between celebrated Papuan musician George Telek and Not Drowning, Waving’s David Bridie.

In 1986, Melbourne musician David Bridie of the groups Not Drowning, Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake travelled to Papua New Guinea, where he heard the heartfelt sounds of George Telek and the Moab Stringband’s Abebe (Butterfly Song) onboard a bus. It marked the beginning of a profound fascination with the nation and its rich culture – and of a bond with Telek that would last more than 30 years. Together, their collaboration on critically acclaimed albums and tours has helped amplify Papuan stringband sounds and languages like Tok Pisin and Kuanua outside of the country.

Abebe – Butterfly Song combines visits to Port Moresby and Rabaul with archival footage from tours and recording sessions in Australia, Europe and the Pacific as well as candid interviews with the pair, their friends and collaborators. With sensitivity and skill, documentarian Rosie Jones (The Family, MIFF Premiere Fund 2016; The Triangle Wars, MIFF 2011) has crafted a meaningful portrait not only of two passionate musicians from different backgrounds, but also of the cross-cultural artistic exchange between Australia and one of its closest neighbours.


  • Sunday August 13 – 4:45pm, The Forum (WORLD PREMIERE, featuring Q&A + live performance by David Bridie, George Telek and Phil Wales)

  • Saturday August 19 – 4:00pm Kino 2

  • Streaming on MIFF Play, August 18-27

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

Joan Baez I Am A Noise


  • ORIGIN: United States

  • RUNTIME: 113 minutes


  • DIRECTORS: Karen O'Connor, Maeve O’Boyle and Miri Navasky

  • PRODUCERS: Karen O’Connor and Miri Navasky 

  • CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Ben McCoy, Tim Grucza and Wolfgang Held

  • COMPOSER: Sarah Lynch

  • EDITOR: Maeve O'Boyle

  • PREMIERE STATUS: Victorian Premiere


Tracing her stratospheric rise, this candid portrait of the legendary folk singer and civil rights activist illuminates a rich life not without its struggles.

Joan Baez is renowned for her soulful folk tracks, but she was vocal in more ways than one: she was a champion of the civil rights movement, in part due to her friendship with Martin Luther King Jr, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Yet her illustrious career – which, among many other achievements, helped to launch that of Bob Dylan before their relationship gave way – overshadowed her public and private battles, including anxiety as a child and trauma therapy’s confronting revelations uncovered later in life.

Premiering at the Berlinale and bookended with the musician’s final tour in 2018, Joan Baez I Am A Noise leans on a treasure trove of sources to recount Baez’s eventful life: diary entries, drawings and paintings, generous interviews, vividly preserved archival footage. Directors Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky and Maeve O’Boyle have formed a well-rounded and frank portrait of an iconic artist against a backdrop of one of the most radical periods of the 20th century.


  • Sunday August 13 – 4:15pm, Kino 2

  • Sunday August 20 – 1:15pm, The Forum

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

Kiss The Future


  • ORIGIN: Bosnia / Herzegovina, Ireland and United States

  • LANGUAGE: English and Bosnian (with English subtitles)

  • RUNTIME: 133 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECTS: Adam Clayton, Alma Catal, Bill Carter, Bill Clinton, Bono, Christiane Amanpour, Enes Zlatar, Gino Yevdjevic, Senad Zaimović, The Edge and Vesna Andree Zaimović

  • DIRECTOR: Nenad Cicin-sain

  • PRODUCERS: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Sarah Anthony

  • SCREENWRITERS: William Carter

  • CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bradley Stonesifer

  • COMPOSER: Howard Bernstein

  • EDITOR: Eric Burton


  • PREMIERE STATUS: Australian Premiere


Produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, this film recounts how determined local musicians banded together with U2 to offer hope to Bosnians trapped in war-torn Sarajevo.

From 1992 to 1996, Sarajevo was subjected to routine shelling bombardments and sniper attacks. But despite the ever-present danger and threat of violence, the city’s art and music scenes carried on with force. Within bomb shelters and garages, disco nights sprang up, DIY punk gigs thrived and teenagers formed new bands. Then American journalist and aid worker Bill S. Carter ingeniously asked Bono to give an interview on Bosnian TV, which led to U2 arranging live satellite link-ups with Sarajevo residents. In the siege’s aftermath, the band put on a giant show in the bombed-out city for 45,000 fans – the largest gathering since the war began.

Co-written by Carter and director Nenad Cicin-Sain, Kiss The Future interweaves clips from the era with contemporary interviews – including with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour and former US president Bill Clinton – culminating in footage of the historic 1997 concert. Suffused with anthemic music, this inspirational film is at once a trenchant vigil for a despicable, bloody chapter of Europe’s past and an examination of how the idealistic grandeur of rock music can offer a salve and a means of dissent.


  • 12:45pm on Sunday August 13, Comedy Theatre

  • 9:00pm on Thursday August 17, Hoyts 10

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

Lost Angel: The Genius Of Judee Sill


  • ORIGIN: United States

  • RUNTIME: 91 minutes

  • FEATURED SUBJECTS: Adrienne Lenker, Buck Meek, David Crosby, David Geffen, Donna Disparti, Graham Nash, JD Souther, Jackson Browne, Jim Pons, Linda Ronstadt, Russ Giguere, Shawn Colvin, Tim Page and Weyes Blood

  • DIRECTORS: Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom

  • PRODUCERS: Brian Lindstrom and Peter Kenney

  • CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Andrew Saunderson, Jilann Spitzmiller, John Campbell and John Inwood

  • EDITOR: Michael Ward

  • PREMIERE STATUS: International Premiere


This essential music documentary asks: why is the 1970s’ most original and ethereal folk singer almost forgotten today?

In 1971 Los Angeles, Judee Sill was the first artist David Geffen signed to his label Asylum. While the multi-instrumentalist was often compared to Joni Mitchell, both Sill and her music were darker and stranger. She had a troubled youth and a self-destructive streak, but believed her startling blend of folk, classical and gospel was a gift from God. Critics admired her two albums, and she made fans of labelmates including Graham Nash and Jackson Browne, but her music was way too ambitious for FM radio. After a failed record deal, an abusive relationship and a return to her teenage heroin addiction, Sill overdosed in 1979, aged only 35.

If you loved Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (MIFF 2021) or Searching For Sugar Man (MIFF 2012), you can discover another unsung musician in Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom’s gentle, imaginative documentary, which celebrates Sill’s complicated talent. Her hidden self emerges in archival interviews and extracts from her notebooks, while contemporary artists including Weyes Blood, Fleet Foxes and Big Thief’s Adrienne Lenker explain her songs’ impact, and Sam Niemann’s gorgeous ‘70s-style animations – inspired by Sill’s own drawings – pull you softly into her angelic world.


  • Saturday August 5 – 4:15pm, Kino 1

  • Tuesday August 8 – 6:15pm, Kino 1

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

Little Richard: I Am Everything 


  • ORIGIN: United States

  • RUNTIME: 101 minutes

  • DIRECTOR: Lisa Cortés

  • PRODUCERS: Caryn Capotosto, Lisa Cortés and Robert Friedman

  • PREMIERE STATUS: Victorian Premiere

  • DISTRIBUTOR: Madman Entertainment


A rollicking deep dive into the life of one of rock'n'roll’s most exhilarating personalities, whose queerness was hidden in plain sight.

Born Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard was an iconic musician with a complicated legacy. A Black man from the US’s Deep South, he was deeply religious but not heterosexual – at different points announcing and decrying his orientation. With his penchant for theatrics, he was also a pioneering performer who anticipated the wilder creative liberties of today. Yet his signature style, which coupled big hair and lavish costumes with feverish musicality and a belting voice, tore through the racial divide of American music like few others had done before.

After last year’s Elvis, now the real king of rock'n'roll gets his big-screen moment. While Little Richard’s life was plagued with tribulation, director Lisa Cortés (The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, MIFF 2019) uncovers much that will make you listen to his music just that little bit differently. Featuring contributions from some of entertainment’s most enjoyable personalities (John Waters, Billy Porter) and music legends (Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones), Little Richard: I Am Everything is as revelatory as it is a Tutti Frutti, toe-tapping good time.


  • Saturday August 12 – 3:45pm, The Astor Theatre

  • Saturday August 12 – 5:40pm, The Pivotonian Cinema Geelong

  • Sunday August 13 – 1:00pm, Star Cinema Bendigo

  • Sunday August 13 – 1:00pm, Capitol Cinema Warrnambool

  • Sunday August 13 – 4:00pm, Theatre Royal Castlemaine

  • Saturday August 19 – 4:00pm, The Forum

  • Streaming on MIFF Play, August 18-27

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.

Squaring The Circle (The Story Of Hipgnosis)



  • RUNTIME: 101 minutes

  • DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn

  • PRODUCERS: Colin Firth, Ged Doherty and Trish D Chetty

  • SCREENWRITER: Trish D Chetty

  • CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Stuart Luck and Martijn van Broekhuizen

  • EDITOR: Andrew Hulme

  • PREMIERE STATUS: Australian Premiere

  • DISTRIBUTOR: Madman Entertainment


Music video auteur, revered photographer and Control (MIFF 2007) director Anton Corbijn takes history for a spin as he demystifies the vinyl record artwork of the masters.

Travel back to the golden era of 1970s rock'n'roll and ask, “What makes a great album cover?” Corbijn’s music roots are put to exceptional use here as he explores the world of Hipgnosis, whose work graced the LPs and the gatefolds of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Peter Gabriel and so many more. From the streets of Cambridge to the displays of museums and record collections all over the world, Squaring The Circle goes behind the music and investigates what gave the endearing excessiveness of ‘70s aesthetics such a lasting legacy.

Featuring wall-to-wall musicians as talking heads – including Paul McCartney (The Beatles), Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), David Gilmour and Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), and Noel Gallagher (Oasis) – this encyclopaedic showcase is a must for anybody who misses the days when you could just judge a record by its cover. Whether you’re a music-loving vinyl collector or just a geek for graphic design, Squaring The Circle is a nostalgia-fuelled, one-of-a-kind opportunity to travel to the dark side of the moon and experience these artistic marvels on the big screen.


  • Sunday August 6 – 1:30pm, ACMI 1

  • Tuesday August 15 – 4:15pm, ACMI 1

  • Sunday August 20 – 4:15pm, Kino 2

Find tickets for the official MIFF screenings here.