Cinema-goers in Australia are spoilt for choice when it comes to film festivals. With events happening all year round, movie buffs can catch the latest offerings from around the world without ever having to leave the country. But it’s not just cinephiles who can have fun at film festivals in Australia. For those who love languages, film festivals are wonderful opportunities to get lots of exposure to languages that rarely make it into television or commercial theatres.
In this article, we’ll take a look at four of the best film festivals in Australia that showcase foreign-language movies and when you can catch them, so grab a pen and a piece of paper and let’s get started!
1. Sydney Film Festival
The Sydney Film Festival is one of the biggest and most popular events on the Australian film calendar. Every year, the festival showcases over 200 films from all over the world, with a particular focus on independent and art house cinema. In recent years, the festival has become known for its eclectic mix of films, with something to suit every taste.
In addition to an impressive line-up of movies, the Sydney Film Festival also attracts some big-name celebrities. In 2022, Hollywood star Simon Baker was in attendance for the premiere of the film Blaze, and other attendees have included Nicole Kidman, Ryan Gosling, and Tilda Swinton.
SFF is also a huge platform for foreign-language films. In 2019, it was one of the first film festivals in Australia to show Parasite, the Bong Joon-ho-directed masterpiece, on the big screen. The film, which became a global sensation and went on to win multiple Oscars, has revived people’s interest not only in Korean film but also in the Korean language.
Look out for the next edition of the Sydney Film Festival in June 2023!
2. Melbourne International Film Festival
The Melbourne International Film Festival, or MIFF as it’s commonly known, is one of the oldest film festivals in the world. It was first held in 1952 and has been running annually ever since. With a rich history and an impressive line-up of films, MIFF is one of the most respected film festivals in Australia.
MIFF is known for being a showcase for foreign-language films. In recent years, the festival has screened films from all over the world, including Iran, Japan, China, and South Korea. Some of the most famous foreign films that have premiered at MIFF include Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, and Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
Last year, MIFF brought us the premiere of the Belgian film Playground, a remarkable production that captures the insecurities and fears of the first day at school from a child’s perspective that critics called “jaw-dropping” and “heartbreaking”.
The next edition of the Melbourne film festival will take place in August next year.
3. Brisbane International Film Festival
The Brisbane International Film Festival, or BIFF as it’s commonly known, is one of the newest film festivals in Australia. It was first held in 1992 and has been running annually ever since.
BIFF is widely known for its focus on Asian cinema. In 2019, the festival screened films from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China, as well as films from other Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. Last year, BIFF was among the few film festivals in Australia to show Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a Japanese romantic drama film written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi made from three standalone episodes depicting love in its multiple facets.
This year, BIFF will be held from October 27 to November 6, and it will once again be showcasing the best of Asian cinema, with a particular focus on the work of female directors and aboriginal filmmakers.
4. Perth International Film Festival
The Perth International Film Festival is one of the most respected film festivals in Australia. It was first held in 1977 and has been running annually ever since. The festival traditionally takes place over two weeks in July or August, making it one of the longest film festivals in Australia, and a very good excuse to visit Perth during your summer holidays.
In 2021, the festival screened films from all over the world, including France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil, and it was one of the first film festivals in Australia to show Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a French historical romance of epic proportions about a painter who falls in love with her subject. The film won the Queer Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival and was hailed by critics as a “modern masterpiece”.
How to learn languages by watching foreign films
Now that we’ve told you about the best film festivals in Australia where you can catch foreign-language films, let us give you a few tips on how you can turn movie-going into language-learning opportunities:
- Listen for key phrases and expressions. When you’re watching a movie in a foreign language, it can be helpful to listen out for key phrases and expressions that appear consistently throughout the story, so you can later use them in your own conversations. Make a note of any particularly useful phrases, and try to work them into your own conversations when you can.
- Pay attention to body language and gestures. Movies are a great way to learn about nonverbal communication in a foreign culture. Pay attention to the body language and gestures used by the characters, and see if you can imitate them yourself.
- Focus on one element at a time. When you’re first starting out, it can be helpful to focus on just one element of the language, such as vocabulary or grammar. You may pay attention, for example, to how verbs change in Spanish depending on the pronouns attached to them; or how many French words you can recognize thanks to similarities with their English counterparts. Once you feel more confident, you can start to pay attention to other elements, such as pronunciation and intonation.
- Use subtitles. Nowadays, some of the most prestigious film festivals in Australia have both in-person and online showings. If you’re watching a movie online, you will be able to watch the movie with subtitles in the target language. This way, you can read and listen to the dialogue at the same time, and slowly start to piece together the grammar and vocabulary. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the language, and you might even find yourself picking up on regional accents and colloquialisms.
Attending film festivals in Australia is one of the most enriching ways of being exposed to foreign languages, and getting to experience artistic expressions that you don’t often find on mainstream platforms such as Netflix or HBO.
If you want to go beyond passive learning and start working on your fluency, don’t hesitate to send us a quick message so we can match you with a native teacher of whatever language you want to learn. You can go for an in-person course in your home or in a public space, or opt for online lessons. If you choose the latter, the first trial class is free!