MIFF Review: MILF Shorts

Motherhood is almost untapped in the world of film, which typically typecasts mums as one-dimensional caregivers, the gentle, warm, older feminine support to a much-more-exciting protagonist.

But this really is rubbish – and it’s something film and television needs to answer for. We all have mothers and we all know how complex and multifaceted they really are. The character of Ruth Fisher in the excellent TV show Six Feet Under was perhaps the first role of mother I ever saw that was a true character portrayal of a mid-life matriarch. Ruth embodied a number of fascinating emotional and behavioural traits, and her journey was bumpy and as deeply intriguing as any other character in the show. Ruth highlighted to me the tragedy that is the film and television industry’s stereotyping of mothers and motherhood – not least because of all the stories we’ve been missing.

The MILF (Mothers I Like to Film) Shorts at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival showcases a glorious cacophony of mothers and depicts a rainbow of the motherhood experience. From a devoted mother of estranged trans and LGBTIQ children to a robot stand-in mum to a mother who leaves her kids in the car on a hot summer day, these films prove there’s nothing one-dimensional about being a mum.

One of the most stunning films in this well-curated collection is Phone Duty, an eight-minute Russian short about a rebel fighter who answers mobile phones found on the bodies of fallen Ukraine soldiers. This multi-award-winning political piece is harrowing and impactful as we contrast a man reeling off a military spiel while a woman’s heart shatters at the other end of a phone line. Another highlight is the heart-pounding Mother, an 18-minute Spanish short depicting a desperate conversation between a woman and her six-year-old boy, who has found himself in grave danger on a beach in France.

Motherhood is an excellent theme for a short-film collection – there are few things as powerful and as beautiful as parental love so there’s plenty of dramatic and emotive material for filmmakers to work with. We can only hope that motherhood will eventually become as complex a topic in mainstream movies as it is in independent films and in film festivals.

Amber Wilson @ambervwilson

★★★1/2

MILF Shorts is screening at MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018

miff.com.au