MIFF has returned with a bang in 2021, with a whopping 283-film program that includes 40 world premieres and 154 Australian premieres. But this very serious film event also knows not to take itself too seriously, and this year its program includes a bunch of feel-good pics to help you shake off the post-Covid blues.

If you're watching from home, a selection of over 60 titles from this year’s MIFF's program will also be available to stream online Australia-wide at MIFF Play. Check out the program here.

Here are five of the best feel-good films to catch this year.

Zola
In 2015 Detroit waitress A’Ziah “Zola” King went viral with a 148-tweet thread recounting a rollercoaster two-day journey across Florida’s strip clubs. This road trip gone wrong, accompanied by stripper and soon to be ex-friend Stefani, had it all: pimps, guns, someone falling off a balcony, and a propulsive energy that kept Zola’s social media followers enthralled. Directed by Janicza Bravo and with a script by Bravo and Jeremy O Harris, King’s storytelling energy is translated to the big screen with style and flair. Taylour Paige as Zola and Riley Keough as Stefani embody their flawed, fearlessly funny characters as they wade through a neon-lit, drug-addled dreamland brought to life in lurid colour by Melbourne cinematographer Ari Wegner.

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Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
When TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney and psychologist Lloyd Morrisett decided to create a public-access show to teach literacy and numeracy to inner-city children, they had no idea what their humble idea would become. By putting aside traditional teaching approaches and embracing the potential of commercial television – as well as bringing then up-and-coming puppeteer Jim Henson on board – they created a series that’s lasted half a century and been shown around the world. Based on Michael Davis’s best-selling book exploring the history of Sesame Street, this documentary goes behind the scenes to reveal how the magic comes together. It’s a worthy salute to a show that’s shaped the childhoods of many generations.

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Best Sellers
Aubrey Plaza is an up-and-coming publisher and Michael Caine a burnt-out author who owes her one last book; the chance to watch these two actors trade barbs is more than enough to push Best Sellers to the top of the must-see list. The relentless struggle between the pair – she determined to prove herself, he wishing he was back home with a cigar and a Scotch – makes for compelling viewing as they battle their way through a book tour that brings out the worst in both of them. Watched on by a stellar supporting cast (including Scott Speedman, Ellen Wong and Cary Elwes), it’s a tussle for the ages.

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We Are the Thousand
In 2015, Italian marine biologist Fabio Zaffagnini came up with a plan to bring the Foo Fighters to his hometown of Cesena: he’d recruit a thousand rock fans, teach them to play Learn to Fly, record them playing the song in synch in a field, and upload the clip to You Tube. But that was only the start. Following every step of Zaffagnini’s efforts, this energetic documentary rapidly goes beyond a mere tribute act to become a full-throated roar of joy. Both a celebration of the shared power of music and a heart-warming personal journey, it’s an irresistibly feel-good film, whatever your taste in music.

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Come Back Anytime
Over the past four decades Tokyo noodle bar Bizentei has been recognised as one of the city’s most iconic eateries. Self-taught master chef Masamoto Ueda and his wife have fostered a community of fans devoted to his famous soy-based ramen dishes. His following is so passionate that Ueda leads his regulars on seasonal pilgrimages to the Japanese countryside, where they harvest local produce to share. Tokyo-based American filmmaker John Daschbach has created a warm and intimate look at a year in the life of Bizentei, mixing sensuous footage of the many delicious meals with the warm and cosy camaraderie that exists between Ueda and his customers. It’s a smooth, soothing experience you’ll want to savour – not unlike a tasty bowl of Ueda’s ramen.

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This story was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF plays August 5 to 22. For more details, see here.