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MIFF Is Returning To The Big Screen With A Program Rich In Premieres, Indie Gems And Classics

By Kate Fleming
17th Jun 2021

There’s no business like show businesses, and 2020 proved that to all of us. Last year, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) went online for the first time and racked up their largest audience ever, so this year’s festival will build on that success with a hybrid delivery at home and in the real world.

The festival will be kicking off from Thursday 5 August through to Sunday 22 August, and they’ll be screening films in cinemas across the CBD, in five Melbourne suburbs, and even in regional centres from Echuca and Geelong to Sorrento and Mildura. They’ll also be continuing the online screenings that were such a success last year via the new MIFF Play digital platform. 

While the full program is set to be released on Tuesday 13 July, we’ve got the early scoop on some highlights to watch out for. This year there’ll be a record number of 11 Premiere Fund films; the first Australian film to screen at Cannes Competition in a decade, as well as some highly anticipated titles from the Venice, Berlin and Sundance film festivals. 

Event Highlights

As always, the festival will be opening with the Gala Night. This year, Melbourne audiences are being treated to the highly-anticipated premiere of Leah Purcell’s historical film The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson. Based on Henry Lawson’s 1982 short story, Purcell’s film is the third installment in a multi-format trilogy following her award-winning play and novel. The film interrogates Australia’s colonial history and speaks to the past and present through the lens of an Indigenous woman. It’s an outback western film that is expected to not only open the festival, but “kick the doors in,” according to festival director Al Cossar.

The much-loved Hear My Eyes event combining film and music will return again this year as well, with the Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne 1999 cult classic Two Hands screening at the Astor. The film will be accompanied by a reimagined score performed live by psychedelic garage rock band The Murlocs and Ambrose Kenny-Smith from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. You can find tickets for this event here.

MIFF Premiere Fund Films

As we mentioned, there are a record eleven films on the Premiere Fund Film program this year, five of which have been directed by alumni of the MIFF accelerator lab. We can’t mention them all, but we can tell you there will be some icons appearing in these films such as Stephen Fry, Elton John, Sir Ian McKellan, Courtney Barnett, Hugo Weaving, and Judy Davis to name a few. 

One of the highlights from the list is Nitram, the story of the man behind modern Australia’s darkest chapters, the Port Authur massacre, told as a narrative portrait, directed by Justin Kurzel. The film was the first Australian film to show at the Cannes Competition in a decade, and the first Victorian film to show in thirty years. 

Australian Film Highlights

Footscray icon Franco Cozzo will be taking the spotlight in Madeleine Martiniello’s documentary Palazzo di Cozzo, a heartwarming exploration of the Melbourne furniture mogul’s inspiring story of multiculturalism and community. 

Streamline is another film to watch out for, starring Jake Ryan (Underbelly) and the formidable Jason Isaacs (Lucious Malfoy in Harry Potter), it tells the story of a teenage competitive swimmer trying to stay afloat under pressure. The film is a debut from director Tyson Wade Johnstone and has been executive produced by none other than Ian Thorpe, who also has a cameo in the film. 

First Nations films are also well-represented in this year’s lineup, with Araatika: Rise Up! As just one example celebrating the bonds between sport and culture. The documentary film by Larissa Behrendt features prominent Indigenous sports figures including Dean Widders, Stan Grant and Adam Goodes.

International Film Highlights

Starring Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, Zola is a Sundance success story that will be coming to the festival. It’s a neon-lit, palm tree-lined comedy film based on an infamous tweetstorm about a wild Florida pole-dancing road trip, told through a female gaze and set against a dramatic score by Mica Levi, this one is an absolute powerhouse movie. 

Another film to add to your watchlist is Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful—a documentary film about the controversial life of Helmut Newton and his place as a pioneering photographer in the fashion world. 

A must-see at the festival is the Oscar-nominated film from Jasmila Žanić, Quo Vadis, Aida? It was nominated for Best International Feature Film and depicts a UN interpreter and translator who is torn between her professional duty and saving her own family. 

There will also be some short films on the bill, look out for The Human Voice by Spanish artist and director Pedro Almodóvar (MIFF alumnus from 2016 and 2019) which stars Tilda Swinton. 

There’s plenty more on the lineup with loads more still to be announced, but you can start planning your festival hitlist here. The 2021 Melbourne International Film Festival is set to be one of the largest yet, now in its 69th year, we can safely say it’s show business as usual. The full lineup will be announced on Tuesday 13 July with tickets going on sale on Friday 16 July. We’ll see you there. 

In the meantime, check out the NGV’s anticipated French Impressionism exhibition.

Image credit: supplied

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