Melbourne International Film Festival: a ‘Tetris’ program

Geoffrey Rush in Bran Nue DayThe Melbourne International Film Festival is an event not to be missed. Executive director Richard Moore told Laine Lister about the highlights.

Richard Moore is thumbing through a draft schedule for this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) with delight. The executive director is chuffed at his – and senior programmer Michelle Carey’s – ability to weave almost 300 films; including eight original strands and the best of Australian and world film all into a 17-day program.

“It is like Tetris,” he laughs.

You have to admire his skill in not only pulling it all together, but also his nous to screen the cream of world cinema.

Carefully selected from film festivals around the world, MIFF’s international panorama includes films from Berlin, Cannes, Hong Kong, Rotterdam, Sundance and Toronto.

There’s the French art house film 35 Shots of Rum, political satire In The Loop and Double Take, a fictional film starring Alfred Hitchcock.

This year’s line up also boasts Quentin Tarantino’s war fantasy Inglorious Basterds and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, straight from the Cannes Film Festival.

And the selection of films from Asia is one of the strongest and most diverse in years ranging from Korean vampire movie Thirst from director Park Chan-wook, Royston Tan’s musical 12 Lotusand Japanese drama Still Walking.

Despite the bumper international assembly, the 58th MIFF will open and close with films from Australia.

Robert Connolly’s political drama Balibo, starring Anthony LaPaglia, will kick start the festival on Friday 24 July, along with all the red carpet and after-party antics that you’d expect.

Closing this year’s festival on Saturday 8 August is Aboriginal musical comedy Bran Nue Day (pictured) from director Rachel Perkins and starring Geoffrey Rush, Rocky McKenzie and Ernie Dingo.

“The fact that they are local films is a bonus,” Moore insists.

He initially liked the idea of opening with a “toetapping musical”.

“But it was more important to open with a serious political drama,” Moore explains.


Both films were selected to be a part of the MIFF Premier Fund, an ongoing government-funded initiative that supports new Australian theatrical films and featurelength documentaries.

A film is selected to be part of the Premier Fund based on its creative ground, but a filmmaker must also prove their solid financial plan to be considered.

“Most important, however, is the question ‘does it read well on the page?’” says Moore.

Five MIFF Premier Fund films will have their world premier at the Festival with Ana Kokkino’s Blessed (pictured), Sean Byrne’s feature directorial debut The Loved Onesand John Hughes’ documentary Indonesia Calling – Joris Ivens in Australia, also appearing.

“The MIFF Premier Fund takes the festival’s longstanding relationship with Victorian filmmakers to a new level and has secured an exciting pipeline of new local content for MIFF,” Moore says.

Running between July 23 and 26 this year, MIFF’s 37oSouth Market is the film co-financing market. This year, the market will once again introduce Australian producers (with market-ready feature-length projects) to key international film co-financiers in Melbourne. The emphasis is on producers pitching projects to financiers with the aim of deepening marketplace relationships and generating financier interest in their slates.

Along with world and local cinema is the Night Shift slot, featuring a collection of “cultish and incredible, the gruesome and gory and the downright funky” at the midnight timeslot. Night Shift highlights including UK horror film Mum & Dad, French ultra-violent revenge film Martyrs, British thriller Eden Lake and Black Dynamite, which pays tribute to the Blaxsploitation action films of the 1970s.

Also slotted in the 2009 line up is Arts and Minds, documentaries that “dissect the creative mind”. This programming stream celebrates the creative spirit and documents the stories of various personalities from all areas of artistic endeavour. Four of the best include Guest of Cindy Sherman, Theatre of War (which stars Meryl Streep), Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, and Little Joe.

This year’s festival will also pay tribute to French actress, producer and director Anna Karina with a retrospective of her work. Anna Karina will travel to Melbourne as a guest of MIFF at the opening weekend.

Other guests attending the first weekend will be Balibo’s Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Connolly and lead cast, plus special guest East Timorese president Jose RamosHorta, whose life is chronicled in the opening night film.

Indonesia Calling’s John Hughes, Blessed’s Ana Kokkinos, Miranda Otto, Deborah Lee Furness and Frances O’Connor will also attend the opening.

The second and final weekends will also attract a number of celebrities including Nicolas Winding Refn, who picked up an award at the Sydney Film Festival for Bronson, as well as some of the cast and crew of Bran Nue Dae.

And while scheduling the films for a festival is a tough gig, Moore insists organising the people and parties is no simple feat either.

There is pressure to satisfy all involved parties on a number of levels from political and industry to sponsors. Plus finding a time that suits all celebrity guests is near impossible, according to Moore.

“It’s notoriously hard to get right”. ■


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.