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Looking Ahead To The 69th Annual MIFF And What’s On Offer

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Words By Arnel Duracak

After having managed to operate and deliver an online film festival for the first time during COVID in 2020, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious film festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), returns in resounding fashion for the 69th time. The only difference this year is that for the first time ever, MIFF is adopting a hybrid format for its festival whereby there will be both cinema and online screenings available.

There are an array of films on offer this year, with the program boasting 199 feature films, 84 shorts, and 10 XR experiences. This years MIFF will also have 40 world premieres — the biggest to date — as well as 154 Australian premieres, so there won’t be a shortage of content on offer for audiences of all kinds.

In terms of the films themselves, MIFF has managed to secure some of the most anticipated and acclaimed films of the year.

Headliners:

Image from 'Annette'

 

Annette

One of the biggest headliners of this year’s festival is Annette, the Leos Carax musical drama starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, which had its premiere recently at Cannes and had its screenplay co-written by the Sparks Brothers. The film has already seen critic approvals from 18 critics on Metacritic with a 71/100 score for now.

Image from 'MIFF Centrepiece Gala - Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)'

 

Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Another major headliner is Questlove’s (Ahmir-Khalib Thompson’s) award winning debut feature, Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The film traces the ‘Black Woodstock’ of 1969 and includes several interviews with some of the biggest names in blues, gospel, and soul including Stevie Wonder, BB King, and Mahalia Jackson. There will also be appearances from the likes of Chris Rock and Lin-Manuel Miranda as well. The Documentary won the Sundance US Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award and is bound to be a hit at MIFF as well.

Image from 'MIFF Opening Night Gala - The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson'

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is set to be MIFF’s Opening Gala Night film and for good reason. Leah Purcell writes, directs and stars in this Australian outback Western.

Image from 'Quo Vadis, Aida?'

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Jasmila Zbanic’s, Quo Vadis, Aida? is also headlining this year after having been nominated for the Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars. The film has been hailed by critics worldwide for its mature and unique portrayal of the war crimes in Bosnia during the Yugoslavian war (particularly in 1995), with Brian Tallerico of Roger Ebert reviews saying, “this is the kind of film that a critic hopes finds a broad enough audience to provoke conversation and insight about how we fix these broken systems”. As a fellow Bosnian, this one is high on my watch list and is not to be missed.

Image from 'Petite Maman'

Petite Maman

Following the success of Portrait of a Lady on Fire (which won Cannes’ Best Screenplay and MIFF’s audience award in 2019), Celine Sciamma returns with Petite Maman, a film about a tale of childhood, friendship, and motherhood.

Image from 'No Sudden Move'

No Sudden Move

Also on offer and fresh from Tribeca is Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded No Sudden Move which is a period crime piece that fans of Soderbergh’s and beyond will no doubt be eager to see. The film boasts a cast with the likes of Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, and Brendan Fraser among others.

Other Notable Films:

Image from 'Nitram'

Nitram

Australian director Justin Kurzel’s Nitram is another local premiere that most will be eager to see, particularly due to the fact that it is Australia’s first feature to be screened at Cannes in 10 years (and the first Victorian film to be screened in 30 years). If that not’s reason enough to see Nitram, Kurzel will also be appearing in conversation at MIFF Talks this year for people wanting to get closer to the esteemed Aussie director.

Image from 'Riders of Justice'

Riders of Justice

Anders Thomas Jensen makes his mark with Riders of Justice, a dark comedy starring everyone’s favourite Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen. Fans of the Coen Brothers and even someone like Jim Jarmusch are sure buy into the edgy humour on offer here with themes of parenthood and revenge being at the forefront as well.

Image from 'The Justice of Bunny King'

The Justice of Bunny King

Gaysorn Thavat’s The Justice of Bunny King starring Essie Davis, is the New Zealand film audiences won’t want to miss. The film revolves around Bunny King (Essie Davis), a woman who is fresh out of jail and trying to get her life back together by taking matters into her own hands as she is at her wits end in life.

Image from 'Pig'

Pig

Michael Sarnoski’s drama thriller, Pig continues the trend of casting Nicolas Cage in rage induced roles as he sets out to find the person who took his beloved hog. Not to be mistaken for Cage’s performances in Mandy (2018) and Color Out Of Space (2019), Pig is more concerned with interrogating the psychological damage of Cage’s character, forcing him to showcase the acting chops (pun not intended) that once earned him an Oscar.

What Else To Expect:

Among its wide catalogue of features and shorts, MIFF will also have XR experiences online for free.

There will also be a plethora of local doco’s including Danny Cohen’s Anonymous Club, John Harvey’s Off Country, Madeleine Martinello’s Palazzo Di Cozzo, and Tiriki Onus’ Ablaze among others.

This is just a taste of things on offer at the 69th MIFF with plenty of short films, retrospectives, MIFF Talks events, Industry Workshops, and Masterclasses available as well.

For those unaware, tickets for MIFF members open from the 14th of July 2021 while general public tickets will be available from the 16th of July 2021.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from the 5th – 15th of August in cinemas, and the 14th – 22nd of August online. See the full program here to book your tickets.

Contributors

Arnel Duracak

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