It’s been a running joke that the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival has already announced so many films, there was nothing left for the official program launch. Yet for a festival that runs for over two weeks from 21 July at cinemas across Melbourne, and despite some significant overlap with the films of the Sydney Film Festival, there is a staggering amount of domestic and international cinema on display at one of Australia’s oldest major festivals. So what treats does MIFF have in store for Melburnians and pilgrims alike over the 18 days of dizzying delights across the cinemas of the CBD?
Kicking off the season is The Fairy (La fée), Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy team up once again (following Iceberg and Rumba) for the opening night film of the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival. With special guests such as MIFF Patron Geoffrey Rush (Sydney has Cate Blanchett, so why not?), MIFF describes the film as a “rejuvenation of the slapstick film, at the same time as nodding back to pioneers of the genre such as Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati”.
This year, the 15 distinct programs give a clear indication of what to expect, unlike Sydney’s often baffling titles that sometimes neglected to distinguish themselves from each other. Program titles include International Panorama, TeleScope, Australian Showcase, a very impressive Accent on Asia, Crime Scene, Networked, the debut season of This Sporting Life, Documentaries, Our Space, the musical Backbeat, Prime Time, MIFF 60th Retrospective, the internationally focused Next Gen, Night Shift and of course, Shorts.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of the festival will be the previously announced Australian premiere of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, despite the controversial remarks the always provoking filmmakers made at the film’s Cannes premiere this year. Provoking similarly divisive reactions to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, expect this one to sell out rapidly and be emotionally blogged and tweeted about in the coming weeks.
MIFF will see the Australian premiere of The Eye of the Storm, based on the Patrick White novel of the same name, and coincidentally starring festival patron Geoffrey Rush alongside Judy Davis. It will be Fred Schepisi’s first big-screen outing since 2003′s It Runs in the Family. We managed to get a sneak peak of the film, scheduled for wider release on 8 September, and while it is definitely a satirical look at a certain class of Sydneysider in the 1970s, will undoubtedly intrigue and baffle modern audiences simultaneously.
The Accent on Asia program is particularly strong this year, and is dear to our hearts at The Reel Bits, and this year has a strong focus on South Korea and Japan, along with China, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore. Avante garde filmmaker Sion Sono (Love Exposure) has no less than two films screening at MIFF this year, with 2010′s Cold Fish (which screened at the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival earlier this year) and the brand-new Guilty of Romance making its Australian debut. Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins will also screen, along with his earlier film Zebraman 2. Japan is also represented by Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood, based on the Haruki Murakami book of the same name, and the legendary Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage, a brilliant return to the yakuza genre that made him the name he is today. This is another one we’ve already had the pleasure of visiting, and we can confirm it is a spectacle to behold – just not for the squeamish!
In the lead-up to the Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA), a festival that The Reel Bits is proud to be partners with and contributors to, South Korean demonstrates that it is coming into its own as an internationally recognised making of acclaimed cinema. 2010 Cannes-winner Hong Sang-soo (Hahaha) gets a deuce of releases at the festival with both Oki’s Movie and the highly anticipated The Day He Arrives making their Australia debuts. Of course, Ryoo Seung-wan’s massive hit The Unjust is sure to make a splash at its debut, despite already being available on import Blu-ray from any number of retailers specialising in Asian cinema.
Previously announced highlights include Richard Ayoade’s (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh) debut film Submarine, with Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine. Featuring music by the Arctic Monkeys, and the hand of cult-figure Ayoade, this is an instant ‘must-see’ at MIFF 2011. Another big coup for the festival is the presence of The Kid with a Bike, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s winner of the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Rounding out the debuts from the First Glance in this category is USA’s Tiny Furniture, the second feature from Lena Dunham, a film sure to be a hit with the indie darlings.
The festival will also include Kriv Stender’s Australia family film, Red Dog, adapted from the Louis de Berniere novella. This is a highly anticipated film and sure to be a crowd pleaser! Word on the street is that the dog, Koko, will be out here for the accompanying media junket. Get those autograph books ready, kids!
The festival will close with Nicholas Wending Refn’s highly anticipated Drive, replace the aforementioned Red Dog due to the latter’s change of release. This may be a disappointment to those wanting to see it as part of the regular season, but it is undoubtedly a strong way to finish the iconic festival.
The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from 21 July to 7 August 2011 across Melbourne. The full program is available from the MIFF website.