2021 Melbourne International Film Festival
Like all things in 2021, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is a little different this year. For the first time ever, the festival will be a hybrid format – spread between cinemas and online.
We’re returning to familiar theatres across Melbourne’s CBD while also expanding into the suburbs and regional centres, as well as streaming nationally via our new digital platform, MIFF Play. Two overlapping programs will encompass 199 feature films, 84 shorts and 10 XR experiences, including 40 world premieres – the most in the festival’s history – and 154 Australian premieres, with 62 films available online.
Melbourne, welcome back. Let’s share in a world of cinema.
In cinemas: 5–15 August
Online: 14–22 August
MIFF returns in 2021, opening with Leah Purcell’s acclaimed and highly anticipated film The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, alongside the festival debut of a record 11 Premiere Fund films – including the first Australian film in the Cannes competition in a decade – and standout titles from the Berlin, Venice and Sundance film festivals.
Explore a selection of the most eagerly awaited world-premiere films, international award winners and special events in our 69th festival.
General public tickets go on sale Friday 16 July.
MIFF Opening Night Gala – The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson Unclassified 18+
Leah Purcell AM (She. Say., MIFF 2012; Black Chicks Talking, MIFF 2002) writes, directs and stars in this highly anticipated adaptation of her award-winning play and novel – a vivid reckoning with Australia’s colonial history through the tale of one woman’s resilience.
Molly Johnson’s husband is away droving cattle, leaving her alone to care for their four children at their remote Snowy Mountains homestead. Despite being heavily pregnant, Molly keeps various threats, from nature and other people, at bay. But when Yadaka, an Aboriginal man on the run from white law enforcement, intrudes on the sanctuary she has carved out, the brutal hardships and secrets that have followed them both throughout their lives must be confronted – and Molly doesn’t hesitate to do what’s needed to ensure her and her children’s survival.
Goa, Gungarri and Wakka Wakka Murri actor, writer and filmmaker Purcell has made Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story passionately her own, fusing classic western genre tropes with elements from her family’s history alongside the oppressions of early colonial Australia. The result is an enthralling feature debut and a scathing act of cinematic resistance against the disenfranchisement of First Nations peoples, with Purcell’s formidable star turn bolstered by stirring performances from Rob Collins (Mystery Road, Cleverman), Sam Reid (Lambs of God, The Hunting) and Jessica De Gouw (OtherLife, MIFF 2017; Riot).
MIFF Closing Night – Language Lessons Unclassified 18+
Co-writers Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales depict a modern-age bond in this touching SXSW Audience Award–winning film, told entirely across screens.
Adam (Duplass) lives in Oakland, California, with his husband, who has signed him up for two years’ worth of weekly Spanish classes. The lessons are taught online by Cariño (Morales), who is in Costa Rica. Adam’s not quite sure how these classes fit into his laissez-faire, leisurely lifestyle, but when the unexpected upends everything, Cariño becomes the friend Adam didn’t think he’d need.
Language Lessons plays out entirely within the rectangular frames of screens, apps and devices, making it a compelling exploration of how we click and connect in today’s pandemic-addled world. Duplass (The One I Love, MIFF 2014; Safety Not Guaranteed, MIFF 2012) and Morales (Parks and Recreation, Dead to Me) – the latter making her directorial debut – have a disarming, natural chemistry, and their conversations have all the texture of real life: gaps, silences and sudden, unexpected revelations. What emerges is a heart-meltingly relatable platonic rom-com that distils what we’ve lived through this past year: what are the various shades that love can take, and how do we collapse emotional distance across geography, especially when the worst happens?
“Poignant, funny and emotionally resonant, Language Lessons organically develops a heartfelt friendship while its cast exudes warmth and charisma … Easily one of the best, and most surprising, films to be released this year.” – Screen Rant
Presented by Campari
MIFF Centrepiece Gala – Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Unclassified 18+
The “Black Woodstock” of 1969, which was filmed but never seen, finally makes it to the big screen in this Sundance US Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner.
A hundred miles south of Woodstock, some of the biggest names in blues, gospel and soul – including Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, BB King and Mahalia Jackson – prepare to take the stage. It’s 1969, the year of the Manson murders, the moon landing and the third Harlem Cultural Festival, which brought almost 300,000 people to Upper Manhattan’s Morrison Park. The concert series, held over a series of weekends, was filmed by Hal Tulchin, yet his footage of this history-making event remained locked in a basement for 50 years … until now.
The feature documentary debut of The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is a long-overdue corrective for this erased watershed moment. Piecing together interviews and archival footage – including spine-tingling performances from Simone, Wonder, King, Jackson, Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight and more – this stunning, exuberant time capsule chronicles, with comprehensive precision, a pioneering celebration held by and for the African American community. With attention also paid to the festival’s place at the intersection of the waning civil rights movement and burgeoning Black Power movement, Summer of Soul revels in the rich rebellion of Black resistance through song.
“This sizzling concert film is a resurrected piece of power-to-the-people art, featuring dizzyingly rich footage … [It] reclaims a forgotten piece of Black culture with aching timeliness.” – Harper’s Bazaar
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