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:: Spotlight :: 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi & Dave Griffiths; pictures by Matt Deller

The 58th Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is pleased to announce that two stand-out Australian films will open and close this year’s festival. The Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund titles will present their World Premieres to eager MIFF audiences. “In only the second year of our film fund we are proud to be positioning the entire festival between the bookends of two new and very diverse Australian features. We open on a serious political note and will close in a riotous excess of colour and movement” said MIFF Executive Director Richard Moore.

Coinciding with the 10 year anniversary celebrations of East Timor's Independence in 1999, MIFF will open with the political thriller, Balibo, at Hamer Hall on Friday, July 24. Director Robert Connolly (The Bank, Three Dollars) brings to life the moving and true story of five Australian journalists who go to East Timor in 1975 to cover Indonesia’s invasion. Their story is told through the eyes of a sixth Australian journalist, Roger East, who is lured to East Timor by José Ramos-Horta, to investigate the truth behind the death of the five men. Balibo features stand-out performances by Anthony LaPaglia, Damon Gameau, Gyton Grantley and Nathan Phillips among a large ensemble cast. “Having the World Premiere of Balibo in my home town and as opening night at MIFF is a terrific honour. It's also an important opportunity to celebrate the resilience of the East Timorese in seeking independence, and the important role played here in Victoria by the families of the Balibo Five who championed the East Timorese cause over so many years” said Robert Connolly.

Director Rachel Perkins’ (Radiance, First Australians) all singing all dancing music spectacular Bran Nue Dae will close the festival with a Gala event on Saturday, August 8 (festival will screen encore sessions on Sunday, August 9). The film, based on the popular comedic musical of the same name, features a stella cast including Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Deb Mailman, Nigali Lawford, Tom Budge, Dan Sultan and Jessica Mauboy. “MIFF was an early partner in realising Bran Nue Dae and their early investment meant we could go out into the market and confidently say ‘this film is going to happen!’ Their contribution continued through assistance with industry networking, advice and clear and concise feedback during the progress of editing. MIFF has been a true partner in realizing our film and we are delighted to be able to close the festival on a high note, with a celebratory film like Bran Nue Dae” said Rachel Perkins.

The 2009 festival will screen almost 300 films from world-class festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin and Toronto Festivals. The programme will feature the work of world-renowned filmmakers, and more than a couple of unknown gems, in its popular Homegrown presented by the Commonwealth Bank, and Neighbourhood Watch, International Panorama, Backbeat, Animation Gallery, Next Gen and Documentaries series. MIFF also hosts the most highly regarded short film competition in the Asia Pacific - Best MIFF shorts screens approximately 100 short films, competing for a prize money of AUD$35,000.

The full program for MIFF 2009 will be announced on July 6, 2009. For further information visit the official website

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Dave Griffiths' report on the recent MIFF Launch

Running for fifty-eight years now the Melbourne International Film Festival is commonly recognised as one of the oldest film festivals in the world, but what most people don’t realise is that it is also one of the biggest film festivals in the world. This year approximately 185,000 people will see 240 films coming from just over 50 countries.

At the official launch of MIFF this year it’s Executive Director, Richard Moore was abuzz with excitement. Not only did more than 700 people turn up to the launch but Moore knew what a smorgasbord he was about to serve up to Melbourne’s film-going public. Even the film royalty in the audience, Geoffrey Rush (also a patron for MIFF), didn’t know what was coming.

First was the announcement of the opening night film. This year the lucky film is the latest film by Director, Robert Connolly (known for his work as Director on ‘The Bank’), the eagerly anticipated ‘Balibo’. Present on the evening Connolly teased the audience with the trailer of ‘Balibo’ and then went onto explain the importance of this film to Australian history.

Next was the announcement of the Festivals various ‘Topics’ for this year; which consists of ‘Homegrown’ (Australian films), ‘MIFF Premiere Fund’ (the premieres of films that have been funded by MIFF), ‘International Panorama’ (International Cinema), ‘Anna Karina’ (a focus on actress, Anna Karina), ‘The End Of Europe’ (a focus on Balkan Cinema), ‘Young Blood’ (chilling films about children), ‘Night Shift’ (films that can only come out at night), ‘Eros + Massacre’ (films from the Japanese New Wave period of the 1960s), ‘Neighborhood Watch’ (Asian cinema), NextGen (a series of films for the younger generation of film buffs), ‘Vengeance is Mine’ (films about retribution), ‘Docos’, ‘State Of Dissent (films about Human Rights), ‘Arts And Minds’ (celebrating the creative spirit), ‘The Primal Screen’ (doccos about filmmaking), ‘Animation’, ‘Backbeat’ (music doccos), ‘Punk Becomes Pop’ (films about the Australian Punk Scene) and of course ‘Shorts’, which showcases all the best Short Films Going around.

Moore then excitedly announced the big news of the night, the special events of the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival, which include ‘In Conversation’ sessions with Nicolas Winding Refn (the director of ‘The Pusher’ series, plus new film ‘Bronson’), Anna Karina, Michael Nyman (one of the world’s most famous film score composers) and French Director, Claire Denis. All very good events to look forward to, but they were all overshadowed by the fact that Quentin Tarantino will be a special guest at this year’s festival as he launches the eagerly anticipated ‘Inglorious Basterds’… a truly remarkably scoop for MIFF.

This year is shaping up as a very exciting MIFF indeed and with the premiere of new films by Ana Kokkinos and Alkinos Tsilimidos, as well as the star studded ‘Brun Nue Dae (starring Geoffrey Rush, Dan Sultan, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins) and Jonathan Auf Der Heide’s ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ I’m tipping that this will be the most successful MIFF so far.

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**Report from the Opening Night**

MIFF kicked off on Opening Night with a fantastic movie “Balibo”. Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Nathan Phillips, Gyton Grantley, Damon Gameau and Oscar Isaac, this is a brilliantly moving film that deserves to be seen by the wider Australian community. Director Robert Connolly should be commended for his great work in telling the story of how journalist Roger East (LaPaglia) and a young Jose Ramos-Horta (Isaac) investigated the murders of five Australian television media representatives in Balibo in 1975.

There were emotional scenes on the MIFF Red Carpet as Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta arrived with the Victorian Premier John Brumby. They were accompanied by members of the East Timorese community, the main cast, and the families of the murdered Australians. I had an opportunity to speak to both leaders and the Premier said this was a significant event for al Australians. “It will be a very sobering film, of East Timor and Indonesia and their relationship with Australia. The film is sure to bring tears to many eyes. Hopefully it will strengthen our relationship with East Timor.” The President said, “It's a very accurate portrayal of what happened in 1975. The film does justice to the truth, to the newsmen who were murdered. I hope it will be seen by Indonesia as an occasion for them to look back about what was wrong in their history. The film also seems to heal the wounds of the families who have lived through 34 years without knowing the circumstances surrounding the death of their loved ones.”

Inside the theatre, poignant speeches by the President and Robert Connolly gave the audience an insight of the events surrounding this tragic event. The film lived up to all expectations and is one of the best films that I have seen this year.

Several other worthy films will be screening during MIFF, including the Australian premiere of the Quentin Tarantino film “Inglourious Basterds”, as well as premieres for “Blessed” and “The Loved Ones”. Indeed, Tarantino and stars of his film Diane Kruger and Christoph Waltz, will be in Melbourne and Sydney for red carpet events.

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**Pictures from the Festival** - by Matt Deller

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and Victorian Premier John Brumby
Balibo 5 actors
Balibo director Robert Connolly Robert Connolly with Shirley Shackleton
Nathan Phillips
Gyton Grantley
Anthony LaPaglia's head
Gia Carides, Anthony LaPaglia & Geoffrey Rush
members of the Blessed cast with director Ana Kokkinos (second from left)
Frances O'Connor
Camille Keenan & Dustin Clare
Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia & Samuel Johnson at the $9.99 premiere
Samuel Johnson & friend
some of the cast from $9.99
Diane Kruger, Quentin Tarantino & Christoph Waltz at the Inglourious Basterds premiere
Quentin Tarantino
Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger
Jessica McNamee at The Loved Ones premiere Victoria Thaine