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:: Spotlight :: 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

One of the oldest film festivals in the world, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) turns 60 in 2011 and to celebrate this milestone, the festival is launching a series of initiatives including a new-look website, an online archive, and a shorts competition.

Over its 60 years, MIFF has showcased some of cinema history’s most beloved films; there have been incidents of censorship, clashes with foreign governments, protests, bomb threats and the involvement of the Australian army. The Festival has grown year by year and moved location from Olinda to Camberwell and St Kilda, finally resting in the Melbourne’s CBD. Over its history, MIFF has grown from screening 120 films from 21 countries in 1958, to over 350 films from more than 50 countries in 2010, and remains historically unique in its support of short films.

What’s the first thing to do when you turn 60? Have a facelift! As of today, MIFF reveals a more colourful persona ahead of the celebration with its new key art and new-look website

To coincide with the new website, the festival has also launched an online archive in celebration of 60 years of MIFF ahead of this year’s anniversary festival. The archive located at www.miff.com.au showcases guide cover artwork and program content dating back to 1952. Film lovers, cinephiles and students alike will be able to search through 12,472 films and 9113 directors for their favourite MIFF films via ‘Festival Year’, ‘Director’, ‘Title’, ‘Production Year’, and ‘Country’ categories.

MIFF Artistic Director Michelle Carey said it is a unique cultural resource tapping into the rich heritage of one of the oldest running film festivals in the world. “The launch of the MIFF online archive could not have come at a better time, just on the cusp of the Festival’s 60th birthday. It’s been a fascinating ride through the colourful history of the Festival and cinema itself. We are thrilled that festival goers, film lovers, students and historians can now benefit from accessing this rich and tantalising archive of titles, some doomed to obscurity and others that have proudly taken place in the cinematic canon.”

The 2011 program is set to showcase 60 years of MIFF with a retrospective looking at the key films screened at the Festival over the years – films that changed federal laws on censorship, many that got people unhappy, and more than a handful that changed the way we think. MIFF will also be programming a series of short films looking at our city and how it has changed over 60 years, featuring first films by MIFF Ambassador Fred Schepisi, plus Tim Burstall and many others.

Have a story to tell? In its 60th year MIFF are inviting all filmmakers – professional, amateur, semi-professional or other – to submit a short film, which will go into the running to be screened at MIFF 2011. The winner of the MIFF TAKE/60 Short Film Competition will also enjoy the ultimate Festival experience. Films must be 6 minutes or under and feature or reference MIFF in some way. More information and entry details can be found online

Another initiative of the 60th celebrations include developing and documenting important MIFF moments, stories, tall tales and true that have given MIFF its character, profile and presence. The Festival, along with Erin McCuskey at yum productions, will create MIFF Tales, recorded and archived stories and tales of MIFF’s 60 years. Leading up to MIFF 2011, Erin and the yum productions team will be researching, investigating and shooting a series of small vignettes to screen at MIFF and online.

MIFF will also be encouraging bloggers to sign up to the ‘60 films in 17 days blogathon’ challenge upon festival commencement. Bloggers will be asked to post their reviews on the go. Watch this space for more information!

The 2011 Festival will run from July 21 - August 7, 2011. For further information visit here

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25 FILMS FROM CANNES TO SCREEN AT THE 2011 FESTIVAL

From the star-studded parties on the French Riviera to the trendy laneways of Melbourne, 25 films from the Cannes Film Festival will make their way to the Melbourne International Film Festival, many of which won’t have screened anywhere else.

From the Festival’s Competition, MIFF will screen Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (Best Actress for Kirsten Dunst), a mesmerizing family drama in the face of the apocalypse; Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks, about a Hollywood stunt driver by day, a loner by nature who moonlights as a top-notch getaway driver-for-hire in the criminal underworld; Maiwenn le Besco’s Polisse (Jury Prize), a dynamic and involved portrait of officers working in a Parisian Child Protection Unit; Markus Schleinzer’s Michael, the controversial Austrian drama focusing on five months in the life of a seemingly normal man who keeps a 10 year-old boy locked in his basement; Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre (FIPRESCI prize), a pitch-perfect return to form from the Finnish director, that tells the story of a shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French port city Le Havre; Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s Hanezu, an evocative romantic drama based on the novel by Masako Bando; and Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (Best Screenplay), which depicts the intense, eccentric rivalry of father and son professors, divided by accolades, and the misplaced recognition of a life’s work.

Sharing the Grand Prix and also screening at MIFF are: the latest (and some say most-accessible) film from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Kid With the Bike, about a young boy who refuses to accept abandonment by his father and a woman’s subsequent struggle to save him from his own dangerously stubborn disbelief; and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a lyrical epic police procedural from Turkey about a doctor and an attorney in a small town in Anatolia.

From Un Certain Regard, MIFF will screen Andrei Zvyagintsev’s highly-anticipated Elena, a subtly searing look at contemporary Russia through the lives of an elderly couple; Bruno Dumont‘s Outside Satan, a cinematic and mysterious observation of good and evil in a rural French setting; Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, a striking, fragmented portrait of a damaged young woman losing the distinction between reality, memory and paranoid fantasy as she struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing a cult; Oliver Hermanus’ Beauty, winner of the Queer Palm and the first Afrikaans-language film ever to be screened at the festival, which takes in the downward descent of a middle aged, married man, wholly unprepared when a chance encounter unravels his clean and ordered existence; Eric Koo’s Tatsumi, at once an enthralling biography of legendary ‘gekiga’ (dark or adult pitched manga) originator Yoshihiro Tatsumi and an animated adaptation of his five short works.

Also from this section Hong Sang-soo’s The Day He Arrives, where a lapsed filmmaker re-engages with an assortment of characters from his life that he hasn’t experienced for some time; Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, recently sentenced to jail alongside Jafar Panahi, is present with Goodbye (Best Director Award), a precise and telling film about a young female lawyer’s preparations to flee the country illegally; The Yellow Sea, Na Hong-Jin’s epic, brutalising crime saga that follows a would-be assassin’s quest to clear a debt and escape with his life; and Toomelah, filmmaker Ivan Sen’s second inclusion in this section which depicts the corrupting influence of a drug dealer on a ten year old boy in a remote Aboriginal community.

From Director’s Fortnight, Belgian actor/director Bouli Lanner’s much-awarded The Giants, exploring the exhilarating freedoms and jarring dangers of adolescent experience; Natalia Almada’s El Velador, itself watches over the nightwatchman of an enormous Mexican cemetery, filled with the monument Mausoleums of the highest calibre causalities of its drug cartels; Philippe Ramos’ highly original take on Joan of Arc, The Silence of Joan, starring young French actress Clemence Poesy; the striking Play from multi-awarded Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund; and Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance, a kinetic, twisted downfall into sex and violence encircling the crimes of a sadistic killer and a woman’s corruption into a seedy underworld of dark desires.

Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter (Critics’ Week Prize) is a paranoid psychological thriller about a young father (Michael Shannon) who begins to unravel, haunted by visions of an impending, apocalyptic storm. And Michael Radford’s Michael Petrucciani, a startling documentary account of one of the greatest jazz pianists of recent times who battled Brittle Bone Disease (which left him at an adult height of just three feet) to leave a remarkable legacy of music and international acclaim.

The full program will be announced on Tuesday July 5. Tickets go on sale Friday July 8. The 2011 Festival will run from July 21 to August 7.

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**Update as at July 6, 2011**

The Melbourne International Film Festival launched its 60th program recently, announcing that Belgium film The Fairy, which opened the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, will open the Festival on Thursday July 21. Directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, the Belgium/French/Australian /Canadian trio specialise in pantomime and circus style theatrics. In its performance, humour and whimsy, The Fairy pays homage to Chaplin, Keaton and Jacques Tati, to which the filmmakers add a few contemporary socio-political twists.

Set in the port city of Le Havre, the film kicks off with Dom (Dominique Abel), a hotel night clerk whose evening is interrupted with the arrival of a woman (Fiona Gordon), who claims she’s a fairy and grants Dom three wishes. “The Fairy is that rare case of a festival-friendly film that is honourably humanist and inventive yet unapologetically accessible and comical. That it is also whimsical and a little nostalgic makes it the perfect opening for the 60th MIFF”, said MIFF Artistic Director Michelle Carey. Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (who grew up in Melbourne) will be guests of the festival.

Featuring in the Australian Showcase, Fred Schepisi’s The Eye of the Storm will have its World Premiere on Saturday July 23. Based on the Patrick White novel, the film follows Sir Basil (Festival Patron Geoffrey Rush), a famous and very dandyish theatre actor in London and Dorothy (Judy Davis), an impecunious French princess, who both attempt to reconcile with their dying mother (Charlotte Rampling). Other Australian films include Face to Face, Michael Rymer’s adaptation of the David Williamson play and starring Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton, Matthew Newton and Luke Ford; Jon Hewitt’s X, about two call girls who are thrown together on a job that goes horribly wrong, finding themselves on an out-of-control rollercoaster ride through the seedy clubs, strip joints and back alleys of Sydney’s infamous red light district; and David Bradbury’s documentary about Paul Cox, On Borrowed Time.

A timely new spotlight in the 2011 Festival is Prime Time, a focus on works made for television by filmmakers best known for their cinema, in which the World Premiere of the first two episodes of the highly anticipated ABC TV series, The Slap, based on the best-selling novel by Christos Tsialkas, will screen. Also screening in the spotlight is Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’86, Raul Ruiz’s sumptuous Mysteries of Lisbon and Dreileben – a triple-bill of 90-minute movies, made by German writer-directors Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler.

In partnership with Festival Scope, MIFF has put together a program of acclaimed new filmmaking out of the European Union. With 12 films from 12 countries – from Greece to Germany, Slovenia to Spain – TeleScope will sketch a cinematic map of contemporary European film with highlights including Finnesterrae, where Spanish filmmaker and artist Sergio Caballero blends high art and low comedy in a quirky modern-day; and The Solitude of Prime Numbers, adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name, a magical film that traces two decades in the lives of emotionally-scarred best friends Mattia and Alice.

Our Space returns to MIFF for another festival – a spotlight on films exploring our surroundings. Highlights include Jia Zhang-ke’s I Wish I Knew, a nostalgic look at the city of Shanghai through the eyes of some of its famous inhabitants; Beth Aala’s Pool Party, the story of an abandoned Williamsburg swimming Pool, once the largest in the world; and Melbourne On Screen, a series of shorts looking at the architectural and historical aspects of Melbourne over the last 60 years.

Crime Scene focuses on international films within the crime genre, highlighting the different ways the genre can be manoeuvred. Highlights include Belgian director Michael R. Roskam’s debut Bullhead, an emotionally driven tale of revenge, redemption and fate; the blacker than black humour of Alexei Balabanov’s A Stoker, and José Padilha’s follow up to Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, which has proved to be the most successful film in Brazilian history.

Already announced in First Glance is This Sporting Life which looks at true-life tales in which the game is more than just a game. Something for Shane Warne to tweet about is Fire in Babylon, the story of how the West Indies triumphed over its colonial masters; and Bobby Fischer Against the World, an exploration into the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer.

Networked explores how we inhabit connected online spaces, and how these spaces allow us to redefine the very people we seem to be in our daily lives. Jason Spingarn-Koff’s Life 2.0 follows a group of people whose lives are dramatically transformed by a virtual world - reshaping relationships, identities, and ultimately the very notion of reality; and Gustavo Taretto’s Medianeras pays homage to love in the visual and virtual digital age.

The always-strong Documentary section includes a vast array of real-life stories on offer including Festival guest Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a film about and made by product placement; Festival guest Alex Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer, which unfolds like the plot of a le Carré novel; Exporting Raymond, an attempt to export the hit US TV show Everybody Loves Raymond to Russia, making for a front row seat to a comedic culture-clash; and Page One: A Year in the Life of the New York Times directed by Andrew Rossi who was granted unprecedented access to the nerve centre of one of the world’s most respected newspapers.

The Festival’s largest program strand, International Panorama, features almost 60 films including Festival guest Mike Mills’ Beginners, a heartfelt film inspired by Mills’ own father’s decision to come out before his death; Festival guest Pia Marais’ At Ellen’s Age, a frank, insightful portrait of a life that might, quite pleasantly, be heading toward nowhere; and Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, a tale of love and redemption set against the philosophical quandary of a world that appears to be an exact mirror of our own.

Melbournians always come out for Backbeat, a rhythmically charged program of film to satisfy the music fanatics among us. Highlights include Persecution Blues: The Battle for the Tote, Natalie van den Dungen’s love letter to The Tote’s cherished place within the Melbourne music community; Better Than Something – Jay Reatard, featuring never before seen live footage and in depth interviews with the late indie musician; and The Swell Season, an affecting documentary that tracks the fortunes of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who shot to fame after they won the 2008 Best Song Oscar and Two Grammy’s for their music from the movie Once.

Night Shift once again encompasses grindhouse exploitation cinema, genre-defying marvels and a compulsory dose of weirdness from Japan. Highlights include; Lucky McKee, a household name for horror fans, returning to controversy with The Woman, a brutally unsettling, darkly humorous take on the seething undercurrents of the American nuclear family; and Festival Guest Ti West’s The Innkeepers, where Clerks meets The Shining.

And last, but not least, Accent on Asia, which brings the very best of Asian cinema to MIFF audiences including legendary director Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage which sees him return to the Yakuza genre he has made his own; and Thailand’s Sivaroj Kongsakul who makes a startling feature film debut with Eternity - a patient, consuming, all-encompassing metaphysical love story.

This year will see a number of special events including:

MIFF Short Awards – MIFF’s shorts program not only presents the best short films from around the globe but it also houses one of the biggest short film awards in the southern hemisphere. The winners – who are then eligible to be nominated for the Academy Awards – compete for a total cash prize pool pf $42,000 and are announced on Sunday 31 July, following a special screening of this year’s MIFF shorts picks.

Giorgio Mangiamele; Celebrating the man and his films – Italian-born, Melbourne-based Giorgio Mangiamele’s post-war films express a unique cinematic perspective and they have now been restored by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA).

Talking Pictures – MIFF’s bumper Talking Pictures program is designed to have you discussing, questioning and arguing all things cinematic with the festival’s filmmakers and personalities, opening the box on the issues and ideas behind this year’s program.

The MIFF 60th Retrospective presents a selection of 10 significant and magnificent films from the past six decades of MIFF’s life. Featuring early and remarkable works from some of the Festival’s most beloved filmmakers, these movies paint a portrait of 60 incredible years of Festival life, as we look forward to another 60 more.

In its 60th year the Melbourne International Film Festival will screen over 300 films making it the largest and oldest film festival in Australia. Tickets go on sale Friday July 8. The 2011 Festival will run July 21 – August 7.

For more information, visit

www.miff.com.au