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:: Spotlight :: 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The Melbourne International Film Festival is proud to announce that the 2012 Opening Night film will be the Australian premiere of The Sapphires, hot off its premiere at Cannes. Don’t miss out on MIFF’s biggest night, where lovers and creators of film unite to let their hair down and celebrate Melbourne’s favourite festival. Tickets are available now and expected to sell out, so get in quick!

The Film
The Sapphires is written by Tony Briggs and based on the remarkable true story of his mother’s time in The Sapphires - Australia’s answer to The Supremes, and their tour of the troops in Vietnam. Starring Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids), Deborah Mailman (Bran Nue Dae), Jessica Mauboy (Bran Nue Dae), Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell, The Sapphires is a heart-warming and distinctly Australian celebration of youth, courage, love and family, featuring an unbeatable soundtrack of glorious Motown-era soul music.

Festival Director, Michelle Carey, commented, “MIFF is thrilled to be presenting The Sapphires straight from Cannes. Not only is this one of the most anticipated Australian films of the year, a Victorian story and a brilliant filmmaking team, the film will leave audiences on an immense high, ready to kick up their heels at what is sure to be one of the most celebratory parties of the year.”

The Party
Walk the red carpet at the Opening Night of the Melbourne International Film Festival and then follow the music to the official after party for an unforgettable night of cinema, celebrity and celebration! Join us in the Plaza Ballroom at the historic Regent Theatre, where an open bar, delicious canapés and Motown-inspired entertainment will have you shimmying and shaking until late.

Tickets are available now on the official website
Full – film and party $120
Concession – film and party $110
MIFF Member – film and party $100

When and Where
7:30 pm, Thursday August 2 2012 at the Greater Union Cinemas, 131 Russell Street, Melbourne
After Party: Plaza Ballroom, Regent Theatre, 191 Collins Street Melbourne

MIFF runs from August 2 to August 19, 2012. More details to come.

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**Update as at June 20, 2012**

The MIFF selectors returned from Cannes this year with more than just a USB full of snaps taken along the French Riviera with which to make the rest of the office jealous, they brought back over 35 cinematic highlights to be delivered to Melbourne audiences this August. Organisers are pleased to announce the following selection to you, and hope you’re getting as excited as they are! Don’t forget you can buy your eMini passes online now, and members can also purchase their passports.

This year MIFF will screen Walter Salles’ highly-anticipated adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road; the Jury Prize winner The Angels' Share, an affectionate crime caper by auteur Ken Loach; and the film that was the talk of Cannes, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, a contemplative, mesmerising work featuring Denis Lavant, Eva Mendes and a singing Kylie Minogue.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, there is the comic gem Le Grand Soir, as well as 7 Days in Havana, an omnibus film featuring seven directors, including Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void, MIFF ’10), Laurent Cantet (Heading South, MIFF ’06) and Benicio Del Toro, who each take on a single day from one week in Havana, to tell the city’s stories.

Joining the program are Pablo Larraín’s top prize-winning No, about the ‘Mad Men’ of Chile’s 1998 referendum starring Gael García Bernal, and Anurag Kashyap’s two-part Gangs of Wasseypur. The fascinating documentary Room 237 and the deranged comedy, Sightseers, also join the line-up. MIFF will be welcoming Broken, starring Tim Roth, the documentary Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, and Maniac, Franck Khalfoun’s scalp-slashing horror starring Elijah Wood.

The full festival program will be available online from Wednesday July 11.

Tickets go on sale for members Wednesday July 11 and Friday July 13 for the general public.

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**MIFF Programme Launched on July 10, 2012**

The Melbourne International Film Festival launched its 61st program recently, announcing P.J. Hogan’s Mental will close the Festival on Saturday, August 18.

“How wonderful that we are able to book-end the 2012 MIFF with what will surely be two of the biggest Australian films of the year, in The Sapphires and Mental. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, P.J. Hogan’s new film is as outrageously fun as it is smart and moving,” said Artistic Director Michelle Carey.

Mental reunites writer-director P.J. Hogan with his original leading lady Toni Collette for the first time since Muriel's Wedding. The film follows the story of the Moochmore family. Mother Shirley (Rebecca Gibney) – unable to cope with her five teenage daughters and unsupported by her philandering politician husband, Barry (Anthony LaPaglia) – suffers a nervous breakdown. After Barry commits his wife to a mental hospital he finds himself alone with the teenage girls he barely knows. Desperate, he impulsively picks up a hitchhiker named Shaz (Collette) and installs her in his home as nanny. With an incredible supporting cast including Liev Schreiber, Kerry Fox, Caroline Goodall and Sam Clark, Mental promises MIFF audiences an outrageously funny Closing Night event.

This year the Festival is marking its halfway point with a special world premiere gala screening of Save Your Legs!, Melbourne director Boyd Hicklin’s debut feature. Starring Stephen Curry, Damon Gameau and Brendan Cowell, who also wrote the screenplay, this MIFF-Premiere Fund-supported film offers a jovial marrying of sport and Bollywood when a Melbourne cricket team pitch their childhood dreams from the suburbs to the Subcontinent. As MIFF’s Centrepiece Gala the premiere screening will be followed by an exclusive Bollywood-themed after party at The Forum.

Also featuring in Australian Showcase is the World Premiere of Jack Irish – Bad Debts. Starring Guy Pearce as the eponymous former criminal lawyer, part-time private investigator and debt collector, Jeffrey Walker’s film is the first of the ABC TV series based on Peter Temple’s award-winning novel Bad Debts. Other Australian films include The First Fagin, a MIFF Premiere Fund-supported documentary about one of Australia’s most infamous convicts, Ikey Solomon, rumoured to be the inspiration behind the villainous character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist; Luke Walker’s (Beyond Our Ken, MIFF ’07) Lasseter’s Bones, which follows the folk hero behind the legend of Lasseter’s Reef; Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s fiercely haunting love story Hail; plus the documentary Coniston about the last-known massacre of Indigenous Australians, and World War II outback documentary Croker Island Exodus, both presented in partnership with Blackfella Films.

TeleScope: Visions from the EU offers an outstanding program of celebrated European filmmaking. Run in conjunction with Festival Scope, all 12 films in this section go in the running for the TeleScope Award, judged by the Film Critics Circle of Australia and announced on Closing Night.

In this section, the strange and compelling L from first-time director and Festival guest Babis Makridis and screenwriter Efthimis Filippou (Dogtooth, MIFF ’09) is a cornerstone of the recent wave of Greek absurdist cinema; The Legend of Kaspar Hauser is an electrifying retelling of the Kaspar Hauser tale, a surreal and post-apocalyptic film starring Vincent Gallo; Festival guest Simon Pummell’s striking interpretation of mental illness, the visually exquisite Shock Head Soul; and the 2012 Berlinale Jury Grand Prix (Silver Bear) Award winning film Just The Wind from Hungarian director Bence Fliegauf, also a guest of the Festival, which traces racially motivated violence in a Romany village with documentary-like naturalism.

This year the Festival presents a new spotlight on Latin America with Through The Labyrinth: Latin American Cinema. Student politics feature in both Celina Murga’s documentary Normal School and in Santiago Mitre’s compelling feature The Student, which offers an oblique metaphor for Argentinean – and world – politics; the 2011 Camera d’Or winning Las Acacias about a slow-burning road-trip; the 2012 winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Violeta Went To Heaven, about the Edith Piaf of Chile; and the heart-pumping Miss Bala about a drug-smuggling beauty queen.

Facing North: Swedish Cinema in Focus presents an exciting array of new and under-seen Swedish films and filmmakers, including a spotlight on Swedish crime classics from various eras. Many of these filmmakers are guests of the Festival, including Axel Petersén, the director of Dogme-influenced Avalon, about the decline of a middle-aged party-boy past his prime; Fredrik Gertten, who traces the repercussions of making his previous corporate expose BANANAS!* (MIFF ’10) in Big Boys Gone Bananas!*; and Malik Bendjelloul, the director of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, which introduces us to a musician who was as obscure as he was successful.

Two French auteurs are given spotlights in the program. Jean Epstein: Bonjour Cinema takes us into the world of one of the most innovative French Impressionist filmmakers. Featuring lyrical works such as The Lion of the Moguls and The Faithful Heart, this spotlight on silent cinema is a must for cinephiles. Then Leos Carax: The Last Romantic takes a look at the work of the incomparable director Leos Carax, whose personal filmmaking style was a major feature of the 80s genre called the cinéma du look. It includes the previously announced Holy Motors, and older favourites including Boy Meets Girl, Lovers on the Bridge and Pola X.

70s New Hollywood Comedy covers everything from urban neurotic farce to screwball curios. It features the work of Albert Brooks, Carl Reiner, Hal Ashby, Mike Nichols and Woody Allen from the ‘New Hollywood’ era when they were changing the shape of comedy, showcasing classics such as Harold and Maude and lesser-seen films including Modern Romance and Where’s Poppa?

This year’s Documentaries program affirms that truth really is stranger, more heartbreaking and just as inspiring as fiction. The impassioned Pink Ribbons, Inc. looks at the corporatisation of the breast cancer industry; Crazy Horse takes a demure glimpse backstage at the world’s most famous nude dance revue; How to Survive a Plague is the story of the activists who helped turned AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable condition during the 80s; Festival guest Florian Habicht’s Love Story is an idiosyncratic film where the director constructs a not always-fictional love story on the streets of New York; and Maori Boy Genius is a sweetly funny coming-of-age-story about a gifted 13-year-old boy being groomed as New Zealand’s future Prime Minister.

Melbourne music fanatics of all tastes will be satisfied with the often-favoured Backbeat program. MIFF pays tribute to Beastie Boy Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch with Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot and Beastie Boys in Awesome I Fuckin’ Shot That!; Tropicalia is a joyous overview of the effervescent Brazilian movement in the late 60s and how it went on to influence the likes of the Beastie Boys, Beck and David Byrne; and Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait is a posthumous autobiography constructed using footage and audio recorded by Gainsbourg himself.

The blood-curdling Night Shift once again travels to the dark side with the latest in gore, horror, trash and the blackest of black comedy. In the already-announced Sightseers Ben Wheatley follows Kill List (MIFF ‘11) with a deranged comedy about a caravanning holiday; Killer Joe is a totally twisted, deep-fried Texas redneck murder story; from Festival guest Bobcat Goldthwait comes the scathing black comedy God Bless America; while local filmmaker Richard Gray takes some twists and turns through Twin Peaks territory in Mine Games.

International Panorama features several titles from Cannes which have already been announced, with many more now revealed, including Oscar-winner James Marsh’s (Man on Wire, MIFF ‘08) thriller Shadow Dancer, which stars Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson; the taut thriller from Frédéric Jardin, Sleepless Night, about a cop who lands in a shady situation; and 2012 Sundance Winner Teddy Bear in which Mads Matthiesen expands his MIFF award-winning short (Dennis, MIFF ‘08) about a shy bodybuilder who goes to Thailand in search of love.

Accent on Asia offers everything from brutal gangland epics and 3D samurai sagas, sensitive meditations on ageing and eccentric romantic comedies. Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time is a Korean gangster movie that nods loudly to classic American gangster films; The Blindfold offers the harrowing story of three young Indonesians lured into Islamic fundamentalism; and Postcards from the Zoo tells a dreamy story about estrangement and longing set in Jakarta’s zoo.

Control of official Chinese cinema remains tight but our program Street Level Visions: Chinese Independent Docos offers an alternative window into China. This selection of documentaries from the past decade presents China from the ground-up, through the eyes of some of the nation’s bravest filmmakers. Crime and Punishment follows the casual violence and incompetence of the People’s Armed Police; Beijing Besieged by Waste is photographer Wang Jiuliang’s unnerving document of a city at the end of its environmental tether; and The Transition Period gives a rare peek at the backroom political manipulations and publically funded drunken banquets in an underdeveloped county in central China.

This year our special events include: MIFF 51st Short Awards – MIFF features one of the most highly regarded short-film competitions in the Southern Hemisphere. This year the eligible short films are competing for a total cash prize pool of $42,000 and the winners are eligible to submit for nomination at the 2013 Academy Awards. The MIFF Shorts Awards Ceremony takes place Sunday August 12.

Talking Pictures – Discussions designed to have you pondering, chatting and arguing about all things cinematic with the Festival’s guests. The Sputnik Effect – Staged in association with Festival guest Simon Pummell’s film Shock Head Soul, this gallery installation explores the relationship between society, psychosis and technology using 3D projections. Planetarium Fulldome Showcase – The return of MIFF’s fulldome projection screenings at Melbourne Planetarium goes into space, underwater, and through the musical history of piano virtuoso Franz Liszt.

Over 300 films make up the 61st Melbourne International Film Festival program, the largest and oldest film festival in Australia. Tickets for Opening Night gala of The Sapphires, e-mini passes and passports are on sale now.

For more information, visit

www.miff.com.au