FILM FESTIVAL: Melbourne International Film Festival Preview

The 61st Melbourne International Film Festival 2012 arrives in the few days, a little later than it’s customary spot on the calendar in the last week of July, relocating to the first week of August.

MIFF runs from the 2nd August to the 19th August with a strong selection of the latest international cinema and with a smattering of local premieres, the festival promises a smorgasbord of cinema for the local cinephiles.

The festival features programming strands  like International Panorama, Telescope, Australian Showcase, Accent on Asia, Street Level Visions: Docs from China, Leos Carax: The Last Romantic, 70′s New Hollywood Comedy, Documentaries, Through the Labrinyth: New Latin American Cinema, Masters & Resortations, Next Gen, Animation, Short Films and the Night Shift.

Brian Knappenberger (director) of We Are Legion: The Story of the Hackivists (USA) from Mike Anthony Smith on Vimeo.

A selection of my favourites at this year’s festival are Monsieur Lazhar (France), Shadow Dancer (UK), Beasts of Southern Wild (USA), Rampart (USA), Dark Horse (USA), Sleepless Nights (France), Your Sister’s Sister (USA), The Session (USA), Teddy Bear (Denmark), Keep the Lights On (USA), Safety Not Guaranteed (USA), Headshot (Thailand), Himizu (Japan), The Imposter (UK), Chasing Ice (USA), The House I Live (USA), Searching for Sugar Man (Sweden), A Letter to Momo (UK) and God Bless America (USA)

The current Artistic Director, Michelle Carey, has delivered a popular but predicable collection of titles in very familiar programming strands.  This year’s crop represents a collection of the films that have been festival darlings at Toronto, Venice, Sundance and Cannes over the past six months.

Fredrik Gertten (director) of Big Boys Gone Bananas (SWE) from Mike Anthony Smith on Vimeo.

MIFF has a strong international profile as one of the largest and most significant film festival in the southern hemisphere.    The festival’s audience patronage is the envy of many film festival organizers, but the festival is seen as a cinephiles festival, rather than a significant industry event.

The lack of a local or regional feature/documentary competition strand and the unwillingness to program an entirely original strand means the festival lacks the international clout to become one of the grand slams on the film festival circuit.

During the 2000′s, James Hewison, the festival director, programmed an amazing array of Asian cinema, while in recent years under the direction of Michelle Carey, the Asian cinema strand has become awfully skinny in numbers, which has meant a loss of connection with our regional neighbours.  Long gone are the days of significant Asian filmmakers showcasing their films, like the world premiere of Kung Fu Hustle or guests of the calibre of Johnnie To, Ishii Sogo and Kim Ki-duk.

One of the real disappointments of MIFF has been the lack of support for the local filmmaking community, the much heralded 37 Degree South & Accelerator programs are almost an entirely closed shop for a very select few invited guests, excluding many emerging filmmakers and eliminating a new generation from networking with the industry’s movers and shakers.

The successful MIFF Premiere Fund is a great initiative, but unfortunately the majority of the successful applicants are from the attendees of the 37 Degrees South conference.

The range of Talking Pictures and 37 Degree South public events look to be a little disappointing, but the Bobcat Goldthwait session will be a highlight for anyone wanting to see one of the cleverest and most original voices in cinema.

When all is said and done, MIFF is a still a first rate festival that provides patrons with an amazing assortment of the world’s cinema, it could just be so much more.

I’ll be looking forwarding to visiting to the Festival Club at the Forum, sharing a glass of wine and discussing some of the films I have just seen from around the globe.

 

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