The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) will open and close with world premieres of new Australian films. Political thriller Balibo will open this year’s edition on July 24 while music comedy Bran Nue Dae will close it on August 8.

The festival’s Premier Fund did support both films which means it has the right to show them first but MIFF executive director, Richard Moore, said they were chosen for the prime spots on their own merits.

In Balibo, starring Anthony LaPaglia, director Robert Connolly (The Bank) tells the true story behind the deaths of six men working for Australian media companies during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. While, Bran Nue Dae is directed by Rachel Perkins (One Night The Moon) and stars Geoffrey Rush, musician Missy Higgins, and some of Australia’s best loved home grown talent, including Ernie Dingo and Deborah Mailman. There is already considerable buzz around the film’s commercial potential.

“You could not have two Australian films that are more polar opposites,” said Moore. “My natural predisposition was to open with a more celebratory film than Balibo, an extremely serious political drama, but it is a story that should have been told a long time ago.”

Two other features, Ana Kokkinos’s Blessed and Sean Byrne’s debut horror The Loved Ones, also have their world premieres at the festival as a result of securing investment, as does the feature-length documentary Indonesia Calling – Joris Ivens in Australia, directed by John Hughes.

The Premiere Fund has spent $1.2 million (A$1.6m) on14 films over two years. The projects have a with a combined production budget of $25 million (A$32.5m).

The festival will announce its full program in early July. Other of the highlights will be a restrospective of the work of Danish-born French actress Anna Karina, who embodied French New Wave Cinema. She starred in eight of the films of her former husband Jean-Luc Godard, worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and directed films herself. She will also be a guest of the festival.