The Melbourne International Film Festival will announcetomorrow (June 15) that the eagerly anticipated Australian film Little Fishwill open the event on July 20 as a world premiere.

Somersault opened the festival in 2004 and, of allthe homegrown fare that premiered last year, went on to become a major hit withAustralian audiences.

Little Fish, handled internationally by MyriadPictures and locally by Icon, is director Rowan Woods' follow-up to The Boys.It stars Cate Blanchett as a young woman with a humble dream who is havingtrouble shaking her troubled past, and it is set in a part of Sydney that thetourist brochures don't highlight.

Festival director James Hewison's choice of LittleFish is in contrast to the fuss made last week when Sydney Film Festivalartistic director Lynden Barber was reported as saying that he had fewAustralian films to choose from for his opening night. His words were takenpersonally by Anthony Buckley and Anna Reeves, the producer and writer/directorof The Oyster Farmer. The only reason they were not pulling the film outof the festival, they said, was because they did not want to disappoint thosewho had tickets to the sold-out session.

Barber carefully plugged The Oyster Farmer andsome of the other local films in the programme in his opening night speech lastFriday. Another speaker, Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge, also put in a pleafor less negativity, not just toward Australian films but also toward fallingbox office figures. The opening night film, British picture My Summer OfLove, was well received.

While these events could be seen as a storm in a teacup,they highlight how angry the industry has become over the treatment ofAustralian films by the media. As one speaker said with some passion at aninvitation-only film marketing seminar last week, it has gone on for so longthat it has now permeated the culture. Even taxi drivers comment on it.

But on a brighter note, it was also acknowledged that itwould only take one or two films to capture the public's imagination and turnthings around. There are high hopes for a number of upcoming titles including LittleFish.