Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) audiences stuck by their homegrown talent and gave the crown of most popular film to Ray Lawrence's Lantana, which closes the Toronto International Film Festival in a couple of weeks.
The next biggest crowd pleasers were, in order, Zacharias Kunuk's Canadian film Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, Robert Connolly's Australian film The Bank, Christine Jeffs' New Zealand film and Cannes competitor Rain, and Liv Ullmann's Faithless from Sweden.
Footprint Films is releasing The Bank locally on September 6, while Palace and Beyond are jointly releasing Lantana on October 4 - the distributors were signed at the time of financing. The other three films don't have Australian distribution but for the first time MIFF appointed Melissa Thurgood to liaise between festival guests and distributors and she expects 20 films to get theatrical or video deals.
The 150,000 tickets sold during the festival represented a 13% increase on the previous year and there was a 20% increase in the number of sold-out sessions.