John Maynard (Romulus , My Father), Liz Watts (Little Fish) and Bridget Ikin (Look Both Ways) are among the 41 Australian producers pitching feature film projects at the Melbourne International Film Festival's (MIFF) inaugural film financing forum.

The new sidebar, called '37 South: Bridging the Gap', has attracted about a dozen international guests including Ellen Pittleman (Paramount Pictures), Gail Gendler (Sundance Channels), Beatrice Neumann (ContentFilm), Richard Guardian (Lightning Entertainment), Tom Strudwick (The Works), Piers Nightingale (Highpoint) and Kirk D'Amico (Myriad).

The visitors will also be meeting with Australian distributors, including a range of new players, and some of the financiers likely to have a big role under Australia 's revamped government support structure.

The three-day event starts on July 26 and also includes what is believed to be the first formal meeting between film and TV producers and publishers and literary agents. It aims to encourage more Australian films to be made from books.

MIFF opens its doors on July 25 with the Australian premiere of Michael Moore's documentary Sicko and closes them again on August 12 with a screening of This Is England.

New programme strands include selections of African and Israeli films, indigenous and horror films, debuts from Europe, and retrospectives of the work of Japanese directors Shohei Imamura and Hirokazu Kore-eda. As usual MIFF is also screening many of Cannes ' most high-profile titles including 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Hours, Mourning Forest and Control.

Two Australian features will get their world premieres at MIFF: Lawrence Johnston's documentary Night and Peter Carstairs' coming-of-age debut feature September.