Blessed, the third feature from Ana Kokkinos (Head On, The Book Of Revelations), has taken a big step closer to going into production with a cash offer from the Melbourne International Film Festival's (MIFF) production fund.

MIFF's Premiere Fund provides small amounts of strategic investment and has just announced four new recipients (listed below), which will get $330,000 (A$380,000) between them.

Blessed is a multi-narrative drama about mothers and children, adapted from the stage play Who's Afraid Of The Working Class' Commissioned by the Melbourne Workers Theatre seven years ago, it attracted many fans including Kokkinos, who acquired the film rights soon after seeing it.

'A lot of people who saw it at the time have never forgotten it,' Kokkinos told Screendaily today. 'It was an extraordinarily bold and fresh piece of writing and what impressed me was that it was dealing with ordinary people's lives with dignity and humanity.'

Seven children wander the streets of Melbourne for a day and a night in the first half and the second is set in the same period but told from the point of view of their mothers. Andrew Bovell, one of the four original writers who have also written the screenplay, also worked with Kokkinos on her previous features and wrote Lantana. Kokkinos is producing alongside Andrena Finlay.

Writer/director Sea Byrne's debut film, the horror flick The Loved Ones, is another of the projects chosen by MIFF. Byrne is currently at Sundance with his short film Advantage. Byrne was a 2007 attendee of Accelerator, MIFF's emerging talent workshop.

'Some people would not expect a festival fund to back a horror film but it is balanced out by a film like Angel Of The Wind,' said fund manager Mark Woods. 'Angel Of The Wind is at the risky end of the scale but it could be a mesmerising curiosity of great interest to festivals.'

Twelve producers applied with local market-ready films for a total of $1.2m (A$1.4m) in what was round two of the Premiere Fund, but discussions were held with more than twice that number.

The Premiere Fund has $1.2m (A$1.4m) to spend as completion or enhancement loans, mini-gap equity investments and matched marketing and distribution advances. The first five films to receive fund backing will be shown for the first time at this year's festival, which will run for 17 days from July 25. So too will the already shot Angel Of The Wind.

The fund has $1.2m (A$1.4m) to spend across four rounds. Round three closes on February 29 and recipients will be announced on April 2. A co-financing market, 37 South: Bridging the Gap, will run alongside the first few days of MIFF.



Executive producers: Al Clark, Marian Macgown. Producers: Andrena Finlay, Ana Kokkinos. Director: Ana Kokkinos. Writers: Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas, based on their play Who's Afraid of the Working Class' Synopsis: About mothers and children, about love and beauty, about being lost and finding your way home.


Executive producer: Bryce Menzies. Producer: Mark Lazarus; Director/writer: Sean Byrne. Synopsis: You don't have to die to go to hell! The Loved Ones tells the story of a young man in rural Victoria digging himself out his own grave.



Producers: Matt Crosby, Tahir Cambis; Director, Tahir Cambis. An exploration of the world of acting, spirituality, national identity and ghosts of the past, told through the prism of a surrealist vaudevillian theatrical production concerning the spirits of dead Kamikaze pilots and including chaotic Tokyo rehearsals and mishap-plagued Melbourne performances.


Producer/director/writer: John Hughes. A signature documentary charting a little-told angle on the birth of the Indonesian Republic and the impact of Australian unions and foreign policy, a rogue film commissioner and an emerging film industry at a moment of crisis at the end of the age of Empire.