The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is to open on July 22 with the Australian film The WeddingParty.

It will be the third consecutive year that MIFF executive director Richard Moore has chosen to launch the country’s oldest and biggest film festival with a film partially funded by the festival’s own modest production investment fund.

The Wedding Party stars Isabel Lucas (Daybreakers) and Josh Lawson as the couple at the centre of an extravagant marriage of convenience. Various Australian perennials including Steve Bisley and Bill Hunter are also in the cast.

Formerly titled Kin,The Wedding Party is a debut feature for all three of its key creators: director Amanda Jane, producer Nicole Minchin and scriptwriter Christine Bartlett. No sales agent is attached because, although it was financed by government, it was under a low-budget initiative and the usual conditions did not apply.

Moore said he was pleased that the film would be screened in an opening night atmosphere in front of the sales agents in Melbourne for 37ºSouth, the financing market that overlaps with the first few days of the festival.

“It is a romantic drama and it involves the  Russian Orthodox community so there will also be lots of opportunity for a great party with plenty of vodka,” he joked.

This is Moore’s last year at MIFF; he relocates to Queensland in August to run that state’s film festival and other film cultural events. A replacement has yet to be announced.

The full MIFF program is being launched on July 6 but a highlight will be an eight-film tribute to the work of subversive US filmmaker Joe Dante that will include Gremlins and the six-hour The Movie Orgy.

A significant part of the program is the international panorama and as usual it will include many films direct from Cannes: Moore is waiting for confirmation on about 25 films. There will be the usual abundance of documentaries, including those focussed on musicians, films from the Asian region, a program for children, and animated films.

Last year Moore scheduled 10 Conditions of Love and got caught in a backlash from China. This year he is showing Petition, one of the films that was withdrawn, as well as China’s biggest box office hit of 2009, City Of Life And Death.

MIFF is tempting fate again with a repeat of the “States of Dissent” program. It will include Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekrasov’s Russian Lessons, about the war between Russia and Georgia, and Danish journalist Mads Brugger’s documentary The Red Chapel, which features a comedy group not being entirely honest about what they are doing in North Korea.