Michelle Carey, the new artistic director of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), is an internal promotion rather than new blood.

Carey began her relationship with MIFF as one of the organising team behind MIFF’s 37ºSouth Market in 2007 and has been senior programmer alongside former executive director Richard Moore for the past three festivals. She has also been involved in two Adelaide Film Festivals.

In 2009, there was a lot of controversy involving China at MIFF. Carey told ScreenDaily she wants to bring the focus back to the films for her first MIFF, which will be the 60th, rather than allowing them to get lost in politics.

“Films are a good starting point for all sorts of discussion and I want that discussion to also be about history, why films matter, different cultures and viewpoints,” she said.

One of the things she loves about MIFF is that the audiences, including those that aren’t particularly film buffs, enjoy the festival in a very intense way.

“I like edgy challenging work and I have a more youthful bent and a more feminine sensibility than Richard Moore, whatever that means!” she said. “My personal taste is more European and Asian movies than US independent.”

The decision to appoint Carey was made by the board, headed by chair Claire Dobbin, and general manager Petrina Dorrington, and the decision was announced today.

Moore ran both the business and programming side of MIFF during his tenure; but after the news broke that he was heading north to Queensland two jobs were simultaneously advertised in April. Dorrington was appointed general manager in July after being in the role in an interim capacity since February.

While Carey made it known that she was interested in the job of artistic director she did not formally apply. She gave a presentation only after the 40 or so people who did were whittled down to a shortlist.

“Michelle has a modest disposition and she grew in confidence over the period,” said Dobbin of the 34-year-old. “It was not the big role that it had been before and she was already delivering on some of it. We might have paused for thought before appointing someone so young to run the company but splitting the job made it possible to make this kind of decision.

“She has a very very strong curatorial sense and that is what excites us about her … She knows the difference between a programme that is made up of just what’s out there and one that is shaped by vision.”

Michelle was responsible for programming the Anna Karina retrospective, Edward Yang, Australian Post-Punk Cinema, 40 Years of Directors Fortnight, Eros + Massacre and Not Quite Bollywood in 2010.