Six of the 10 homegrown feature-length films that will have their world premieres at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) have been supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, including anthology drama The Turning and Anna Broinowski’s documentary Aim High In Creation!.
Australia’s oldest and largest film festival runs from July 25 to August 11, opening with Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited! and closing with JC Chandor’s All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford.
The 17 programme strands include activism on film and new Arabic cinema, both of which artistic director Michelle Carey says “effortlessly suggested themselves”, plus such perennial favourites as the backbeat music program, accent on Asia, night shift, international panorama and documentaries.
The Turning is an adaptation of the country’s most popular Australian book of 17 short stories set in one locale, interconnected and written by acclaimed author Tim Winton. A different person has directed each. Some are first-timers including actors David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska; others are known for their directorial talent including Warwick Thornton, Tony Ayres and Justin Kurzel.
Aim High In Creation! is part of MIFF’s spotlight on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and captures Broinowski learning from DPRK filmmaking masters and applying those lessons to the creation of a short film with a political purpose back in Sydney.
Other world premieres supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund are writer/director Zac Hilditch’s debut These Final Hours, an end-of-the-world story; Rhys Graham’s Galore, focused on four teens during a summer of devastating bushfires; and Mark Hartley’s horror remake Patrick.
The sixth film in the programme supported by the fund is the documentary In Bob We Trust about a former Catholic priest and well-known Melbourne identity.
“It is a great slate,” says fund executive producer Mark Woods. “Patrick is a retro thriller chiller, Final Hours has a youthful skew, Galore is in the tradition of Somersault and Anna Broinowski can always be depended on to take an unusual subject and give it an unusual treatment.
“We look for a special quality, a Melbourne angle, something extra, a slight event edge. I love them all equally, but then there’s The Turning, landmark seminal event cinema that will enter the canon of films of a certain time and age.”
The four other world premieres in the programme are all documentaries: Lygon St – Si Parla Italiano, about one of Melbourne’s most iconic streets; Fallout, which tells the story behind Nevil Shute’s famed On The Beach and the film adapted from that novel; and the two companion films Persons of Interest, in which filmmaker Haydn Keenan confronts four people about the contents of their Australian Security Intelligence Organisation files.
Woods also runs two industry events as part of MIFF: the 37ºSouth financing market and the “accelerator” director workshops. Of the 50 companies that will be represented at 37ºSouth, 28 are international sales agents, distributors and financiers.
“The offer is: ‘How do you fancy coming to Melbourne in the dead of winter, flying economy and working your arse off for five days?’,” says Woods, laughing.
“They come because they have a very productive time … If MIFF was not the festival that it is, 37ºSouth would not be the financing market it is.”
Woods organises “breakthrough” screenings of films his visitors might be interested in. The eight this year include Nick Matthews’ One-Eyed Girl, Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man and Curtis Vowell’s Fantail.
This is the tenth year of accelerator, which caters to “the hottest short film directors of the day who will become the hottest feature directors of tomorrow”.
There have been 155 “graduates” and Woods is delighted that 14 of them have films in MIFF. Included are: four directors from The Turning; Broinowski, Graham and Hilditch; Singapore’s Anthony Chen with Camera d’Or winner Ilo Ilo, Canada’s Kazik Radwanski with Tower, and New Zealand’s Mark Albiston with Shopping.
Unfinished feature films that have support from the MIFF Premiere Fund are Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times, Tony Ayres’ Cut Snake and Robert Connolly’s Paper Planes.