Executive director James Hewison announced that newAustralian film Somersault will open the 53rd Melbourne InternationalFilm Festival (MIFF) on July 21 and Thai film Ong Bak from director PrachyaPinkaew will close it 18 days later.

Other Thai directors will also have their recent workshowcased in a country spotlight. Australia's longest-running film festivalalso features a significant spotlight on Middle East cinema featuring aprogramme of Iranian films curated by master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and aselection of films made by Palestinian filmmaker Elia Sulieman. Collections ofScandinavian and new Japanese features will also be included.

Somersault, which screened in Un CertainRegard, is one of 19 films coming to the festival direct from Cannes. Itswriter/director Cate Shortland has also contributed to the MIFF program byselecting a programme of shorts for the Australian showcase.

Among the films from Cannes are four award winners: ParkChan-wook's Old Boy, Kore-edu Hirozuku's Nobody Knows, ApichatpongWeerasethkul's Tropical Malady and MIFF regular Tony Gatlif's Exile.Hewison has also managed to secure the first Australian public screening ofMichael Moore's controversial new documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.