‘Memoir of a Snail’ to open MIFF as first-look line-up announced

'Memoir of a Snail'.

Adam Elliot’s Docklands-shot animated feature Memoir of a Snail will raise the curtain on this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), headlining a first-look line-up that also includes five other MIFF Premiere Fund titles and nearly 20 international selections.

The Arenamedia-produced film, which features Sarah Snook in her first animated feature lead role, will screen on August 8, more than 15 years after the release of Elliot’s last feature film Mary and Max.

Similar to his 2009 film, Memoir of a Snail also has a 70s backdrop, which this time is occupied by Grace Puddle, a lonely hoarder who copes with having her family unit ripped apart and being separated from her twin brother by collecting snail ornaments before a new friendship gives her the courage to learn to love and let go of the things that clutter her home and her mind.

The voice cast includes Jacki Weaver, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Magda Szubanski, and Eric Bana.

To coincide with the Australian premiere, ACMI’s centrepiece exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, will host some of the custom sets and characters from the film, as well as designs and development materials.

Elliot said MIFF was well suited to host the premiere of “truly a Melbourne film”.

“After eight long years, producer Liz Kearney and I are a bit exhausted but thrilled to be asked to be the Opening Night film for MIFF 2024,” he said.

“About Melbourne, made by Melburnians and voiced by Melburnians, Memoir of a Snail is a handmade stop-motion film lovingly crafted by a team of local artists.”

Jackie van Beek in ‘Audrey’

Also screening from the MIFF Premiere Fund is fellow Arenamedia title Magic Beach, Robert Connolly’s reimagining of Alison Lester’s much-loved illustrated children’s book, which is this year’s Family Gala feature; Justin Kurzel’s Ellis Park, a documentary about musician Warren Ellis’ quest to establish an animal sanctuary in Sumatra that will be shown as part of the Music on Film Gala; Natalie Bailey’s SXSW-selected dramedy Audrey; and Eliza Cox’s Queens of Concrete, which follows three young skateboarders – Hayley, Ava, and Charlotte – as they strive to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics, all the while juggling the familiar obstacles of teenage girlhood.

Shannon Owen’s Left Write Hook, a documentary on a ground-breaking recovery program that helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse, will be the festival’s inaugural Premiere with Purpose feature, premiering with a black-carpet event at ACMI.

Other confirmed Australian titles include Jaydon Martin’s directorial debut Flathead, a black-and-white portrait of blue-collar life in rural Queensland; Gisela Kaufmann, Joseph Nizeti, Mike Slee’s documentary Fungi: The Web of Life, set to screen exclusively in IMAX; and Damon Gamou’s Future Council, in which the That Sugar Film director takes eight young minds on a road trip across Europe in his vegetable-oil-powered, bright-yellow school bus to seek solutions to the climate crisis. From across the ditch, there is the Taika Waititi-executive produced feature We Were Dangerous from director Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu.

Headlining the early international narrative line-up is Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow , a story about the ways that technology, art and pop culture can be lifelines for outsiders featuring music from Caroline Polachek and yeule; Constance Tsang’s Cannes Critic’s Award-winning drama Blue Sun Palace, which investigates the complexities of the migrant experience; Tilman Singer’s surreal sophomore feature Cuckoo, featuring Hunter Schafer and Dan Stevens; Sean Wang’s semi-autobiographical debut feature; and Aaron Schimberg’s A24-backed comedy-horror A Different Man, for which actor Sebastian Stan was awarded the Berlinale’s Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance.

‘Teaches of Peaches’

In the documentary stakes, there is Sam Crane and Pinny Grylls’ Grand Theft Hamlet, about two locked down actors that stage a rendition of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet through video game Grand Theft Auto; Lana Wilson’s Look Into My Eyes, featuring a series of intimate sessions with psychics and their clients; Frederick Wiseman’s Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros, in which the A 93-year-old director embeds himself inside a French restaurant that’s held three Michelin stars for more than 50 years; Steve McQueen’s Occupied City, a snapshot Amsterdam from World War II to recent years of pandemic and protest; and Philipp Fussenegger and Judy Landkammer’s Teaches of Peaches, offering access to one of the wildest tours of the decade as Peaches marks 20 years of her album of the same name.

MIFF Artistic Director Al Cossar said it was a first-look line-up of “marvelous visions, diversions, and cinematic surprises”.

“First Glance already sees us lifting the lid on some of the most anticipated films of the year, alongside films you won’t find anywhere else – bold, thrilling, thoughtful, hilarious, terrifying, and essential new cinema, from Australia and all around the world,” he said.

“Remember – now’s the time to sort passes, subscribe, mark your calendars, clear your diaries, and generally lay in wait for the return of Melbourne’s biggest cinematic event – the 2024 Melbourne International Film Festival.”

Further details of attending special guests, restoration and retrospective screenings, MIFF Talks, MIFF Shorts, and MIFF XR programming will be announced at the official program launch on Thursday 11 July.

Tickets will go on sale to MIFF Members for an exclusive pre-sale from 8pm on Thursday, July 11, and will be on sale to the general public from 9am on Tuesday, July 16. This year, MIFF will also introduce allocated seating at select venues and sessions.