MIFF boasts biggest line-up yet


Margot Robbie in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood’. 

The 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival is being touted as the largest yet, with some 259 features, 123 shorts and 16 VR experiences, including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.

The 1969-set film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, will screen on the opening weekend in the Astor Theatre on 35mm. An elegy to the Golden Age of Hollywood, it also features Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate and Damon Herriman as Charles Manson, as well as Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Damien Lewis and Luke Perry.

Of his first program, which includes 44 films straight from Cannes, MIFF artistic director Al Cossar said: “I am absolutely thrilled to share my first festival with Melbourne in 2019. Rich in its diversity, this program is a true celebration of cinema: promising countless adventures into the kinds of places and people, ideas and experiences that you won’t find at your local multiplex. With titles from 78 countries, MIFF 2019 gives you the world on film; and as one of the world’s largest showcases of Australian filmmaking, it’s a chance for audiences to celebrate our own stories, too.”

Closing the festival will be Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, which stars Awkwafina as Chinese-born, US-raised Billi who returns to Changchun to find that although the whole family knows its beloved matriarch Nai Nai, has been given weeks to live, they’ve decided to keep her in the dark about it. The film won the Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award, and is based on a true story Wang previously told on NPR podcast/radio program This American Life.

As previously announced, Passion Pictures/Good Thing Productions’ The Australian Dream, a documentary about former Sydney Swans captain Adam Goodes from writer Stan Grant and director Daniel Gordon, will open the festival.

The Centrepiece Gala is Abe Forsythe’s zombie dark comedy Little Monsters, starring Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Kat Stewart, Alexander England and Nadia Townsend, while the Family Gala is John Sheedy’s feature debut, H is for Happiness, starring Richard Roxburgh, Emma Booth, Miriam Margolyes, Joel Jackson, Deborah Mailman and newcomers Daisy Axon and Wesley Patten.

Among the Aussie films on the line-up Kairos, the debut feature from actor-turned-director Paul Barakat. The film stars Chris Bunton (Little Monsters), as Danny, a man with Down Syndrome who wants to box as a way to earn respect, confidence and acceptance, and to prove that he’s more than his disability. Ex-fighter and trainer John takes Danny under his wing; however their mentoring relationship takes a beating when a sparring session accidentally turns violent.

Michael Joy’s Smoke Between Trees, which follows a man who is reunited with his estranged grandson, will also bow at the festival. It stars Tireil Mora, Elly Chatfield, Joanne Samuel, Georgia Adamson and Damion Hunter.

Another Aussie indie to premiere is Cerulean Blue, the debut feature from Adrian Ortega, which follows the introverted Alex, who is coping with obsessive compulsive disorder and chasing a memory from the past, as he drives cross-country to Melbourne and reluctantly picks up Lily, a high-spirited hitchhiker running from something with as much determination as Alex is running to something.

Local docos include documentary Morgana, from co-directors Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, the story of Morgana Muses, who in late 40s was an unhappy housewife in Albury, but by 50 had established herself as a feminist pornography icon; and Marcus Cobbledick and Josh Cable’s documentary about the Collingwood Football Club’s 2018 season – Collingwood: From the Inside Out.

Screening at the IMAX will be Australia: The Wild Top End, a visual journey through northern Australia narrated by Indigenous elder Balang T E Lewis and directed by Nick Robinson.

Among the other local films announced yesterday evening are Jennifer Kent’s Venice Film Festival Special Jury prize winner The Nightingale; Imogen Thomas’ Emu Runner, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year; Samuel Van Grinsven’s Sequin in A Blue Room, which won the narrative audience award at Sydney Film Festival and Selina Miles’ Martha: A Picture Story, which won the documentary audience award in Sydney.

Also on the line-up George Gittoes’ documentary White Light, which looks at gun violence in South Side Chicago, Liam Firmager’s doco Suzi Q, about musician Suzi Quatro, and Indigenous horror anthology Dark Place, produced by Majhid Heath, and featuring five shorts from Liam Phillips, Rob Braslin, Bjorn Stewart, Kodie Bedford and Perun Bonser.

There will also be a retrospective screening of Philip Tyndall’s 1989 hybrid documentary Words and Silk: The Imaginary and Real Worlds of Gerald Murnane, a portrait of the Melbourne writer, and restoration screenings of Ray Argall’s Return Home and Bruce Beresford’s Black Robe.

As previously announced, the festival will also showcase seven films from its premiere fund: Jayden Stevens’ A Family; Maziar Lahooti’s Below; Rodd Rathjen’s Buoyancy; H is for Happiness; Paul Ireland’s Measure for Measure; Hylton Shaw and Samantha Dinning’s No Time For Quiet and Serge Ou’s Iron Fists & Kung Fu Kicks.

Also bowing at the festival is Kim Farrant’s Angel of Mine, an adaptation of French film L’Empreinte penned by Lion scribe Luke Davies and starring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Repace, Richard Roxburgh, Yvonne Strahovski and Luke Evans, and there will also be screenings of Sophie Hyde’s Animals, Maya Newell’s In My Blood It Runs, Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones, Mirrah Foulkes’ Judy & Punch, Partho Sen-Gupta’s Slam and Rolf De Heer, Molly Reynolds and Mark Eland’s 3D virtual reality piece The Waiting Room, which will headline the VR program.

International highlights include Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Young Ahmed, which won the Best Director prize in Cannes; Xavier Dolan’s Matthias & Maxime; Ladj Ly’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Les Miserables; Chris Morris’ The Day Shall Come, Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory; Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire; sci-fi Western Bacurau, from Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles; Diao Yi’nan’s The Wild Goose Lake, Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die.

Among this year’s events is a 12-hour overnight Jeff Goldblum marathon, screening at the Astor, including Independence Day, Vibes, The Fly, The Tall Guy and Thor: Ragnarok. 

MIFF runs August 1 – 18.