MIFF unveils full 2021 line-up

Ben Lawrence's 'Ithaka'.

Jen Peedom’s River and Ben Lawrence’s Ithaka add to the already strong contingent of local films bound for August’s Melbourne International Film Festival, which unveiled its full program today.

MIFF 2021 will include a hefty 283 titles, including 199 features, 84 shorts and 10 XR experiences. Among them are 40 world premieres; the most in the festival’s 69 year history.

Some 62 of those films will be available nationally via MIFF Play, the festival’s online screening platform, with the festival reimagined this year as a hybrid event.

“This year, MIFF continues to evolve — to meet the moment, and to meet audiences where they are,” said artistic director Al Cossar.

“What will not change is the extraordinary lineup of cinematic adventures, from home and afar, waiting for them. These are anticipated festival blockbusters, experimentations, breakthrough discoveries, and a huge lineup of incredible Australian talent. We will again share a world of cinema, reignited, to welcome Melburnians back to places far beyond the familiarities of the last year.”

Announced today as the Centrepiece Gala is Questlove’s Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), winner of Sundance’s US Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. The concert doco chronicles the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 and its celebration of Black history, culture, music and fashion, using previously unseen footage.

Closing the fest is Natalie Morales’ Zoom-shot Mark Duplass starrer Language Lessons, about a man and a woman who forge a connection via online Spanish lessons, coming to MIFF from screenings at Berlin and SXSW.

As IF has reported, the festival will open with the Australian premiere of Leah Purcell’s highly-anticipated The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson.

MIFF will also boast the local premiere of another high profile Aussie film in Justin Kurzel’s Nitram, which bows in competition in at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

Both directors, as well as Nitram scribe Shaun Grant, will appear in conversation for MIFF Talks, held in partnership with the University of Melbourne.


Other local titles added the line-up today include Peedom’s documentary River, her next project with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and writer Robert Macfarlane – a follow-up and companion to Mountain, and Lawrence’s Ithaka, which follows Julian Assange’s elderly father as he fights to free his son.

Making its local debut will be James Vaughan’s satire Friends & Strangers, which premiered earlier this year at Rotterdam, while also due for a Melbourne berth is Fist of Fury Noongar Daa, Kylie Bracknell’s Indigenous twist on a Bruce Lee martial arts classic.

Eddie Martin documentary The Kids, which recently snared an editing award at Tribeca, will also join the MIFF program, as does Matthew Walker’s I’m Wanita, which recently screened in Hotdocs, Kyle Davis’ Dry Winter, which bowed at Visions du Reel, and Granaz Moussavi’s drama When Pomegranates Howl.

‘Friends and Strangers’.

International headliners will include a number of titles direct from Cannes, including opener Annette, from director Leos Carax and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard; Year of the Everlasting Storm, seven directors’ response to the pandemic; Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tilda Swinton-starrer Memoria; Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island, starring Aussie Mia Wasikowska; and Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors.

From Tribeca, there is Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded No Sudden Move; from Sundance, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary winner Flee, and from Venice, Silver Lion winner New Order, from director Michel Franco.

Previously announced local narrative titles include Jonathan Ogilvie’s Lone Wolf, Aaron Wilson’s Little Tornadoes, and Tyson Wade Johnson’s Streamline.

The local doco line-up also entails Christopher Amos’ Hating Peter Tatchell; Tiriki Onus’ Ablaze; Adrian Francis’ Paper City; Rhian Skirving and John Harvey’s Off Country; Anna Broinowski’s Uluru and the Magician, Danny Cohen’s Anonymous Club, and Trevor Graham’s Chef Antonio’s Recipes for Revolution. Added to this are Emma Macey-Storch’s Geeta; Madeleine Martinello’s Palazzo Di Cozzo, Larissa Behrendt’s Araatika: Rise Up! and Philippa Bateman’s Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow.

The world premiere of Jonathan Alley’s MIFF Premiere Fund-supported feature documentary Love In Bright Landscapes will see audiences treated to a special live concert, featuring the songs of David McComb and The Triffids. This will feature from members of the The Triffids, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Blackeyed Susans, Magic Dirt, RVG, Frente and Youth Group.

There will also be an number of Aussie retrospectives, including restored screenings of Rachel Perkins’ Radiance and Margot Nash’s Vacant Possession.

MIFF this year will once again stage a live table read, this year taking on Shirley Barrett’s Love Serenade, directed by Corrie Chen, to mark the 25th anniversary of the film’s Camera d’Or win at Cannes.

Other special events will include a screening of Morgan Neville’s Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain over a five-course menu crafted by Supernormal head chef Ben Pollard.

The Witching Hour will be a special folk horror double feature, including the Aussie-born Don Sharp’s 1973 film Psychomania and Ken Russell’s 1988 The Lair of the White Worm, starring Hugh Grant, Peter Capaldi and Amanda Donohoe.

In addition to in person programming, this year MIFF will include XR experiences online, globally for free. This will include Michael Beets’ Artefact, which takes audiences through the Melbourne’s Campbell Arcade, to explore the stories unearthed from archaeological digs connected to Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel project.

MIFF’s in cinema experiences will run for 11 days from August 5 – 15, while the online edition runs August 14 – 22. Tickets here.