‘The Merger’.

Director Mark Grentell’s AFL comedy The Merger will form the Centrepiece Gala of this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

Based on comedian Damian Callinan’s stage show of the same name, The Merger is the tale of a struggling small town footy team that recruits recently settled refugees to survive. Starring alongside Callinan are John Howard, Josh McConville, Fayssal Bazzi and Kate Mulvany.

MIFF unveiled its full program line-up today, featuring over 250 feature films, 120 shorts and 19 virtual reality experiences, hailing from some 80 different countries.

This year’s fest marks the last for artistic director Michelle Carey, who has been in the role for eight years. As announced last week, she will be succeeded by Al Cossar.

Carey said: “I feel so honoured to go out with a bang on such an incredibly strong program. MIFF 2018 promises thrills, laughs and surprises, across galas, features, retrospectives, documentaries, shorts, live performances and VR. We have assembled the festival’s largest program yet and I can’t wait to unleash it onto Melbourne’s cine-savvy audiences.”

As previously announced, Paul Dano’s coming-of-age tale Wildlife, which stars Aussie Ed Oxenbould (Paper Planes) alongside Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal will open the festival, while the MIFF Premiere Fund-supported The Coming Back Out Ball Movie is the closing night film. Directed by Sue Thomson, the local ob-doc follows a group of older LGBTI+ people who have been invited to attend a ball celebrating their gender and sexual identity.

Among the other local highlights announced today is the world premiere of Ben Hackworth’s Queensland-shot Celeste, a psychological drama starring Radha Mitchell, Thomas Cocquerel, Nadine Garner and Odessa Young.

MIFF Accelerator Lab alumnus Ted Wilson’s Under the Cover of Cloud – “a feel-good film of family, cricket and one man’s hunt for David Boon” – will also make its world premiere, as will Heath Davis’ dark comedy Book Week, which stars Alan Dukes, Rose Riley and Rhys Muldoon.

Other other features joining the line-up include Stephen McCallum’s 1%, Alena Lodkina’s Strange Colours and Benjamin Gilmour’s Jirga. The Northern Territory’s Karrabing Film Collective will also present three films: In The Jealous One, The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland and Night Time Go.

Mark Joffe’s anticipated doco Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy is also set to screen ahead of its release via Universal Pictures on August 23. Happy Sad Man directed by Genevieve Bailey (I Am Eleven), which follows the lives of men living with mental illness, will also make its world premiere, as well Tobias Willis’ ode to Melbourne’s indie music scene Now Sound: Melbourne’s Listening. 

Among the other local docs are Gabrielle Brady’s Island of the Hungry Ghosts, which won Best Documentary Feature at Tribeca; Sydney Film Festival documentary prize winner Ghosthunter, from Ben Lawrence; Dylan River’s Finke: There and Back, Richard Todd’s Dying to Live; and Catherine Scott’s Backtrack Boys.

Restorations of Alex Proyas’ 1989 debut feature Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds and Digby Duncan’s 1980 documentary Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters, which captures the violence of the Mardi Gras’ first historic night, will also screen.

Previously announced Australian titles include the MIFF Premiere Fund films Undertow, Undermined: Tales of the KimberleyThe Eulogy and Acute Misfortune, in addition to Wayne, West of Sunshine, I Used to be Normal: A Boyband FangirlStory, a restoration of the McDonagh sisters silent-era film The Cheaters and the Aussie premiere of series Mr Inbetween. 

Among the local VR works is Dominic Allen’s Carriberrie, which will be shown at Melbourne’s Planetarium; Tyson Morwarin’s Thalu: Dreamtime is Now, which will take viewers on an interactive journey into the modern Dreamtime stories of the western Pilbara-based Ngarluma, and Stuart ‘Sutu’ Campbell’s Mind at War, which explores PTSD and memory as it tells the story of a reluctant US soldier.

Coming to the festival from Cannes is Melbourne director Charles Williams’ Palme d’Or winning short film All These Creatures, and the Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters. Also on the line-up from the festival are films such as Climax, Cold War, Happy as Lazzaro, Dogman, Capharnaüm, 3 Faces, Everybody Knows, Burning, and Leave No Trace. 

Other international highlights include The Miseducation of Cameron PostDark River, Rafiki, Women at War, The Fugue, The Seen and UnseenYou Were Never Really HereBodied, An Elephant Sitting Still, The Guilty, First Reformed, Blaze, and The Insult.

Carey has specifically programmed a strand Fashion x Cinema, which will include Ian Bonhôte’s McQueen; Yellow is Forbidden, from veteran documentarian Pietra Brettkelly; and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, as well as retrospective titles Funny Face, the film that saw Audrey Hepburn join forces with Givenchy; Berry Gordy’s Mahogany, Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Other strands will include Sports Docs, Music on Film, History Uncovered, Experimentations and Night Shift.

There will also be a series of retrospectives such as Africa Rediscovered, which looks at eight classic films from the continent, including 1975 Palme d’Or winner Chronicle of the Years of Embers and Italo-Crime, which will focus on Italian crime thrillers from the ’60s and ’70s. There will also be retrospectives of the work of Ann Charlotte Robinson and husband and wife filmmaking team Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani.

Among the special events is a marathon of Nicolas Cage films at the Astor, and Hear My Eyes, a live soundtrack event scored to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.

MIFF runs August 2-19.


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  1. Had the chance to watch Happy Sad Man last night. So far, the biggest disappointment of the MIFF. An indulgent movie that talks about the same mental health issues everybody is talking about, instead of opening a dialogue on the ones that “is not pretty” to talk about. It is easy to watch, though, and the men in front of the camera are absolute legends. But what I witnessed was the waste of a great opportunity to go deeper into a very necessary conversation. It is sad when artists choose to please the audience instead of getting their hands dirty and make a difference.

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