‘The Rooster’, ‘The Slam’ among early MIFF line-up

'The Rooster'.

Having already announced Shayda and Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story as gala films last month, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) unveiled a further 20 titles for its August line-up this morning.

Among them are a number of local films supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, including The Rooster, the directorial feature debut from actor Mark Leonard Winter, starring Hugo Weaving and Phoenix Raei; Thomas Charles Hyland’s documentary This Is Going to Be Big (formerly After School); Jeni Thornley’s dialogue-free “cine-poem” Memory Film: A Filmmaker’s Diary; and Ili’s Bare’s documentary deep dive into the Australian Open, The Slam (formerly Australia’s Open).

Also announced for MIFF today ahead of the full program release on July 11 is Australian/NZ actor-turned-director Alice Englert’s debut, Bad Behaviour, as well as highly-anticipated foreign titles such as Celine Song’s Past Lives, Daniel Goldhaber’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Ira Sach’s Passages, Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom Exodus, and 2022 Venice Special Jury Prize winner, No Bears, from Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

They are joined in the program by Laura Citarella’s Trenque Lauquen; Dustin Guy Defa’s The Adults, starring Michael Cera; Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry; and Thomas Hardiman’s Medusa Deluxe.

Screening with Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story in MIFF’s regular Music on Film strand are Anton Corbijn’s Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) and SXSW Audience Award winner Louder Than You Think, the feature debut of director Jed I Rosenberg.

The festival will also feature a 4K restoration of Bela Tar and Agnes Hranitzky’s 2000 slow-cinema drama Werckmeister Harmonies, which contains only 39 black and white shots over 145 minutes.

Alongside the in-cinema program, MIFF will continue to present a selection of films online this year nationally via platform MIFF Play, and will conduct a regional showcase through Victoria in Bendigo, Bright, Castlemaine, Geelong, Mildura, Rosebud and Warrnambool.

Speaking about the early line-up, MIFF artistic director Al Cossar promised the 71st edition of the festival would bring “essential, incredible, unexpected” cinema from across the world.

“The release of our First Glance titles means it’s time again to get set for an August invitation back to the world of MIFF this year – a cinematic, kaleidoscopic adventuring through hundreds of filmmakers and artists you can carve your own path through; an invitation to find yourself at the movies once more.”

‘This Is Going to Be Big’.

Winter’s The Rooster is set in Victoria and sees Weaving and Raei star as a hermit and cop, respectively, who come to share an an unlikely connection amid crisis. The cast also includes Rhys Mitchell, John Waters, Robert Menzies and Deidre Rubenstein. Geraldine Hakewill and MahVeen Shahraki produced the film for Thousand Mile Productions. 

A John Farnham-themed time travelling musical is the at the centre of This Is Going to Be Big, the feature directorial debut of Hyland. It follows the students, families and staff of Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School as they prepare to showcase the musical, taking the teenagers’ perspective and documenting their experiences of autism, clinical anxiety and acquired brain injury. Catherine Bradbury produced, with EPs Jim Wright and Fremantle’s Josie Mason Campbell.

Thornley’s Memory Film: A Filmmaker’s Diary draws from her Super-8 archive, and includes footage from her earlier works Maidens, the collaborative feature For Love or Money, To the Other Shore and Island Home Country, contemplating gender fluidity, sexual politics, the pleasure and pain of motherhood, and the desire for a world free of war and colonisation. Tom Zubrycki produced the film with Thornley, with executive producer Sue Maslin.

The Slam draws a picture of the Australian Open from its humble grass court beginnings in 1970s Kooyong to becoming the country’s highest-profile sporting event. Produced by GoodThing Productions’ Charlotte Wheaton and Nick Batzias, it includes interviews with players such as Pat Cash, Frances Tiafoe, Rennae Stubbs and Liam Broady.

As previously announced, Noora Niasari’s Melbourne-set Shayda, which won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance, will open the festival on August 3.

MIFF runs in-cinema August 3-20, with MIFF Regional running August 11-13 and 18-20 August. MIFF Play is available Australia-wide August 18-27. The full program will be announced July 11, with a members pre-sale July 11-13 before tickets are released to the general public July 14.