Lights, camera, action – Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) returns in August to celebrate film, the industry, audiences and cinema as a whole. For its 71st year, the festival promises more of what we’ve come to expect (and look forward to): the best of cinema from around the world, highly engaging documentaries and festival circuit favourites.
Last month, the first two films of the 2023 program were announced: opening night feature Shayda, a Sundance Audience Award-winning family drama about an Iranian mother and daughter who seek solace in an Australian women’s shelter; and Music on Film Gala feature Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story, a documentary about the Mushroom Records founder with commentary from Kylie Minogue, Dave Grohl, Sting, Jimmy Barnes, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and more.
Now MIFF has pulled the curtain back a bit more, with the announcement of 20 more films from the line-up. The full program will be released in July.
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The MIFF Premiere Fund supports the production of new Australian narrative and documentary films. Along with Shayda, MIFF-funded films this year include Mark Leonard Winter’s The Rooster, starring Hugo Weaving and Phoenix Raei and set in regional Victoria; This Is Going To Be Big, which follows students and staff at a specialist school in the Macedon Ranges preparing for their John Farnham-themed musical; documentary filmmaker Jeni Thornley’s latest, Memory Film: A Filmmaker’s Diary, tackling gender fluidity, radical feminism, Aboriginal land rights, sexual politics and colonisation; and sports doco The Slam, tracing the Australian Open’s inception in Kooyong in the ’70s through to the tense finals we’ve come to know today.
As ever, international films will take centre stage. Korean-Canadian filmmaker Celine Song’s directorial debut Past Lives, about the reunion of two childhood friends, premiered in competition at the Berlinale and has been compared to Richard Linklater’s seminal Before trilogy.
Director Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films in his home country of Iran; his docudrama No Bears won the Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize.
Drawing from the French New Wave, Passages stars Ben Whishaw, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Franz Rogowski in a love triangle set against the indie film scene of Paris. And another Ben Whishaw vehicle, Bad Behaviour, also stars Jennifer Connelly in Australian actor-turned-director Alice Englert’s directorial debut.
There’s also rousing climate-justice youth drama How To Blow Up a Pipeline; Blackberry, a satire of the tech industry; slow-burn heartwarmer The Adults, starring Michael Cera; Exodus, the third and long-awaited final chapter of Lars von Trier’s absurdist supernatural series The Kingdom; and Medusa Deluxe, a murder mystery set in the chaotic world of competitive hairdressing.
This year’s Music on Film program includes Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis), a doco on the photo-design powerhouse that’s made album art for some of the world’s best musicians – Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Noel Gallagher are just some of the artists who chat to the camera. And SXSW Audience Award winner Louder Than You Think puts the spotlight on under-the-radar drummer Gary Young of indie rock band Pavement.
The documentary line-up is strong too – little-known ’70s sex educator and feminist Shere Hite, whose work focused on female pleasure, is brought back to the public consciousness in The Disappearance of Shere Hite, while Tatiana Huezo’s narrative-inspired nonfiction film The Echo (winner of best documentary at this year’s Berlinale) offers a tender look at the children of an isolated Mexican village. And Danish filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen had a near-fatal heart attack due to stress while making A Storm Foretold – an understandably difficult production, it follows Donald Trump adviser and convicted felon Roger Stone.
And while Hungarian drama Werckmeister Harmonies isn’t a new film by any means, the new 4K restoration of this black-and-white metaphysical horror film by Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky will let you see it in a different light.
Melbourne International Film Festival runs from August 3–20, 2023. The full program will be released on July 11.