MIFF 68½: A Digital Film Festival

Thu 6th August, 2020 – Sun 23rd August, 2020
Australia’s longest-running festival has dropped its first-ever streamable program, with an impressive 113 films. Catch world-premieres, blockbuster headliners, festival darlings and thought-provoking docos – online.

For the first time since 1952, the annual Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) won’t be happening in the city’s cinemas. Instead, from August 6 to 23, the entire program of 113 films – including 12 world premieres, 83 Australian premieres and 44 shorts – will stream online.

Australia’s longest-running film festival was shelved in April due the pandemic. But rather than cancel it entirely, organisers opted to move it online.

The majority of MIFF 68½, as this year’s festival has been dubbed, will be accessible on-demand, but some of the headliners will only be available during scheduled screening times.

That includes this year’s opening-night film First Cow, by auteur Kelly Reichardt, which will make its Australian debut. The revisionist American frontier film follows an unlikely business partnership between a skilled cook turned fur trapper and a Chinese immigrant. It hinges on the whims of a prized milk cow.

The festival centrepiece, Wendy, is the long-awaited follow-up to Benh Zeitlin’s critically acclaimed 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s a radical reimagining of the Peter Pan story, told from the perspective of Wendy and set in the American south.

The closing-night film is by Oscar-nominated Chilean director Pablo Larraín. The dance-drama, Ema, is about a couple in freefall after their son is removed by social services, set in Valparaíso’s vibrant reggaeton-fuelled dance scene.

Other highlights include Boys State, a documentary that won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2020, about teenage boys playing politics at a leadership convention in Austin, Texas; and Coded Bias, another pertinent documentary, about the unseen algorithms that govern our lives online, and how these algorithms are shaped by systemic racism and other troubling biases.

For something more lighthearted there’s Australian rom-com Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – “a joyful, joyous, charming” film about coming of age and coming out.

The films on this year’s program come from 56 countries, and 49 per cent have at least one female director attached. But if you really want to dig deeper (and take advantage of the festival’s new binge-friendly format) there’s Women Make Film – a five part, 14-hour-long series that re-evaluates 130 years of cinema through the stories of 183 female filmmakers.

Find the full program and more information here. Tickets go on sale July 17 at 9am.