First Glance films announced for MIFF including Angel of Mine and H is for Happiness

Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has today revealed the first suite of films that will shape its 2019 program. This year’s festival will open with the world premiere of the much-anticipated documentary The Australian Dream — written by Walkley award-winning Australian journalist Stan Grant. Grant’s moving work is a powerful exploration of race, identity and belonging as told from the perspective of champion AFL footballer and Indigenous rights activist, Adam Goodes.

In 2013, Goodes — a dual Brownlow Medalist and two-time premiership champion — demanded that a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter who’d called him an “ape” be removed from the ground, unwittingly prompting a ferocious national conversation about racism from which neither the AFL, nor Goodes, ever fully recovered.

“We’re thrilled that The Australian Dream will have its World Premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival and to share this first look with Australians,” said Grant. “This is the story of Adam Goodes and a moment when Australia faced the worst in itself. But it is more than that — it is the story of a country and its history. A story of pain but, above all, hope.”

Directed by BAFTA-winning documentarian Daniel Gordon and written by Grant (a Wiradjiri man whose 2015 viral speech in the wake of the Goodes affair has been dubbed “Australia’s Martin Luther King moment”), The Australian Dream is Goodes’ story. The film charts the former footballer’s life from his pre-draft days through to his post-AFL career as an outspoken Indigenous rights activist, but its triumph lies in its potency as a searing document that exposes the nation’s uneasy relationship with First Nations people while celebrating the greatness of a true Australian champion.

A co-production between Academy Award-winning Passion Pictures (Searching for Sugar Man) and Melbourne-based Good Thing Productions, the film examines the best and worst of Australia by thoughtfully positioning archival footage alongside illuminating interviews with the likes of Grant; politicians Nova Peris and Linda Burney; Indigenous AFL players Michael O’Loughlin, Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam; commentators Eddie McGuire and Andrew Bolt; and of course, Goodes himself.

“The Australian Dream is a compelling kickstart both to our festival this year, and to a national conversation,” said Al Cossar, the festival’s new artistic director. “It’s an accomplished piece of documentary filmmaking
that tackles broader questions of who we are as a nation, together, in deeply affecting terms. It’s a film for all Australians, and a film for now. We can’t wait to share it with MIFF audiences.”

This year, MIFF will make a triumphant return to the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre, with Sydney-based director Abe Forsythe’s (Down Under, MIFF ‘16) sweetly hilarious “zom-com” Little Monsters making its Australian debut at the festival’s Centerpiece Gala.

Featuring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as a ukulele-playing, zombie-slaying kindergarten teacher, alongside Josh Gad (Frozen), Kat Stewart (Offspring), Alexander England (Alien: Covenant) and Nadia Townsend
(Mad Max: Fury Road), Little Monsters is a funny, gory, crowd-pleasing love letter to all the kindergarten teachers who help children to bloom while protecting them from being eaten by zombies.

Displaying Forsythe’s signature blend of black comedy and poignant heart, Little Monsters wowed midnight audiences and critics alike at its Sundance world premiere, with Collider describing it as, “a delightfully crude, wild ride with a standout performance that continues to prove Nyong’o can do no wrong.”

Featuring Miriam Margolyes, Emma Booth, Richard Roxburgh, Deborah Mailman and Joel Jackson alongside show-stealing performances from newcomers Daisy Axon and Wesley Patten, H is for Happiness is
a delightful adaptation of Australian author Barry Jonsberg’s acclaimed young adult novel, My Life as an Alphabet.

Ahead of the full program announcement on Tuesday 9 July, a selection of the most anticipated local films includes:

Angel of Mine

Noomi Rapace, Luke Evans, Yvonne Strahovski and Richard Roxburgh star in the Melbourne shot and set second feature from Strangerland’s Kim Farrant, as scripted by Oscar-nominated Lion screenwriter Luke Davies.
Seven years after the death of her daughter, Lizzie locks eyes on a sight she thought she’d never see again: a girl, Lola, who is the spitting image of her own lost child. As she battles for custody of her surviving son, Lizzie’s obsession with Lola only grows — befriending the young girl’s mother, following her everywhere and forcing long-held secrets out into the open.
After commanding turns in psychological thrillers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Passion (MIFF 2013), Rapace makes a spectacular return to the genre in a multi-faceted role, opposite impressive performances from Evans (High-Rise, MIFF 2016), Strahovski (Matching Jack, MIFF 2010) and Roxburgh (H is for Happiness, MIFF 2019). Adapted from the 2008 French movie L’Empreinte, Farrant’s complex and compelling sophomore film once again examines the themes of motherhood and grief that resonated so strongly in Strangerland.

H is for Happiness

Miriam Margolyes, Emma Booth, Richard Roxburgh, Deborah Mailman and Joel Jackson star in this delightful adaptation of the award-winning YA novel My Life as an Alphabet.
Led by newcomers Daisy Axon and Wesley Patten, H is for Happiness is the story of Candice Phee, a relentlessly optimistic and hilariously forthright girl on the cusp of her 13th birthday. Candice’s family is in disarray: her mum has been living with depression since the death of Candice’s baby sister, while her dad and his brother — Candice’s beloved Rich Uncle Brian — are not on speaking terms. As she faces the uncertainties of impending adolescence with the help of her new friend Douglas Benson, Candice hatches a variety of outlandish schemes to make her nearest and dearest happy again.
John Sheedy, director of the MIFF 2017 Best Australian Short Film Mrs McCutcheon, makes his feature debut with this sunny and buoyant coming-of-age tale. Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund and adapted from Barry Jonsberg’s acclaimed young adult novel, it’s a warm-hearted hug of a film, unafraid to tackle serious themes while remaining laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly uplifting. Gorgeously shot by Bonnie Elliot (Undertow, MIFF 2018) and produced by Julie Ryan (Red Dog, MIFF 2011), Tenille Kennedy (Bad Girl, MIFF 2016) and Lisa Hoppe — who also wrote the screenplay — H is for Happiness is a charming film for the whole family.

Little Monsters

Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo’o shines bright as a ukulele-playing, zombie-slaying kindergarten teacher in Abe Forsythe’s sweetly hilarious zom-com Little Monsters.Nyong’o is Miss Caroline, who’s off on a day trip to Pleasant Valley Farm with her class of overly excitable five-year-olds. Accompanying them is slacker musician Dave (whose nephew Felix is one of Miss Caroline’s charges), although his reasons for tagging along are less than wholesome. But the amorous attentions of immature uncles are the least of Miss Caroline’s problems when a beloved children’s entertainer proves to be a vile, foul-mouthed drunk and the US military base next door accidentally unleashes a horde of the undead.
Abe Forsythe returns to MIFF with his follow-up to Down Under, our 2016 Centrepiece Gala film. Displaying the same wicked mix of black comedy and poignant heart, Little Monsters wowed midnight audiences at its Sundance world premiere. Alexander England (Down Under’s Shit-Stick) convincingly embodies Dave’s growth from manchild to worthy man in the face of impending apocalypse, while Josh Gadd (Frozen’s Olaf ) is hilariously reprehensible as the children’s TV personality you’d never let anywhere near your kids. Also featuring Kat Stewart and Nadia Townsend, Little Monsters is a funny, gory, crowd-pleasing love letter to all the kindy teachers who help children (and manchildren) bloom while protecting them from being eaten by zombies.

Animals

Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger give a beautiful authenticity to Australian director Sophie Hyde’s adaptation of the acclaimed novel that Caitlin Moran described as ‘Withnail & I for girls’.
Grainger and MIFF 2018 guest Shawkat (Blaze, Duck Butter) star as best friends Laura and Tyler. They’re either side of thirty, and have spent the better part of the last decade indulging their every hedonistic whim, arm-in-arm, to an almost co-dependent level. But their bond begins to crack under the weight of looming adulthood when Laura meets and falls for teetotal pianist Jim.
Following her award-winning films Life in Movement (MIFF 2011) and 52 Tuesdays, Adelaide’s Sophie Hyde returns with a nuanced, honest and non-judgemental look at contemporary female friendship.
Scripted by Emma Jane Unsworth, who also wrote the 2014 novel of the same name, Animals upends expectations and doesn’t pull its punches. Set (and gorgeously shot) in Dublin, it’s a visceral, bittersweet and charming examination of modern love, wherever it’s found.

In My Blood it Runs

Four years after Gayby Baby (MIFF 2015), Maya Newell crafts another powerful, essential portrait of Australian youth, putting the plight of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous children in the spotlight.
“I was born a little Aboriginal kid,” explains Dujuan. “That means I had a memory — a memory about being Aboriginal.” Never more excited than when he’s talking about his heritage and homeland, the precocious ten-year-old has a strong connection to his culture, speaks three languages and works as a healer. But he also struggles with school, acts out in class, and attracts attention from the police and the welfare system.
Intimate and impassioned, In My Blood It Runs follows Dujuan’s attempts to reconcile the traditions he holds dear with the colonised world he’s forced to inhabit. A personal documentary told with a perceptive eye, poetic imagery and made in collaboration with Dujuan and his family, it’s also an account of the NT’s harsh treatment of Indigenous youths, a situation that’s never far from the boy’s mind.

Judy & Punch

Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman star in this delightfully offbeat feminist update of Punch and Judy from Mirrah Foulkes, making the leap from award- winning shorts to critically acclaimed feature filmmaking.
Judy and her husband Punch are travelling puppeteers who return home to the landlocked town of Seaside when their daughter is born. Seaside is far less sunny and pleasant than its name implies, its residents deeply superstitious and misogynistic types who enjoy a regular spot of witch hunting and public stoning. The outwardly charming Punch — who lives up to his name, especially after a slog on the grog — fits right in, but if Judy’s going to survive in Seaside, she’ll need to take a different approach.
Returning to MIFF after winning our 2016 Best Australian Short Film award for Trespass, Mirrah Foulkes has upped the ante with her feature debut. This live-action #metoo era reinterpretation of the 16th-century puppet show is a blackly comic and deliciously fiendish contemporary fairytale. Produced by Mr Inbetween’s (MIFF 2018) Michele Bennett and Nash Edgerton, Judy and Punch is a wild mix of fantasy, feminism and fanaticism that has cult favourite written all over it.

You can see a full list of First Glance Titles here. The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from August 1-18, 2019

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