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Celebrating its 69th edition, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has revealed its 2021 program, with an astonishing lineup of 283 international and Australian films and transformative screen experiences. Presenting 199 feature films, 84 shorts and 10 XR experiences, the program includes 40 world premieres — the most in the festival’s history — and 154 Australian premieres, with 62 films available on MIFF Play — the festival’s online screening platform.
Australian films are at the heart of this year’s program, with a record 11 Premiere Fund films already announced including Ablaze, Chef Antonio’s Recipes for Revolution, Hating Peter Tatchell, Little Tornadoes, Lone Wolf, Off Country, Paper City, and Uluru & The Magician, and a plethora of further homegrown films and filmmakers throughout the program.
Bruce Lee’s martial-arts classic gets an Indigenous twist in Fist of Fury Noongar Daa the first feature film ever to be fully dubbed in an Aboriginal Australian language. Noongar multidisciplinary creative Kylie Bracknell (Little J and Big Cuz) teams up with Perth Festival’s Noongar Advisory Circle in giving a local voice to a compelling critique of injustice and colonial brutality with this audaciously entertaining reimagining of a cult classic.
The impressive feature debut of James Vaughan (You Like It, I Love It, MIFF 2013), Friends & Strangers puts the drift of twentysomething life under the lens, following Ray, a self-absorbed Sydney videographer, who loses control of the situation whilst filming a fancy wedding at a waterside McMansion. This Aussie slacker satire about the mishaps of young middle-class urbanites is hilariously offbeat and the first ever Australian title selected for IFFR’s Tiger Competition.
Jennifer Peedom follows her 2017 MIFF hit Mountain with a stunning new cine-sonic journey along the world’s waterways in the rousing and propulsive River, narrated by Willem Dafoe. A deep dive into our planet’s arteries, Peedom and co-director Joseph Nizeti’s vital film is a breathtaking visual and musical odyssey including original compositions, and vocals by award-winning Kalkadunga musician William Barton.
The campaign to free Julian Assange takes on intimate dimensions in a portrait of the WikiLeaks founder’s elderly father’s fight to save his son with Ithaka – a piercing documentary by director Ben Lawrence (Hearts and Bones, MIFF 2019; Ghosthunter, MIFF 2018) which paints a portrait of a tireless advocate and a prickly and fascinating figure in his own right.
Based on the experiences of the legendary Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe, Streamline follows a teenager fighting to stay afloat in the world of competitive swimming. The feature debut of Tyson Wade Johnstone shines a light on teenage masculinity and includes stunning performances from Jake Ryan (Underbelly, Savage) and the inimitable Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), and was executive produced by Thorpe himself.
Award-winning filmmaker Eddie Martin (Have You Seen the Listers?, MIFF Premiere Fund 2018) also explores adolescent pressures, as he revisits the cultural landscape of Larry Clark’s iconic 90s film, Kids, Drawing on archival footage and interviews to reveal just what happened to the teens in Clark’s film. Martin’s Tribeca-premiering fifth documentary The Kids probes a fine line between celebration and exploitation, publicity and pressure, whilst examining a vanished cultural moment.
Dry Winter is a hypnotic portrait of a young couple surviving life in an off-the-beaten-track, opportunity-starved outback town.
Jake and Kelly, both in their early 20s, are doing odd jobs to get by in their remote country town. Days feel like they’re on a loop – the pair see their friends, party, race cars, ride bikes and take care of their dogs. But drought has made life tough in town, and Jake and Kelly must each decide what to do next and whether they must move on.
Premiering at the prestigious Visions du Réel festival earlier this year, debutant director Kyle Davis’ compelling drama – which was made with a crew of other Flinders University graduates – is a languid exploration of a transitional stage of life. Shot on South Australia’s breathtaking Eyre Peninsula, it’s rich with site-specific, sensory detail that recalls the work of fellow Australian filmmakers Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Alena Lodkina. Featuring a cast of non-actors, Dry Winter uses an observational style to capture the hazy slowness of time when what lies ahead seems unclear – and its pinprick sharpness when the clarity finally comes.
The 2021 festival will span Melbourne city, suburbs, regional Victoria, and the nation online, immersing audiences in world-class cinema once again. Two overlapping programs will encompass 18 action-packed days, with in cinema experiences running for 11 days from August 5– 15 and MIFF Play expanding into homes Australia-wide for 9 days from August 14 – 22.
You can find the full program, including a list of Australian documentaries, here.