13 Australian films featured in MIFF’s first glance titles

Of an Age

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In its platinum anniversary year, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) will celebrate in style, returning to cinemas from 4-21 August with an expansive program of acclaimed international cinema, local World Premieres and a ready-made Australian classic set to debut at the Opening Night Gala.

Founded in 1952, MIFF is one of the world’s longest running film festivals and is an enduring icon of the Southern Hemisphere’s cultural calendar. Returning to metro, regional and suburban cinemas, and at-home streaming, the festival’s 70th edition features the launch of MIFF’s much-anticipated Film Competition program and showcases a series of special events, talks, performances, commissioned works and screenings – all of which will highlight and honour this important milestone through the lens of Melbourne’s own history on the silver screen.

MIFF’s 70th festival will commence with the World Premiere of the MIFF Premiere Fund-supported Of an Age, a tender coming-of-age feature about youth and love from rising Australian filmmaker, and MIFF Accelerator Lab alumnus, Goran Stolevski (Would You Look at Her, MIFF 2018; You Deserve Everything, MIFF 2016) who was named one of Variety’s ‘10 Directors to Watch’ for 2022.

Set and shot in Melbourne, Of an Age depicts the brief, but lingering, romance between two young men – Elias Anton (Barracuda) and Thom Green (Dance Academy) – over the course of one sweltering summer’s day in 1999. Distinctly Australian, funny and heartfelt, the film captures the hinterland of outer suburbia and the crossroads of desire and big dreams in teenage years – not to mention lip-biting moments of attraction and anticipation that, especially with Anton’s and Green’s unforgettable portrayals, will leave audiences pining.

Goran Stolevski is having an extraordinary 2022, emerging as a major voice within world cinema from right here in Melbourne,” said MIFF Artistic Director Al Cossar.  “Of an Age will make audiences swoon, yes – but it will also make them sit up and take notice. We’re so thrilled that MIFF’s return to cinemas will be marked with this incredible, moving, Melbourne story of love and longing.”

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Stolevski voiced his excitement for having his Melbourne made film opening this year’s festival: “Watching movies at MIFF has been a holy winter ritual since I was literally a child. It’s what kept me going, in fact, for two decades, through many tricky periods as a writer-director. To have my film premiere – on Opening Night, no less – is the thrill of a lifetime.”

After 18-days of world-class cinema, MIFF’s Closing Night Gala will feature the Australian premiere of Clean – the inspirational story of how ‘trauma cleaner’ Sandra Pankhurst responded to an unseen world with radical kindness.

Premiering to acclaim at this year’s SXSW, Lachlan McLeod’s riveting feature documentary celebrates the compassion and resilience of its endearingly plain-spoken subject. Throughout, Pankhurst’s personal story – one of abuse, neglect, abandonment but ultimately survival – anchors the film. Undergoing a gender transition in the 1980s, Pankhurst has lived many lives: survivor of childhood abuse, suburban parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, business owner, and motivational speaker. Generous and formidable since day one, hers was a life to be reckoned with. When asked how she’d like to be remembered, she simply replied: “As a kind human being; nothing more, nothing less” – in Clean, she shows the true value of exactly that.

From 4-21 August, MIFF returns with a full cinema season for the first time since 2019; across an expanded footprint, the Festival will host screenings in Melbourne’s CBD and suburban sites, as well as through regional Victoria. Beyond cinemas, MIFF Play, the festival’s online streaming platform, will also return with a selection of films from the 2022 program available nationally from 11-28 August.

With two unique Australian films book-ending the festival, which also features a bumper Premiere Fund slate, MIFF’s 70th program is brimming with acclaimed international festival releases, discoverable gems, enlightening documentaries and award-winning films. Ahead of the full program announcement on Tuesday 12 July, a snapshot of this year’s eagerly-awaited program has been revealed.

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Premiere Fund Films

The MIFF Opening Night World Premiere of Goran Stolevski’s Of an Age, is one of ten MIFF Premiere Fund-supported films debuting at this year’s festival. Continuing the Premiere Fund’s focus on “stories that need telling,” key themes in this year’s slate include environmentalism and sustainability, the housing crisis, diversity, inclusion, coming-of-age, and the desire for human connection, as well as CALD, LGBITQ+ and First Nations issues. Some 50% of this year’s slate have female directors, a third of the films significantly feature languages other than English, and 40% are directed by MIFF Accelerator Lab alumni.

In Greenhouse by Joost, zero-waste pioneer Joost Bakker, with the help of esteemed chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, embarks on a journey to devise, design and develop a self-sufficient, eco-friendly residence like no other. Prolific television documentary maker Bruce Permezel makes his big-screen debut, alongside co-director Rhian Skirving (Off Country, MIFF Premiere Fund 2021; Rock n Roll Nerd, MIFF Premiere Fund 2008), as he follows Joost’s Future Food System’s journey from conception to exhilarating completion at Melbourne’s Federation Square (where it still stands).

A young Tasmanian activist follows in the literal footsteps of his late father who in the 1980s fought to save the pristine Franklin River wilderness in feature documentary Franklin. Featuring former Greens leader Bob Brown, historian Aunty Patsy Cameron, entrepreneur Dick Smith, and narrated by Hugo Weaving, Franklin is a rousing political and personal story of resistance, legacy and the power of the people from Accelerator Lab alumnus Kasimir Burgess (The Leunig Fragments, MIFF 2019; Fell, MIFF 2014).

As Australia’s egalitarian dream fades and its housing crisis deepens, the Margot Robbie-narrated feature documentary Under Cover is a simultaneously shocking and yet deeply empathic exploration — by The Coming Back Out Ball Movie (MIFF Premiere Fund, 2018) director Sue Thomson — of the fastest-growing social group facing homelessness: women aged over 55.

The delightfully hyper-intimate new feature from director Sari Braithwaite ([CENSORED], MIFF 2018) invites audiences to share the mundane and the magnificent with a neurodiverse, working-class family in outer-suburban Queensland. A masterclass in slice-of-life documentary, Because We Have Each Other is a gentle and wondrous portrait of a family finding joy and stability in one another as they face a future of immense change.

The bewitching second feature from Accelerator Lab alumna Alena Lodkina (Strange Colours, MIFF 2018), Petrolfollows an idealistic film student as she is drawn into an enigmatic performance artist’s shadowy world. Visually commanding and as singular as her debut feature, Petrol presents an otherworldly version of twenty-something life in Melbourne, complete with share-houses, mysterious substances, deep conversations and the occult.

Selected for the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus program, Moja Vesna is a moving depiction of an outer-Melbourne immigrant family falling apart and staying together in the wake of insurmountable grief. In this Australian–Slovenian co-production, debut feature director Sara Kern produces a stirring portrayal of familial strength, featuring newcomer Loti Kovačič with Claudia Karvan in support.

The Breakfast Club meets the outback in Sweet As, an uplifting coming-of-age story with postcard-perfect shots of remote Western Australia and a road-trip-worthy soundtrack featuring all-Indigenous artists. Starring Aboriginal luminaries Tasma Walton (Mystery Road, Cleverman) and Mark Coles Smith (Last Cab to Darwin) and a magnetic Shantae Barnes-Cowan (Total Control, Firebite) in the lead, Nyal Nyal / Yawaru director, and MIFF Accelerator Lab alumna, Jub Clerc’s feature debut is an effervescent story of personal growth, acceptance and the journey towards finding oneself.

Richard Crawley always fancied himself a filmmaker, capturing every minute and milestone of his family’s quiet but loving life in Port Fairy, only to never do anything with it. Enter his son, debut filmmaker James Crawley, who sets out to make the documentary his father never could in Volcano Man, a raw and revealing study of loss, failed dreams and Richard Crawley’s very special zest for life.

Rounding out the Premiere Fund’s 2022 offering is Senses of Cinema, a timely archival treasure trove chronicling the rise and role of Melbourne and Sydney filmmaking cooperatives in the 1960s and 1970s. From co-directors John Hughes (Indonesia Calling, MIFF Premiere Fund 2009) and Tom Zubrycki (Ablaze, MIFF Premiere Fund 2021), Senses of Cinema explores the change-making experimental cinema emanating from these cooperatives against a backdrop of civil rights activism, gender equality struggles and the Vietnam War, and features interviews with the likes of Phillip Noyce, Jan Chapman and Gillian Armstrong.

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Miff Film Competition

2022 will also herald the introduction of the Southern Hemisphere’s richest feature film competition, with the debut of the inaugural MIFF Film Competition.

This exciting new addition to the MIFF roster will celebrate bold directorial voices and emerging filmmakers, with films initially awarded across three categories. Up to 10 films will be selected to be in official competition for the flagship Best Film Award, presided over by a jury of prominent international and Australian festival guests, of A$140,000 (approx. US$100,000) supported by the Victorian Government through VicScreen.

An outstanding Australian creative will be recognised with the presentation of the Australian Innovation Prize, awarded to an individual local talent from across a range of eligible filmmaking roles such as director, technical or creative lead, and cinema craft. Additionally, 2022 brings the return of the MIFF Audience Award.

The 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) runs from 4 – ​​28 August. Details here

Because We Have Each Other

Directed by Sari Braithwaite
Produced by Chloé Brugalé, Sari Braithwaite
Featuring Becky Sharrock, Brendan Barnes, Brent “Buddha” Barnes, Dylan Barnes, Janet Barnes, Jessica Sharrock, Kylie Barnes

The delightfully hyper-intimate new feature from [CENSORED] (MIFF 2018) director Sari Braithwaite invites us to share the mundane and the magnificent with a neurodiverse, working-class family.
Janet Sharrock has two children and Brent “Buddha” Barnes has three; the pair has a meet-cute at the local RSL, marry and unite their families, Brady Bunch style. Now grown up, Becky (famous for being one of only 80 people in the world with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory), Jessica (a comedian living with depression), Brendan (who aspires to take over Buddha’s repair shop), and young Kylie and Dylan laugh, cry, contemplate existence and dream big with their parents, finding joy and stability in one another as they face immense change.

Clean

Directed by Lachlan McLeod
Produced by Charlotte Wheaton, David Elliot-Jones
Featuring Sandra Pankhurst

The genuinely inspirational story of how ‘trauma cleaner’ Sandra Pankhurst responded to an unseen world with radical kindness.
Sandra Pankhurst knew humanity at its worst, as well as its best, having lived many different lives: survivor of childhood abuse, suburban parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, business owner, motivational speaker. Generous and formidable, she underwent transition in the 1980s and found her purpose running STC Services, a successful Melbourne trauma-cleaning business that she founded in the 1990s. For three decades, Pankhurst and her team – who’ve also survived tough times – have brought order and care to homes made chaotic by hoarding, addiction, violence and crime.

Franklin

Directed by Kasimir Burgess
Produced by Annie Venables, Chris Kamen, Oliver Cassidy
Featuring Bob Brown, Hugo Weaving (narrator), Oliver Cassidy

Personal entwines with political as a young Tasmanian activist follows in the literal footsteps of his late father, who in the 1980s fought to save the pristine Franklin River wilderness.
When Tasmania’s Hydro-Electric Commission planned to build a dam on the Franklin River, Launceston’s Wilderness Society mobilised to protect it, sparking a now-infamous, and ultimately victorious, campaign of blockades, protests, lawsuits and political wrangling – a campaign that was a key part of the development of the Australian Greens movement. Franklin recounts this seminal environmental protest through the eyes of Oliver Cassidy, who retraces the journey on the World Heritage–listed river taken some 40 years before by his late activist father.

Gondwana

Directed by Ben Joseph Andrews
Produced by Emma Roberts

Bear witness to the possible futures of the planet’s oldest tropical rainforest in a world-first durational VR installation, arriving direct from Sundance and SXSW.
Located in Far North Queensland, the Daintree is a staggering 180 million years old and has been named the second-most irreplaceable World Heritage area on the planet by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. For millennia, it has existed in fruitful cohabitation with the local Kuku Yalanji people. However, as with most of Earth’s natural wonders, this 1200-square-metre rainforest has become threatened by the lasting climatic changes brought about by colonisation and industrialisation.

Greenhouse by Joost

Directed by Bruce Permezel, Rhian Skirving
Produced by Charlotte Wheaton, Nick Batzias
Featuring Jo Barrett, Joost Bakker, Matt Stone

Joost Bakker investigates what it would be like to grow all the food you ever needed, leaving no waste as you do so, right at your doorstep.
Extending a lifetime’s worth of zero-waste activism, visionary designer Bakker devises the Future Food System, a self-sufficient residence that provides shelter, food and energy while reusing any by-products as fuel or fertiliser. Joined by esteemed chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, he works with a team of builders, engineers, and experts in agriculture, aquaponics and biochemistry to realise the project at Melbourne’s Fed Square – culminating in the launch of a unique farm-to-table restaurant.

Moja Vesna

Written and directed by Sara Kern
Produced by Gal Greenspan, Rok Bicek and Sharlene George
Starring Claudia Karvan, Flora Feldman, Gregor Baković, Loti Kovačič and Mackenzie Mazur

A 10-year-old must keep her grief-stricken immigrant family together in this moving Australian–Slovenian co-production.
In Melbourne’s outer-suburbs, reticent Moja, her well-meaning Slovenian father Miloš and her volatile older sister Vesna all struggle to cope with the impacts of a significant death. But Vesna is in denial about the demands of late-stage pregnancy and Miloš barely speaks a word of English, so Moja is forced to assume the role of stabilising presence and cultural mediator – with little chance to mourn the loss of their mother.

Of an Age

Written and directed by Goran Stolevski
Produced by Kristina Ceyton and Sam Jennings
Starring Elias Anton, Hattie Hook, Thom Green

Accelerator Lab alumnus Goran Stolevski delivers a heart-meltingly tender, quintessentially Melbourne queer coming-of-age tale that will make you swoon from beginning to bittersweet end.
It’s the summer of 1999 and two teens fresh out of high school – sensitive, Serbian-born Nikola (Elias Anton, Barracuda) and fiery Ebony (Hattie Hook) – are partners for a dance competition. On the big day, Nikola gets a distressed call from Ebony, asking to be rescued from the other side of town, so he enlists her brother, the charming Adam (Thom Green, Dance Academy; Downriver, MIFF Premiere Fund 2015), to take him there. On the drive, amid traffic and amicable swagger, the two young men discover a mutual spark … but Adam is leaving the country in 24 hours.

Petrol

Written and directed by Alena Lodkina
Produced by Kate Laurie
Starring Hannah Lynch, Nathalie Morris

An idealistic film student is drawn into an enigmatic performance artist’s shadowy world in Alena Lodkina’s follow-up to the much-acclaimed Strange Colours (MIFF 2018).
While scouting locations for a university project, Eva (played by Bump’s Nathalie Morris) crosses paths with Mia; later, they meet again at a house party, and an intense friendship soon forms between the introverted student filmmaker and the inscrutable but magnetic performer. As the pair becomes ever more entwined, so does the supernatural begin to entangle with the everyday, revealing the cracks between memory and make-believe, reality and fantasy. All the while, Eva seeks to better understand her friend – and her own self – leading her deeper into the surreal rabbit hole that is Mia’s life.

Senses of Cinema

Directed by John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki
Written by John Hughes
Produced by John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki
Featuring Gillian Armstrong, Jan Chapman and Phillip Noyce

This archival treasure trove chronicles the rise and role of Melbourne and Sydney filmmaking cooperatives in the 1960s and 1970s.
As notions of civil rights transformed across the world, so was the screen landscape reformed by the ascension of grassroots film movements seeking to challenge the mainstream. Some aspired to push form to its limit; others worked to destabilise what they saw as a homogenous industry, or to provoke questions around gender, sexuality, migration and race. Among those in Australia were the Sydney Filmmakers Co-op and Ubu Films, the Melbourne Co-op, the Sydney Women’s Film Group and the LGBT-focused One in Seven Collective.

Sweet As

Directed by Jub Clerc
Written by Jub Clerc and Steve Rodgers
Produced by Liz Kearney
Starring Carlos Sanson Jr, Mark Coles Smith, Ngaire Pigram, Shantae Barnes-Cowan and Tasma Walton

The Breakfast Club meets the outback in this uplifting coming-of-age road movie by Nyal Nyal / Yawaru director Jub Clerc (The Turning, MIFF Premiere Fund 2013; The Heights).
With problems on the home front, 15-year-old Murra is on the verge of lashing out. That is, until her policeman uncle thwarts her self-destructive behaviour with a lifeline: a “photo-safari for at-risk kids”. Murra isn’t entirely convinced, but she soon joins cantankerous Kylie, uptight Sean, happy-go-lucky Elvis, and camp counsellors Fernando and Michelle on a transformative bus trip to the Pilbara. On the trail, the teens learn about fun, friendship and first crushes, as well as the forces of ‘reality’ that puncture the bubble of youth.

The Plains

Written, directed and produced by David Easteal
Starring Andrew Rakowski, Cheri LeCornu, David Easteal

Settle in for a one-of-a-kind road movie: this intriguing, intimate epic charts the personal ebbs and flows of two men in conversation across the highways and byways of Melbourne.
It’s a deceptively simple premise: every day at 5pm, a middle-aged lawyer makes the journey home through traffic to Melbourne’s outer suburbs – sometimes talking on the phone with his wife or ailing mother, sometimes sharing the ride with a younger colleague. But despite never leaving the confines of the car, or its fixed-camera perspective, this hypnotic, wholly original docu-drama becomes a fascinating look at the rhythms of daily life and the unexpected tenderness that develops between relative strangers.

Under Cover

Directed by Sue Thomson
Produced by Adam Farrington-Williams and Sue Thomson
Featuring Margot Robbie (narrator)

As Australia’s egalitarian dream fades and its housing crisis deepens, this Margot Robbie–narrated documentary shows us the fastest-growing social group facing homelessness: women aged over 55.
Some 240,000 women over 55 are at risk of homelessness In Australia – a figure both surprising (owing to this demographic being less likely to speak up about their difficulties) and shocking, given this country’s wealth. Under Cover introduces us to 10 of these people, including a survivor of domestic violence, a former advertising executive, a self-confessed loner and a displaced immigrant, for whom security and shelter are constant unknowns and who, until now, have suffered in silence.

Volcano Man

Directed by James Crawley
Written by James Crawley, Steven Sander and Tim Russell
Produced by Rhian Skirving and Tim Russell
Featuring Richard Crawley

When a filmmaker son sets out to make a documentary about his filmmaker father, long-buried feelings and dormant memories bubble to the surface.
Richard Crawley’s passion for cinema was so ardent that he recorded his young family’s every moment and milestone on video. To pay the bills, he channelled this love for the lens into music photography, snapping such acts as the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and the Jackson Five. But then tragedy struck and snuffed out Richard’s creative and parental fire. Now, his adult son James attempts to understand Richard’s inner turmoil after discovering 30 hours of confessional footage, in the process making sense of the 70-year-old’s newfound zest for life.

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