Melbourne International Film Festival announces program for 2020 digital festival

Melbourne International Film Festival announces program for 2020 digital festival

‘Wendy’, image by Eric Zachanowich
Words by Tom Parker

The program for MIFF 68½ is finally here.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the Melbourne International Film Festival made the step of shifting the beloved event solely online for the first time in its 68-year history. It was a brave move at a time where festivals and events were being cancelled left, right and centre.

The reimagined festival, titled MIFF 68½, will celebrate film through a spread of special ticketed online events while also offering the films for general viewing. Running from August 6 – 23, audiences will this year be able to stream the fully-curated program from the comfort of their homes.

This year’s program encompasses 113 films, of which there are 12 world premieres, 83 Australian premieres and 44 shorts. 56 countries will be represented at MIFF 68½ solidifying the festival’s global reach. Just under 50 per cent of the films have at least one female director involved in their creation.

“I’m delighted to say that, despite the extraordinary circumstances of 2020, MIFF’s ‘radical act’ is to keep going and continue on our mission to bring you the world through unforgettable screen experiences,” MIFF Artistic Director, Al Cossar, says of the event. “At MIFF, we are driven by a deep understanding that film has the ability to entertain, inspire, illuminate and empower audiences in a way that few other mediums can – qualities we welcome now more than ever.”

Kicking things off on Opening Night, MIFF 68½ will present the landmark Australian premiere of Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. The seminal auteur has delivered a film brimming with adventure and fearlessness but one that is also riddled with danger. As two explorers make their way across America’s Pacific Northwest in the pursuit of fortune, will their efforts be met with success?

For the festival’s Centrepiece, Benh Zeitlin’s 2020 film Wendy will be screened. Considered a contemporary reimagining of Peter Pan set in America’s south, the film sees Wendy (Devine France) escape life’s mundanity and follow Peter (Yashua Mack) to a mysterious island. Wendy stands as the long-awaited follow-up to Zeitlin’s 2012 box office hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Closing Night picture will see the incredible Pablo Larrain unite Gael Garcia Bernal and burgeoning newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo in the revered Chilean film, Ema. Scored by transcendent electronic artist Nicolas Jaar, Ema follows the unfortunate falling out of the couple following a failed adoption.

Other notable highlights from the program include the winner of the 2020 Sundance US Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, Boys State. A fascinating experiment in democracy sees a group of teenage boys from Texas come together to mimic a large-scale re-enactment of representative government. Then there’s Black Bear, starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Legion), which follows the story of a struggling filmmaker who wedges herself in between a capricious couple to help spark her creativity.

Of the Australian-made features, MIFF 68½ will bring us the world premiere of Steven McGregor’s Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky. The National Indigenous Television-backed production takes us on a trip back to the first landing, when the HMS Endeavour first arrived on Australian shores. However, on this occasion it is positioned through the lens of First Nations people. This film sees appearances from the likes of Trials, Birdz, Alice Skye, Mo’Ju, Kev Carmody, Mau Power and Fred Leone.

The hip hop-infused Day in the Life will also be screened – a film that shines a light on the constant marginalisation of Australian Indigenous cultures. In this feature, audiences will be witnesses to a day in a remote Indigenous community, with archival audio, music and media clips soundtracking the events that take place.

Unpacking the music component of the program, The Go-Go’s traces the huge success of the American all-female act of the same name – a band who blazed a trail for women in the music industry with their trailblazing new wave. This feature was directed by Australia’s Alison Ellwood.

Finally, the captivating music tale of Baltimore is told through Dark City Beneath the Beat. TT the Artist jumps on board this one to tell the story of a thriving club scene characterised by its own genre, Bmore club – a bubbly concoction of hip hop, breakbeat and choppy house.

MIFF 68½ goes down from Thursday August 6 to Sunday August 23 online via the festival website.

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