10.07.2019

MIFF artistic director Al Cossar shares what’s in store for this year’s program

Melbourne International Film Festival artistic director Al Cossar
Words by Augustus Welby

As always, the 2019 Melbourne International Film Festival festival boasts a culturally and linguistically diverse program, overseen by artistic director Al Cossar.

It’s Cossar’s first year in the artistic director role, but he’s been a MIFF staff member since 2011, initially working in programming before taking on the associate artistic director role last year.

“There’s a terrific array of contemporary world cinema,” says Cossar. “The program includes over 370 films from 78 countries, and a total of 64 languages.”

Highlights include, Aquarela, a new work from Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky, which promises to be an almost human-free meditation on “water’s capacity for both limitless creation and wholesale destruction.” Buoyancy is the feature debut from Australian director, Rodd Rathjen, inspired by the real-life toil of Cambodian workers sold into Southeast Asia’s brutal fishing industry.

Then there’s the Danish production, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, which director Mads Brügger describes as either, “the world’s biggest murder mystery, or the world’s most idiotic conspiracy theory.” Cossar draws attention to Vai to underline to program’s wide reach.

Vai is a really fascinating work that’s made by nine female directors from nine Pacific nations,” he says. “It basically charts this character who’s played by different actors in each iteration through the course of coming of age and growing up and becoming politicised.

“Some of the production bases for that were the Cook Islands and Fiji, Niue and the Solomon Islands – literally regionalities that we’ve never really seen come through our database before.”

MIFF is now 68 years old, but the festival’s regional range continues to develop. The 2019 event welcomes many new voices from a wide variety of backgrounds, operating in a range of different mediums.

“We always build a program and context,” says Cossar. “We do that in terms of regionality, we do that in terms of how crowd-pleasing a film is to how experimental or formally adventurous it is.”

The program encompasses documentaries, animations, horror films, as well as retrospective and restorations programming and VR programming. “We look right back into film history and we consider the possibilities of future storytelling,” Cossar says.

MIFF is the world’s largest showcase of Australian filmmaking with features, shorts and virtual reality productions representing established names through to a new generation of emerging talent.

Strangerland director Kim Farrant returns with her second feature, Angel of Mine, scripted by Lion screenwriter Luke Davies and shot and set in Melbourne. Adelaide filmmaker Sophie Hyde premieres her latest project, Animals, an examination of contemporary female friendship that stars Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat.

The Melbourne music scene is also well represented. No Time For Quiet focuses on the work of GIRLS ROCK!, a band camp initiative run by an international network of independent arts and feminist social justice groups. Directors Hylton Shaw and Samantha Dinning were on hand to capture volunteer mentors Courtney Barnett, Cable Ties and Camp Cope at a GIRLS ROCK! camp in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, for MIFF’s third exclusive Hear My Eyes event, world-beating MC Sampa The Great will perform in coordination with the 2014 French drama, Girlhood. Sampa will add an original live soundtrack to Céline Sciamma’s depiction of young women of colour growing up in the Paris projects.

You can’t see it all, but Cossar hopes viewers approach the MIFF program with confidence and curiosity.

“A lot of what we present is an alternative to what’s at the multiplex. I think there’s very much that only-at-MIFF experience.”

Melbourne International Film Festival is happening from Thursday August 1 until Sunday August 18. Tickets go on sale Friday July 12. For tickets and more info on the program head to miff.com.au