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 10XR 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. 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.
In addition to the previously announced Opening Night Gala event – The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson – the Closing Night Gala has been revealed as Language Lessons. An Australian premiere event, the film stars Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales, who also directs, as a man and woman who form a connection online through their shared Spanish lessons. Filmed entirely over Zoom during 2020, Morales’ platonic romantic comedy premieres at MIFF following screenings at both Berlin and SXSW Film Festivals.
Other premiere titles featuring throughout the festival this year include Annette and Steven Soderbergh‘s No Sudden Move. Fresh off its opening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Annette, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, is an outrageous musical about a stand-up comedian and his world-famous soprano wife and the unexpected turnaround on their glamorous life when their daughter is born with a unique gift. No Sudden Move, starring Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, and Brendan Fraser, is a crime thriller focusing on a duo of crims whose heist goes horribly wrong, sending them on a journey throughout their corrupt city to uncover who set them up.
Serving as this year’s Centrepiece Gala is the award-winning documentary Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Directed by Questlove, drummer from famed group The Roots, this astonishing feature details the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, a forgotten musical extravaganza that has had its footage hidden away for close to 50 years. Featuring archival footage and stunning performances of the era from Stevie Wonder,Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight, Questlove has seamlessly restored the footage and interpolated it with modern interviews reflecting on the exuberant time capsule that was this politicised event.
In addition to the Australian and International titles playing, MIFF will deliver a series of interactive, multi-sensory experiences. The world premiere of Jonathan Alley’s MIFF Premiere Fund-supported feature documentary Love In Bright Landscapes will be a night to remember, with audiences treated to a special live musical celebration with The Songs of David McComb and The Triffids concert at the Forum. The event will feature performances of the singer and band’s biggest hits, and some lost gems, by performers The Triffids, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Blackeyed Susans, Magic Dirt, RVG, Frente, Youth Group, and more.
On the opposite side of the interactive scale, The Witching Hour is a special folk horror double feature. From Australian-born Hammer veteran Don Sharp, Psychomania is the 1973 outlaw-bikie zombie-sploitation flick that wildly blends the more unhinged elements of A Clockwork Orange with fabulously B-grade occult folk horror and a psych-rock soundtrack. Follow this with the freewheeling plot of “apostle of excess” Ken Russell’s delirious 1988 disasterpiece The Lair of the White Worm, a wildly erotic and campy tale that pits a pre-fame Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi against an ancient vampiric snake goddess, played by Amanda Donohoe, and you have a truly non-sensical, “just enjoy the ride” type-of evening.
To explore the full program and find information on ticket availability, head to MIFF’s Official Page.