First Glance: 60th Melbourne International Film Festival

MIFF First Glance

MIFF 2011The Melbourne International Film Festival turns 60 this year, and despite being able to apply for a senior’s card it looks to be delivering a fresh crop of films from around the world.

While the full program won’t be available until July 7, the MIFF webiste has given us a First Glance at their seven streams, along with the closing night film. This year we can expect an International Panorama, Documentaries, an Accent on Asia, Backbeat, Next Gen, Shorts, the ubiquitously connected Networked and for the first time, the very active This Sporting Life.

Submarine (2011)

International Panorama

Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh) brings us his debut film Submarine,with Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine. Featuring music by the Arctic Monkeys, and the hand of cult-figure Ayoade, this is an instant ‘must-see’ at MIFF 2011. Another big coup for the festival is the presence of The Kid with a Bike, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s winner of the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Rounding out the debuts from the First Glance in this category is USA’s Tiny Furniture, the second feature from Lena Dunham, a film sure to be a hit with the indie darlings.

The remainder of the International Panorama films announced can also be seen at the forthcoming Sydney Film Festival, which means that if you miss them in one, you can always catch them in the other. They are the new adaptation of Jane Eyre, with Australia’s Mia Wasikowska, Iran’s A Separation and Hungary’s The Turin Horse.


It’s always good to catch documentaries at film festivals, simply because a number of them don’t get a wider release, at least on the big screen. However, with this selection of docos, there may be some mainstream interest. First up is Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Germany’s El Bulli – Cooking In Progress. Australia’s own I Am Eleven travels the world getting the life experiences of pre-teens everywhere, and festival favourite Project Nim is the fascinating tale of a chimp learning to communicate (from the makers of Man on Wire). The remaining two documentaries announced (so far) are both from Australia: the fist-shaking The Triangle Wars and voyeuristic comedy Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure.

Piano in a Factory

Accent on Asia

There looks to be a strong representation of Asian cinema at this year’s festival, starting with Zhang Meng’s Piano in a Factory, which played earlier this year at the Sydney Chinese Film Festival. The highly anticipated Japanese films Norwegian Wood and Takeshi Miike’s 13 Assassins make their Melbourne debuts, along with Ryoo Seung-wan’s The Unjust, a massive hit from South Korea. Finally, Aditya Assarat – who audiences last saw at MIFF 2007 with Wonderful Town – returns with the visually elegant Hi-So.

Next Gen

Together with Screen Education Magazine, MIFF presents a selection of films for the younger members of the audience. The legendary Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) brings us the unconventional love story set against the backdrop of 1970s Cultural Revolution-era China in Under the Hawthorn Tree.

Other films include Falling for Sahara (Australia, Dir: Khoa Do), the animated Tales of the Night (France, Dir: Michel Ocelot) and Russia’s stop-motion vision of The Ugly Duckling (Dir: Garri Bardin), which reportedly took six years to make. There’s also New Zealand’s My Wedding and Other Secret (New Zealand, Dir: Roseanne Liang), Winter’s Daughter (Germany/Poland), Oliver Ringer’s On the Sly (Belgium/France), Israel’s The Matchmaker (Dir: Avi Nesher) and Norway’s winner of the Crystal Bear Award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, The Liverpool Goalie (Dir: Arild Andresen). Africa United (UK, Dir: Debs Gardner-Paterson), screening at the Sydney Film Festival next month, also plays.

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Backbeat and This Sporting Life

Two streams that have definite audiences in mind are music and sporting streams, and there a few documentaries on offer from both categories this year. In the former, the winner of this year’s best documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, tells the story of Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge and fellow performance artist Lady Jaye, who are so conjoined that they undertake plastic surgery to literally become alike. Swedish documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 examines a period in history through its music, with the likes of Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte and Talib Kweli offering their reassessments of an era. Actor Michael Rappaport also brings Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest to the festival.

On the sporty side, of things, we are given the life and times of the ill-fated Senna, bare-knuckle brawler James Quinn McDonagh in Knuckle and the fascinating story of a prodigal chess star and political pawn in Bobby Fischer Against the World.


Finally, in an age where everybody who feels like it can read this very article wherever they are, MIFF asks us whether this is a good thing with a series of films on the perils and perks of a ubiquitous age. Timely documentary Fleurs du Mal examines the impact of social networking on politics around the world, while Sweden’s PressPausePlay asks what the future might hold for the Interwebs and the new digital paradigm we are presented with. The living example of some of that future, the crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day, also screens at MIFF.

Closing Night

The festival will close with Kriv Stender’s Australia family film, Red Dog, adapted from the Louis de Berniere novella. This is a highly anticipated film and sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Red Dog

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from 21 July to 7 August 2011 across Melbourne. The full program will be launched on July 7.

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