2014 Melbourne International Film Festival

Cut SnakeWith new venues, more sessions and a broader footprint over the Melbourne CBD, the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) offers the ravenous film-­goer greater choice than ever with 341 films, 17 program strands, 28 world premieres, 168 Australian Premieres, 19 Talking Pictures events, 24 international guests, and more than 71 local guests.

Opening this Thursday (31 July) with Predestination – a stylish thriller from Australian filmmaking duo the Spierig Brothers. Based on Robert A Heinlein’s All You Zombies, Predestination is the story of a temporal agent on the trail of a terrorist, in an intricate web of twists and secrets, and stars Ethan Hawke, Noah Taylor and Sarah Snook.

Marking the half-­way point with the world premiere Centrepiece Gala screening of Cut Snake – this crime thriller from director Tony Ayres (Home Song Stories) demonstrates how one man’s biggest enemy in moving forward can be himself. The MIFF Premiere Fund-supported film stars Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise of an Empire), Alex Russell (Bait, Chronicle) and Jessica De Gouw (These Final Hours).

To close off the festival in style, MIFF presents the Australian Premiere of FELONY, directed by Melbourne filmmaker Matthew Saville, written by and starring Australian acting icon Joel Edgerton alongside Melissa George, Tom Wilkinson and Jai Courtney.

Home-­grown talent takes centre stage in the Australian Showcase section with three more Premiere Fund films receiving a world premiere : Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films – a feature documentary from Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood); The Legend Maker – a dramatic thriller from Ian Pringle, in which an ageing criminal needs all his cunning to survive; and My Mistress – a love story starring Emmanuelle Béart (A Heart in Winter) and Harrison Gilbertson (Blessed), from director Stephen Lance.

Other Australian offerings include Still Our Country – Reflections on a Culture – a companion piece to Rolf de Heer’s Cannes-­winning Charlie’s Country; Fell – a film about two very different men linked by grief and remorse from award-­winning short filmmaker and MIFF Accelerator alumnus Kasimir Burgess; and Ukraine is not a Brothel – a documentary from Melbourne’s Kitty Green, who captures the passions and many paradoxes of the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN.

This year MIFF also presents a Melbourne Stories mini-­program, turning the spotlight back on our hometown to look at the people and places that make it unique. Screenings include Don’t Throw Stones – a documentary based on rock ‘n’ roll icon Stephen Cummings’ tell-­all memoir Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?; and Curtain Call – the story of Terry and Carole Ann Gill, the couple behind one of Australia’s most beloved pantomime theatres, the Tivoli.

The diversity of Australia’s neighbouring filmmakers comes under the spotlight in MIFF’s ever-­popular regional focus Accent on Asia. From Mongolian love stories to Japanese madness and Filipino epics, the program includes two films from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-­liang: the Venice Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner Stray Dogs, and Journey to the West, an almost wordless, meditative experience.

Also screening: Remote Control – a poetic coming-­of­?age story about a teenage boy living in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator; and Love Hotel – a documentary affording audiences a look at what really goes on behind closed doors in a distinctive element of Japanese culture.

Television demands attention in the new program strand Big Scene, Small Screen, where the best of what’s hot and new to the small screen comes to life on the big screen. Audiences can catch the series sequel to Fred Schepisi’s 1976 film The Devil’s Playground, directed by Rachel Ward (Martha’s New Coat), with a cast including Toni Collette, Don Hany and Jack Thompson; and Doll & Em, starring the UK’s Emily Mortimer and her real-­life best friend, Dolly Wells, as fictionalised versions of themselves in a semi-­improvised comedy about friendship, fame and filmmaking.

Night Shift, the festival’s annual cinematic showdown, is an undying favourite amongst adventurous audiences that have developed a taste for blood and weirdness. There are a dozen films to choose from including: Housebound, the debut feature from Gerard Johnstone, about a petty thief under house arrest who can’t escape the paranormal activity of her childhood home; and cult auteur Sion Sono’s fun-lovingly bloodthirsty Why Don’t You Play in Hell?.

Special events include: Talking Pictures – a program designed to have audiences discussing, questioning and arguing all things cinematic with the festival’s filmmakers and personalities, opening the box on the issues and ideas in this year’s program; Planetarium Fulldome Showcase – a special program of jaw-­dropping full-dome screenings at the Melbourne Planetarium; and the MIFF 54th Shorts Awards – one of the most highly regarded short-­film competitions in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival runs 31 July to 17 August. For more information, visit: www.miff.com.au for details.

Image: Cut Snake – production still courtesy of Matchbox Pictures