MIFF 2016 features a strong Aussie lineup

Mike Bartlett


It’s no coincidence the Melbourne International Film Festival always arrives slap bang in the very coldest stretch of winter. Retreating into the warm darkness of a cinema never seems more tempting.

You mightn’t be able to escape to Bali, but this year offers the chance to travel to Brazil, Morocco and 1970s Manhattan.

The festival kicks off closer to home, however, with the world premiere of The Death and Life of Otto Bloom, the debut feature from Melbourne director Cris Jones.
MIFF director Michelle Carey says it’s important to start off on the right note.

“It has to be a very special film. Ideally it will be something Victorian, but we’re looking for something that is somewhat transformative, something that connects people and something that’s going to make them feel good.”

As always, there’s a rich selection of Aussie films on offer this year. While local films are often met with a lukewarm reception at the multiplex, Michelle says MIFF audiences tend to be more welcoming.
“The Australian films are often the first films to sell out. Joe Cinque’s Consolation, based on the Helen Garner book, sold out in two hours.”

There’s an inevitable focus on the future of film, but this year’s program is also looking to the past. A Jerry Lewis retrospective will screen all 12 films directed by the now 90-year-old comedian, while the Gaining Ground stream revisits women directors working in New York during the 1970s and ’80s. This latter season is particularly close to Michelle’s heart.

“I’ve been wanting to do something around women directors for ages, but it’s such a vast playground. So I thought about what era I really love and I wanted to draw attention to unheralded directors. What’s really interesting is that these directors didn’t go on to be household names. They had trouble making films after this, which I think is really sad.”