Huge in size and scope, and one of the world’s oldest film festivals and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest, the Melbourne International Film Festival is a major occasion on the city’s cultural calendar; it has been described as ‘the most significant screen event in Australia’.
Founded in 1952, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) was established to champion established and emerging Australian filmmakers and their work, and to provide a platform for some of the best in contemporary cinema from around the globe. Since its inception it has grown and evolved each year to become an annual three week extravaganza – in 2014 its 63rd edition was an incredibly diverse program where nearly 400 features, documentaries and shorts of various genres and categories from more than 60 countries were packed into the fest’s seventeen day run, drawing in an audience of 200,000 cinephiles.
MIFF now boasts numerous strands and events which run alongside the main festival screening program, including workshops, retrospectives, Q&As with industry members and panel discussions with filmmakers and actors. The innovative 37ºSouth Market section takes place early in the fest and provides a forum for a select group of producers, agents and distributors to gather in an ‘international film financing marketplace’ and get films off the ground, while since 1962 MIFF has run an annual short film competition.
Such is its yearly impact and importance the festival has received short film accreditation from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), the Australian Film Institute and the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – meaning winning works are eligible for Oscar consideration – and routinely brings in millions of dollars to the local economy – the 2013 edition saw over $9 million dollars generated over the three weeks. It invests in film itself, too – its Accelerator program for provides education and skills development for emerging directors, while its Premiere Fund offers loans and investment for local filmmakers and their features.
The last couple of years has seen MIFF screen numerous high-profile premieres, including work by Pedro Almodóvar and Brian de Palma, and its cultural significance and programming continues to grow unabated. At its heart, though, MIFF is for the film fans, and its audience is as loyal and vibrant as it was in the beginning. The 2015 edition runs from 30th July to 16th August at various venues across Melbourne.