MIFF lifts the lid on its 2021 program, featuring a whopping 283 films

MIFF lifts the lid on its 2021 program, featuring a whopping 283 films

'Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)'
Words by Talia Rinaldo

Melbourne International Film Festival is bringing a huge spread of feature and short films to cinemas and screens at home with this year’s program.

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 ten XR 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.

Returning to theatres across Melbourne, MIFF is also set to expand to eight regional centres for the first time in 2021, including Geelong’s beautiful arthouse theatre, The Pivotonian Cinema, as well as cinemas in Bendigo, Castlemaine, Echuca, Mildura and Bright.

What you need to know

  • Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has revealed its 2021 program
  • The program features a whopping 283 films
  • Tickets are on sale from Friday July 16

Keep up with the latest film and TV news here.

Australian films are at the heart of this year’s program, with a record 11 Premiere Fund films already announced including Ablaze, Chef Antonio’s Recipes for Revolution, Hating Peter Tatchell, Lone Wolf, Off Country, Paper City, and Uluru & The Magician.

For music fans, MIFF is taking viewers behind the scenes with a slate of music icons, including the notoriously shy and vastly talented Courtney Barnett as she pulls back the curtain in Anonymous Club, an intimate first-person exposition on creativity, vulnerability, and artistic life on the road directed by Danny Cohen.

Storied Australian rock band The Triffids, and the triumph and ultimate tragedy of their brilliant frontman David McComb, are the focus for Love in Bright Landscapes from director Jonathan Alley.. Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, this expansive feature documentary brings together interviews with the likes of music luminary Paul Kelly, triple j’s Richard Kingsmill, and the late scholar Niall Lucy, as well as never-before-seen family footage and snippets of newly-discovered writing by McComb.

Keeping the music going, I’m Wanita also features on the program. Australia’s self-crowned ‘Queen of Honky-Tonk’, renegade country singer Wanita Bahtiyar, is a force of nature, with a voice to match.

Matthew Walker (Heart of the Queen) presents an energetic and empathetic portrait of a true original and her colourful life as she follows her dreams and records her final album in the home of country music. Raucous and full of heart, I’m Wanita is a carefully cut gem.

Other films include music documentary We Are The Thousand; comedy feature Together Together, a wry surrogate-pregnancy comedy that upends traditional gender dynamics and subverts expectations featuring rising alt-comedy star Patti Harrison and Ed Helms; NZ documentary James & Isey which follows 99-year-old Isey and her devoted son James who prepare for the party of a lifetime; and Blind Ambition, where refugees with a passion for wine dream big and defy expectations in this feel-good film of Olympic proportions.

For animal lovers, Stray is a must-see! Hot Docs 2020’s Best International Feature Documentary winner offers a dog’s-eye view of life in Istanbul. Immersed in their day-to-day existence, we see how the dogs depend on the kindness of strangers and how integral these interactions are to the city’s soul.

For those who like their films a little darker, MIFF’s program will also be screening the controversial Nitram, a narrative depiction of the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in modern Australian history from MIFF Accelerator Lab alumnus director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) – the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. Filmed in Geelong, Nitram comes to MIFF straight from Cannes, where it was the first Australian film to screen as part of the illustrious festival’s official competition in ten years – and the first Victorian film to do so in more than 30 years.

These films make up only a small portion of an incredible program from MIFF.

“This year, MIFF continues to evolve — to meet the moment, and to meet audiences where they are. What will not change is the extraordinary lineup of cinematic adventures, from home and afar, waiting for them,” says MIFF’s Artistic Director, Al Cossar.

“These are anticipated festival blockbusters, experimentations, breakthrough discoveries, and a huge lineup of incredible Australian talent. We will again share a world of cinema, reignited, to welcome Melburnians back to places far beyond the familiarities of the last year.”

Check out the full MIFF 2021 program here. The festival runs in cinemas from August 5–15 and online from August 14–22. Tickets are on sale from Friday July 16.