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From the whimsy of Opening Night’s The Fairy to Takeshi Kitano’s Yakuza themed Outrage, MIFF (July 21 – August 7) is about to biff it to you with over 300 films in its 60th year.

The Fairy, which opened the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, will open the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival on Thursday 21 July. Directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, the trio specialise in pantomime and circus style theatrics. In its performance, humour and whimsy, The Fairy pays homage to Chaplin, Keaton and Jacques Tati, to which the filmmakers add a few contemporary socio-political twists.

"whimsical and a little nostalgic"

Set in the port city of Le Havre, the film kicks off with Dom (Dominique Abel), a hotel night clerk whose evening is interrupted with the arrival of a woman (Fiona Gordon), who claims she’s a fairy and grants Dom three wishes. “The Fairy is that rare case of a festival-friendly film that is honourably humanist and inventive yet unapologetically accessible and comical. That it is also whimsical and a little nostalgic makes it the perfect opening for the 60th MIFF”, said MIFF Artistic Director Michelle Carey.

Featuring in the Australian Showcase, Fred Schepisi’s The Eye of the Storm will have its World Premiere on Saturday 23 July. Based on the Patrick White novel, the film follows Sir Basil (Festival Patron Geoffrey Rush), a famous and very dandyish theatre actor in London and Dorothy (Judy Davis), an impecunious French princess, who both attempt to reconcile with their dying mother (Charlotte Rampling). 

Other Australian films include Face to Face, Michael Rymer’s adaptation of the David Williamson play starring Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton, Matthew Newton and Luke Ford; Jon Hewitt’s X, about two call girls who are thrown together on a job that goes horribly wrong, finding themselves chased through the seedy clubs, strip joints and back alleys of Sydney’s infamous red light district; and David Bradbury’s documentary about Paul Cox, On Borrowed Time.

"A new spotlight"

A new spotlight in the 2011 Festival is Prime Time, a focus on works made for television by directors best known for their cinema, in which the World Premiere of the first two episodes of the highly anticipated ABC TV series, The Slap, based on the best-selling novel by Christos Tsialkas, will screen. Also screening in the spotlight is Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’86, Raul Ruiz’s sumptuous Mysteries of Lisbon and Dreileben – a triple-bill of 90-minute movies, made by German writer-directors Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler.

In partnership with Festival Scope, MIFF has put together a program of acclaimed new filmmaking out of the European Union, screening 12 films from 12 countries – from Greece to Germany, Slovenia to Spain – TeleScope will sketch a cinematic map of contemporary European film with highlights including Finnesterrae, where Spanish filmmaker and artist Sergio Caballero blends high art and low comedy in a quirky modern-day; and The Solitude of Prime Numbers, adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name, a magical film that traces two decades in the lives of emotionally-scarred best friends Mattia and Alice.

Our Space returns to MIFF for another festival – a spotlight on films exploring our surroundings. Highlights include Jia Zhang-ke’s I Wish I Knew, a nostalgic look at the city of Shanghai through the eyes of some of its famous inhabitants; Beth Aala’s Pool Party, the story of an abandoned Williamsburg swimming Pool, once the largest in the world; and Melbourne On Screen, a series of shorts looking at the architectural and historical aspects of Melbourne over the last 60 years.

"the different ways the genre can be manoeuvred"

Crime Scene focuses on international films within the crime genre, highlighting the different ways the genre can be manoeuvred. Highlights include Belgian director Michael R. Roskam’s debut Bullhead, an emotionally driven tale of revenge, redemption and fate; the blacker than black humour of Alexei Balabanov’s A Stoker, and José Padilha’s follow up to Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, which has proved to be the most successful film in Brazilian history.

Already announced in First Glance is This Sporting Life which looks at true-life tales in which the game is more than just a game. Something for Shane Warne to tweet about is Fire in Babylon, the story of how the West Indies triumphed over its colonial masters; and Bobby Fischer Against the World, an exploration of the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer.

The Documentary section includes a vast array of real-life stories on offer including Festival guest Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a film about and made by product placement; Festival guest Alex Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer, which unfolds like the plot of a le Carré novel; Exporting Raymond, an attempt to export the hit US TV show Everybody Loves Raymond to Russia, making for a front row seat to a comedic culture-clash; and Page One: A Year in the Life of the New York Times directed by Andrew Rossi who was granted unprecedented access to the nerve centre of one of the world’s most respected newspapers.

"a frank, insightful portrait "

The Festival’s largest program strand, International Panorama, features almost 60 films including Festival guest Mike Mills’ Beginners, a heartfelt film inspired by Mills’ own father’s decision to come out of the gay closet before his death; Festival guest Pia Marais’ At Ellen’s Age, a frank, insightful portrait of a life that might, quite pleasantly, be heading nowhere; and Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, a tale of love and redemption set against the philosophical quandary of a world that appears to be an exact mirror of our own.

Accent on Asia screens legendary director Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage which sees him return to the Yakuza genre he has made his own; and Thailand’s Sivaroj Kongsakul who makes a startling feature film debut with Eternity - a patient, consuming, all-encompassing metaphysical love story.

This year will see a number of special events including:
MIFF Short Awards – MIFF’s shorts program not only presents the best short films from around the globe but it also houses one of the biggest short film awards in the southern hemisphere. The winners – who are then eligible to be nominated for the Academy Awards – compete for a total cash prize pool pf $42,000 and are announced on Sunday 31 July, following a special screening of this year’s MIFF shorts picks.

Giorgio Mangiamele; Celebrating the man and his films – Italian-born, Melbourne-based Giorgio Mangiamele’s post-war films express a unique cinematic perspective and they have now been restored by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA).

Talking Pictures – MIFF’s bumper Talking Pictures program is designed to have you discussing, questioning and arguing all things cinematic with the festival’s filmmakers and personalities, opening the box on the issues and ideas behind this year’s program.

"over 300 films"

The MIFF 60th Retrospective presents a selection of 10 significant and magnificent films from the past six decades of MIFF’s life. Featuring early and remarkable works from some of the Festival’s most beloved filmmakers.

In its 60th year the Melbourne International Film Festival will screen over 300 films.

Published July 7, 2011

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