Melbourne International Film Festival

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Melbourne International Film Festival
Location Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Artistic directorAl Cossar
No. of films300 (approx.)
Website Official website

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is an annual film festival held over three weeks in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It was founded in 1952 and is one of the oldest film festivals in the world following the founding of the Venice Film Festival in 1932, Cannes Film Festival in 1939 and Berlin Film Festival in 1951.


Currently held in the month of August and spanning events in the Melbourne CBD as well as inner-suburban and regional Victoria, MIFF screens films from both Australia and across the world to an audience of approximately 150,000. [1] It is the largest film festival in both Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, and is the world’s largest showcase of new Australian cinema. [2] The 2022 festival contributed A$9.7 million to the City of Melbourne’s economy. [1]

Alongside its expansive and well-received film program, MIFF realizes its vision, “An enlightened, inclusive, engaged society through film”, [2] via its renowned industry programs (the co-financing fund Premiere Fund, the talent incubator program Accelerator Lab and the film-financing market 37°South), its skill-building initiatives for youth (MIFF Schools and Critics Campus), and the MIFF Awards that recognize both short- and longform filmmaking talent.


MIFF was originally launched as the Olinda Film Festival in 1952 after a group of delegates to the 1951 Australian Council of Film Societies suggested that a film event be established in the eponymous tourist town. It was renamed the Melbourne Film Festival in 1953 and held this title over many decades before transforming into the Melbourne International Film Festival. [3] [4] Appointed in 1956, Erwin Rado was the festival’s first director, holding the role until 1979 and returning for a single-year stint in 1983; [3] the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that he shaped the film event’s character with his “uncompromising drive for excellence”. [5]

Following Rado, the festival was headed up by Geoffrey Gardner (1980–1982), Paul Seto (1984), Paul Coulter (1985), Santina Musumeci (1986–1987), Tait Brady (1988–1996), Sandra Sdraulig (1997–2000), James Hewison (2001–2006), Richard Moore (2007–2010), Michelle Carey (2011–2018) and current artistic director Al Cossar (2019–present). [4] [6]

Film program

The MIFF Opening Night Gala regularly takes place in the Arts Centre Melbourne's Hamer Hall Hamer Hall interior pano.jpg
The MIFF Opening Night Gala regularly takes place in the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall

MIFF’s annual program boasts around 300 titles spanning feature films, short films and XR (virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality), alongside a suite of galas, special events, activations and talks. In 2022, the festival screened 260 features, 111 shorts, 12 XR works, and 10 galas and special events, representing 82 countries of origin and 75 languages. [1]

Film competitions

MIFF’s short film competition, established in 1962, [4] is accredited by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. [7] Its inaugural award was ‘Best Short Film’, but the title was changed to ‘Grand Prix for Best Short Film’ in 1965. Since 1985, the Grand Prix has been presented by the City of Melbourne. [8]

In 2022, this was complemented by a feature-length competition for first- and second-time directors, the Bright Horizons Award (presented by VicScreen), whose winner receives a A$140,000 prize; as well as the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award, which recognizes an outstanding Australian creative with a A$70,000 cash prize. As of 2023, the MIFF Awards slate has been expanded to also include the First Nations Film Creative Award, which recognizes an outstanding Indigenous Australian creative with a prize worth $45,000; the Audience Award, as decided by public voting; and the MIFF Schools Youth Jury Award, crowning the best title from the student-focused MIFF Schools program. [9]

The Forum Theatre is a main venue for the short film competition, as well as festival panels and lectures Forum Theatre Melbourne.jpg
The Forum Theatre is a main venue for the short film competition, as well as festival panels and lectures

Feature film awards

Short film awards

Winners of Grand Prix for Best Short Film

1965La gazza ladraGiulio Giannini, Emanuele Luzzati Italy
1966The InheritanceHarold MayerUnited States
1967Petrol-Carburant-KraftstoffHugo Niebeling West Germany
1968You're Human Like the Rest of Them B. S. Johnson UK
1969 Pas de deux Norman McLaren Canada
1970Calcutta Louis Malle France
1971 Blake Bill Mason Canada
1972ScarabusGérald FrydmanBelgium
1973 Street Musique Ryan Larkin Canada
1974Edward BurraPeter K. SmithUK
1975 Last Grave at Dimbaza Nana Mahamo South Africa
1976Leisure Bruce Petty Australia
1977Corralejas de SincelejoMario Mitrotti Colombia
1978Manimals Robin Lehman United States
1979MaljAleksandar Ilic Yugoslavia
1980 Interview Caroline Leaf Canada
1981New York StoryJackie RaynalUnited States
1982ShadowsRoyden IrvineAustralia
1983Douglas Mawson: The Survivor David Parer Australia
1984Aquí se lo hallaLee SokolUnited States
1985In Heaven There Is No Beer? Les Blank United States
1986My Life Without SteveGillian LeahyAustralia
1987Panya shugekiNaoto YamakawaJapan
1988The Critical Years Gerald L'Ecuyer Canada/United States
1989Twilight CityReece AuguisteUK
1990SwimmingBelinda ChaykoAustralia
1991Sink or Swim Su Friedrich United States
1992The Writing in the Sand Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen UK
1993Lektionen in Finsternis Werner Herzog Germany
1994 Only the Brave Ana Kokkinos Australia
1995Twilight Tengai Amano Japan
1996BakaThierry KnauffBelgium
1997 At Sea Penny Fowler-SmithAustralia
1998The Storekeeper Gavin Hood South Africa
1999So-poong Song Il-gon South Korea
2000WildlifeKate de PuryUK
2001MuakahHadar FriedlichIsrael
2002Palace II Kátia Lund, Fernando Meirelles Brazil
2003DestinoDominique MonferyFrance
2004Talking with AngelsYousaf Ali KhanUK
2005Silent CompanionElham Hosseinzadeh Iran
2006AvatarLluis QuilezSpain
2007Blood SistersLouise N.D. FriedbergDenmark
2008 Dennis Mads MatthiesenDenmark
2009 Next Floor Denis Villeneuve, Phoebe GreenbergCanada
2010 The Lost Thing Shaun Tan, Andrew RuhemannAustralia
2011A Fine Young Man Kevan Funk Canada
2012It’s Not A Cowboy MovieBenjamin ParentFrance
2013PandasMatúš Vizár Czech Republic
2014The QueenBenjamin Parent Argentina
2015Everything Will Be OKPatrick VollrathGermany
2016Mrs MetroAggelos PapantoniouAustralia


Breakaway film festival (2000)

In 2000, MIFF's rejection of a feature film written and directed by Richard Wolstencroft led him to form the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF). In subsequent years, MUFF has attracted controversy by criticising the content of MIFF, as well as its management, specifically the leadership of former directors. MUFF sees itself as a space for exciting and edgy Australian cinema that may not be played at MIFF. [10] [11]

Looking for Eric (2009)

In June 2009, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty (writer) and Rebecca O'Brien (producer) pulled their film Looking for Eric from the festival because the Israeli Embassy was a sponsor and the festival declined to withdraw their sponsorship. Moore compared Loach's tactics to blackmail, stating that "we will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long-standing historical disputes". [12]

Uyghur film (2009)

During the 58th festival in 2009, the film The 10 Conditions of Love (2009), which documents the life of the exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, was screened despite many attempts by the Government of China to have the film withdrawn from the festival. Chinese filmmakers withdrew their films from the festival two days before it opened on 24 July 2009. [13] Former MIFF director Richard Moore refused to remove the film from the festival program, [14] despite the hacking of the festival website and attempts to hack its online ticketing system from IP addresses of Chinese origin. Later, both pro-Chinese and pro-Uyghur activists attempted to disrupt ticketing due to the media coverage. [15] [16] [17] The Chinese Government contacted Robert Doyle, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne asking him to intervene, [18] but he refused. Australia's Ambassador to China Geoff Raby was summoned by China's Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun to express displeasure about Kadeer's attendance at MIFF. [19]

Victoria Police was placed on alert during the screening of the film and Pro-Uighur demonstrators also gathered outside the Melbourne Town Hall, [18] and the Dalai Lama sent a message of support via Michael Danby, the MP for Melbourne Ports: [20]

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  2. 1 2 "About Us". Melbourne International Film Festival. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  3. 1 2 Stevens, Kirsten; Radstone, Susannah (August 2020). "Making the Festival". Festival Files. Melbourne International Film Festival. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  4. 1 2 3 Stevens, Kirsten (2016). Australian Film Festivals: Audience, Place, and Exhibition Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  5. Markus, Andrew (2012). "Rado, Erwin Aladar (1914–1988)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  6. "Festival Archive (1992–2022)". Melbourne International Film Festival.
  7. "Short Film Competition Regulations". Melbourne International Film Festival. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  8. "Melbourne International Film Festival". IMDb., Inc. 1990–2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  9. "MIFF Awards". Melbourne International Film Festival. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  10. Richard Wolstencroft (2 August 2013). "The Opening Night of the 14th MUFF. Jugular by JJ DeCeglie. Discovering exciting and edgy new Australian Cinema. That's how we roll. That's what we prioritise. That is our mandate.". MUFF on Facebook. Facebook. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  11. Avrille Bylok Collard (9 August 2013). "Melbourne Underground Film Festival Announces Dates". Beat. Furst Media Pty Ltd. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  12. "Email exchanges between Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Rebecca O'Brien and the Melbourne Film Festival organizers". Pulse Media. 20 July 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  13. "Chinese entries boycott film festival". ABC News. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  14. "MIFF 'sticking to guns' over Uighur film". ABC News. 27 July 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  15. "MIFF website hacked amid Chinese film row". ABC News. 26 July 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  16. pers comm. R.Raulings, director eFirst
  17. "Chinese hackers attack film festival site". ABC News. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  18. 1 2 Gus Goswell (10 August 2009). "Demonstrators turn out at Kadeer film screening". ABC News. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  19. ABC/Reuters (1 August 2009). "China summons Australia over Uighur leader visit". ABC News. Retrieved 11 August 2013.{{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  20. Dalai Lama sends message of support to Kadeer - ABC News, 9 August 2009