Melbourne International Film Festival Has Revealed 32 Must-See Titles From Its Hefty 2021 Program

This year's festival will launch with Leah Purcell's 'The Drover's Wife The Legend Of Molly Johnson', which becomes the first film by a female Indigenous director to ever open the event.
Sarah Ward
June 17, 2021

In 2020, the Melbourne International Film Festival hosted its largest festival to-date — when it came to the size of its audience, that is. Taking place last August when the city was in lockdown, the fest attracted plenty of eyeballs to its online-only lineup. This year, however, Melburnian movie buffs will also be able to head to a cinema to get their film fix.

MIFF isn't ditching digital in 2021, though. Instead, it's going hybrid — so watching at home from wherever you happen to be around the country and attending in-person in Victoria will both be options. Just what will be available virtually and what you'll need to see in a theatre hasn't been revealed, but the fest has just announced 32 titles that it'll be showing one way or another between Thursday, August 5–Sunday, August 22. Also, this year's MIFF will be expanding its physical footprint, hitting up not only the usual CBD venues but also suburban and regional spots as well.

As for what you'll be seeing, so far the festival has named a hefty number of homegrown movies. Topping the list: the supremely powerful opening night pick The Drover's Wife The Legend Of Molly Johnson, which'll become the first movie by a female Indigenous filmmaker to ever open the fest. Directed by and starring Leah Purcell (Wentworth), the film will launch MIFF 2021 in quite the potent fashion, with this exceptional reimagining of Henry Lawson's 1892 short story making its Aussie premiere after initially debuting at SXSW back in March. Purcell first turned The Drover's Wife into a play and then a book, and thankfully she isn't done forcing audiences to reckon with the country's colonial history and its impact upon First Nations peoples and women just yet.

Another big Australian name, and one that'll bow at MIFF after playing at the Cannes Film Festival: the already-controversial Nitram. Read the movie's title backwards and you'll know why it has sparked a reaction long before it even hits the screen. Here, Snowtown and True Story of the Kelly Gang filmmaker Justin Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant reunite on a drama about the lead up to the events in Port Arthur 25 years ago — with Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) playing the titular figure.


Other notable local titles include Anonymous Club, a Courtney Barnett-centric documentary about creativity; political thriller Lone Wolf, which stars Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai), Stephen Curry (June Again) and Hugo Weaving (Hearts and Bones); and Wash My Soul in the River's Flow, which chronicles Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter's performance with Paul Grabowsky's Australian Art Orchestra, and comes to MIFF at around the same time as it'll screen at this year's Sydney Film Festival. This year, the two events overlap — SFF is being held two months later than usual — so cinephiles can expect the fests to share more a few more movies in common than usual.

From MIFF's international slate, Petit Mamam leads the bill — and, given that it's the latest film from Portrait of a Lady on Fire's Céline Sciamma, it's an instant must-see. Other standouts include tweet-to-screen comedy Zola, Oscar-nominee Quo Vadis, Aida?, Japanese relationship drama Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and documentary Hopper/Welles, which charts a boozy 70s conversation between Dennis Hopper and Orson Welles.

MIFF will also screen Pedro Almodóvar's (Pain and Glory) latest, a short called The Human Voice that stars Tilda Swinton, and also marks the Spanish auteur's English-language debut. And, it'll host a Hear My Eyes session as the fest often does, this time screening Aussie great Two Hands.

The full festival lineup will be revealed on Tuesday, July 13, which is when you'll be able to start planning out your August viewing schedule — and your trips between the fest's 2021 venues, which include Comedy Theatre, the Forum, RMIT Capitol Theatre, ACMI, Kino Cinemas, Hoyts Melbourne Central, Coburg Drive-In, The Astor, Palace Cinemas Pentridge, The Sun Theatre and Lido Cinemas.

The 2021 Melbourne International Film Festival runs from Thursday, August 5 to Sunday, August 22 at a variety of venues around Melbourne. For further details, including the full program from Tuesday, July 13, visit the MIFF website.

Published on June 17, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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