MIFF Has Cancelled Its In-Cinema Festival and Will Focus on Streaming Its Digital Program for 2021 

Due to the COVID-19 situation in Melbourne at the moment, the Melbourne International Film Festival has switched to an online-only festival for the second year in a row.
Sarah Ward
Published on August 11, 2021

For the second year in a row, movie buffs will need to get their Melbourne International Film Festival fix purely from their couches. After the 2020 fest jumped online due to the pandemic, the 2021 event was meant to go ahead as a hybrid of both in-cinema and digital sessions. But then not one but two lockdowns hit, venue restrictions were put in place when the city wasn't under stay-at-home conditions, and the COVID-19 situation in Melbourne in general has kept complicating plans, leading MIFF organisers to scrap its in-cinema screenings.

Initially, in-person sessions were set to span the festival's first week or so, before the event closed up online; however, just days before this year's MIFF kicked off on Thursday, August 5, the fest flipped that order and expanded its virtual component. It was due to then add in-person sessions from Thursday, August 12, but that'll no longer be happening.

"MIFF's heart was in a return to cinemas this year, and this is a goal that we have pursued with determination to this point," said Artistic Director Al Cossar. "It is with deep sadness and profound frustration that we must take the step of cancelling our Melbourne cinema-based screenings for 2021."

This year's MIFF was designed to be able to adapt to changing conditions, given that it was always likely that the pandemic would continue to impact the festival's plans — and so it is well-positioned for the move online. "Despite the duress of this moment, we are proud that elements of our program can still continue," said Cossar. "Through our XR platform, global audiences anywhere can continue their season of MIFF's exciting range of immersive experiences; and, centrally, through MIFF Play we can continue to deliver the very best Australian and international films to audiences not just in Melbourne but right around the country, at a time that it's most needed."

Via MIFF Play, the festival is screening more than 90 features, with its catalogue of titles growing in recent days. Exisiting highlights include college-set rom-com Freshman Year, Spanish influencer satire La Verónica, New Zealand thriller Coming Home in the Dark and Norwegian comedy Ninjababy, while the Mads Mikkelsen-starring Riders of Justice and psycho-thriller music mockumentary The Nowhere Inn — featuring Carrie Brownstein and St Vincent — sit among the just-added newcomers.

More films are set to become available on Saturday, August 14, too, such as documentary Hopper/Welles, which sees Dennis Hopper and Orson Welles meet and chat back in 1970; Night of the Kings, a prison thriller set on the outskirts of Abidjan; and Stray, a doco about the 100,000-plus stray dogs that rove freely around Istanbul. And, other titles will drop later in the fest, like Australian drama Little Tornadoes, which is co-written by The Slap's Christos Tsiolkas; Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, a documentary exploring the folk horror genre; and closing night's Language Lessons, which takes place via video calls.

MIFF's digital platform is available Australia-wide, ensuring that cinephiles around the country — including those in lockdown elsewhere, like in Greater Sydney — can enjoy its lineup as well. That facet of the online program proved popular last year, unsurprisingly, with 2020's virtual festival resulting in MIFF's biggest fest yet, audience-wise. 

The 2021 Melbourne International Film Festival runs via MIFF's online platform MIFF Play until Sunday, August 22. For further details, visit the MIFF website.

Published on August 11, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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