Melbourne International Film Festival announces 2021 program with record 40 premieres

Including Questlove's feature debut, a David McComb documentary, and the world's first fully-dubbed film in an Aboriginal Australian language

The Melbourne International Film Festival has announced the full program for its 2021 event, with a record 40 world premieres and 154 Australian premieres.

Returning to cinemas for its 69th edition after a virtual event last year, the festival will run in cinemas from 5-15 August with a digital version (MIFF Play) continuing from 14-22 August – allowing select films to be rented from home nationwide

The festival’s Centrepiece Gala will be the feature debut from The Roots’ drummer Questlove Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). 

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The film, which opened Sundance this year, uses lost footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 and archival interviews with Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, and others to provide a time capsule of Black resistance music in the 1960s.

The premiere of the David McComb documentary Love in Bright Landscapes will be accompanied by The Songs of David McComb and The Triffids performed live at The Forum by surviving members of the band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Blackeyed Susans, Magic Dirt, RVG, and more on July 13.

There are also plenty of international music flicks set to screen throughout the festival: Carrie Brownstein and St Vincent play alternate versions of themselves in the tour mockumentary The Nowhere Inn, Philipp Reichenheim tells the story of Dinosaur Jr in Freakscene – The Story of Dinosaur Jr, and never before seen footage of Tom Petty will air in Mary Wharton’s Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free. 

As previously announced, Courtney Barnett will feature in Danny Cohen’s film Anonymous Club, which “[explores] the inner life of the notoriously shy artist amidst her significant rise to fame” and Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter’s 2004 performance with the Australian Art Orchestra will be revisited in Philippa Bateman’s directorial debut, Wash My Soul in the Rivers’ Flow.

The Australian premiere of Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, a documentary look at the beloved late chef, will be accompanied by a one-off pairing with a bespoke five-course menu from Melbourne restaurant Supernormal.

Off the back of being the first Australian film to compete for the Palme D’Or in a decade, Justin Kurzel’s fictional examination of the Port Arthur mass-murderer Nitram will have its local premiere.

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Bruce Lee’s martial-arts classic Fist of Fury will become the first feature film to ever be fully dubbed in an Aboriginal Australian language as Fist of Fury Noongar Daa.

MIFF’s international headliners include Annette – an absurd musical co-written by Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard – Language Lessons, the Mark Duplass-starring and Zoom-filmed platonic rom-com, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s English-language debut Memoria.

In total, MIFF 69 will screen 199 feature films, 84 shorts and 10 XR experiences – view the full program via the festival website. Tickets are on sale now for MIFF Members, with general sale to kick off on July 16.

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