Melbourne International Film Festival cancels in-cinema element of 2021 event, expands MIFF Play program

The in-person events were scheduled to kick off from tomorrow

As Melbourne remains locked down as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 69th instalment of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is pivoting to an online-only platform.

The festival, which officially kicked off last Thursday (August 5), had planned to include a series of in-person screenings as cinemas across Melbourne, scheduled to take place starting tomorrow (August 12) and wrapping up on Sunday August 22. Those screenings have now been cancelled, with refunds set to be issued automatically.

Organisers clarified in a press release, however, that regional events will still take place in areas not affected by the current lockdowns. “Any required changes to the program line-up will be advised through local operators,” the presser noted.

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On the decision to cancel the festival’s in-cinema programming, the MIFF’s Artistic Director, Al Cossar, said: “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.

“It is with deep sadness and profound frustration that we must take the step of cancelling our Melbourne cinema-based screenings for 2021. From the outset of a volatile year, we designed the festival to be scalable and adaptable – a festival that could change with these uncertain times to meet audiences where they are. Despite the duress of this moment, we are proud that elements of our program can still continue.”

To compensate for the partial cancellation, the festival’s streaming platform MIFF Play will be expanded with over 30 additional films. This includes four titles coming direct from Cannes – The Hill Where Lionesses Roar, La Civil, Rehana Maryam Noor and Babi Yar. Context – and the Premiere Fund titles Ablaze, Chef Antonio’s Recipes For Revolution, Little Tornadoes and Paper City.

The full program for MIFF 2021 was initially unveiled last month, which included a record 40 world premieres and 154 Australian premieres.

The program included the feature debut from The Roots’ drummer Questlove, Summer Of Soul, the premiere of David McComb’s documentary Love In Bright Landscapes, the Carrie Brownstein and St Vincent-starring Nowhere Inn and Anonymous Club, a documentary exploring the artistry of Courtney Barnett.

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The 2020 MIFF also took place entirely online, rebranded as MIFF 68 ½ in homage to to Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film 8 ½. The move was notably successful, with organisers reporting an estimated audience of 307,500 – the largest in the festival’s history.

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