Melbourne International Film Festival to go online as MIFF 68 ½

Enabled by the largest private donation in the festival's history

The Melbourne International Film Festival has announced it will host its 2020 event online, following its physical cancellation last month due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.

The digital festival is launching under the name MIFF 68 ½, a reference to Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film 8 ½. It’s set to spotlight approximately 40 streamable feature films over the intended dates of the festival August 6-23, with ticketed access.

The full program of films will be announced on July 14, but a press release promises “a number of films planned for the festival’s intended 2020 program, as well as foregrounding ‘discovery’ highlights by emerging filmmakers”.

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MIFF Artistic Director Al Cossar added that “while it will not have the scale of a regular festival, it will certainly have all of the heart”.

“MIFF is a Melbourne icon that offers an important point of togetherness for our city and creative communities each year,” he said.

“MIFF 68½ is our response to these difficult times — the result of our desire to sustain MIFF’s outstanding film programming, stay connected with our audience, and foster new audience connections during this truly unparalleled time.”

The films will be streamed on a service powered by Shift 72, a high-end video platform used by SXSW and Europe’s CPH:DOX. The mysterious company is based in Hamilton, New Zealand.

The new iteration of the festival is being enabled by the largest single private donation in the festival’s history, from Melbourne-based film producer, businesswoman and philanthropist Susie Montague. The amount was unspecified but was described as “generous” in a press release.

“I’m supporting MIFF so that the festival can tackle the challenges of this difficult year and going digital is a no-brainer,” Montague said.

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“I want to see MIFF continue to grow its audience and cement its reputation as one of the world’s leading film festivals.”

A donation from director and actor Rachel Griffiths was also noted as significant.

Some of MIFF’s usual off-shoot events will also return as part of an online suite. This includes the Shorts Awards, MIFF Talks and Critics Campus, as well as virtual adaptations of the festival’s social events.

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