Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” is set as the opening movie of the Melbourne International Film Festival. The event was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, before being revived online under the label MIFF 68 ½. The festival will unspool virtually Aug 6-23, 2020.
“First Cow” is an unlikely story of friendship and free enterprise on the American frontier, involving a skilled cook, a Chinese immigrant and a wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow. It previously played at the Telluride, New York and Berlin festivals.
In total, the festival will present 60 feature films, including 3 in a retrospective section, and 44 shorts. They hail from 56 countries and territories and 49% include at least one female director. All film screenings are geo-blocked to play only within Australia, but are available nationwide.
“Despite the extraordinary circumstances of 2020, MIFF’s ‘radical act’ is to keep going and continue on our mission to bring (to audiences) the world through unforgettable screen experiences,” said artistic director, Al Cossar. “We are driven by a deep understanding that film has the ability to entertain, inspire, illuminate and empower audiences in a way that few other mediums can – qualities we welcome now more than ever.”
“Wendy,” Benh Zeitlin’s follow-up to “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has been set as the festival’s centrepiece. It is a contemporary reimagining of “Peter Pan” set in the American south, that premiered at Sundance.
Pablo Larrain’s “Ema,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal and newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo is the festival’s closing night screening. It debuted last year at Venice and Toronto.
English-language highlights include: “Boys State,” winner of Sundance’s US Grand Jury Prize for Documentary; psychodrama “Black Bear” by Lawrence Michael Levine; the late Johann Johannsson’s “Last and First Men”; lesbian rom-com “Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)”; Jan Komasa’s Oscar-nominated “Corpus Christi”; and Def Jam analysis “On the Record,” by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.
International highlights include Kazik Radwanski’s “Anne at 13,000 ft”; Crystal Bear-winner at this year’s Berlinale, “Sweet Thing” by Alexandre Rockwell; 2019 Locarno Golden Leopard-winner “Vitalina Varela,” by Pedro Costa; Bassam Tariq’s “Mogul Mowgli,” starring Riz Ahmed; Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Baby,” Maya Da-Rin’s “Fever”; and Ray Yeung’s “Suk Suk.”
The Australian lineup includes: the world premiere of Steven McGregor’s “Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky” telling the arrival of Captain Cook’s landing in Australaia from indigenous eyes; “El Metido,” Alex Roberts and Daniel Leclair’s Guatemala City-set documentary about a fearless crime reporter; “Day in the Life,” a study of Aboriginal community made by the Karrabing Film Collective; world premiere of Jo-Anne Brechin’s uplifting rom-com “Paper Champions”; and Alison Chhorn’s experimental “The Plastic House,” about a young Cambodian-Australian woman who copes with her parents’ death by retreating to the family greenhouse.