Learning, celebration and respect: a special premiere at the 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival (Part 1)

For the last several decades, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has always been one of the most innovative showcases of the films from all over the world. It is an iconic cultural carnival in terms of worldwide filmmaking. Meanwhile, today’s film industry is facing the cultural market far more diverse than it used to be. When film festivals are becoming numerous and various in many countries and regions, MIFF, this veteran of film festivals is interpreting that how an international film event should be via a special premiere.


A scene from the film: Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley

(Retrieved from: http://miff.com.au/program/film/undermined-tales-from-the-kimberley)

This premiere is for a film called Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley. The documentary is about how the indigenous communities of Kimberley negotiated even battled with governments in order to protect their pristine environment and aboriginal conventions. The theme is purely Australian. However, MIFF offered a chance that allowed the film and its makers to propose these arguments to the audience from all over the world. As a guest mentioned before the premiere, the reason why MIFF is so powerful and attractive is that it provides three functions to audience: learning, celebration, and respect.


Learning: the educational function

Learning can be the most crucial behaviour that makes humans being human. Our civilisation is built on the foundation of learning our ancestors’ knowledge. For film festivals, even they are fluid cultural events, they still convey lots of meaning information to audience via graphics and audio media (not always films, but most of them are). Comparing with schools, libraries and other conventional learning venues, the time and space of film festivals are limited and their atmospheres, to some extent, are more easy-going (Johnston 65). The learning experience at film festivals is causal and imperceptible. Watching movies, attending galas even reading the booklets of the festival could be the ‘lecture 101’ of cultural diversity for audience.

For this premiere, MIFF’s organisers did lots of preparation in order to develop the learning function of audience. Before the movie, an aboriginal musician was invited to the stage for audience to understand the Aboriginal culture and their special communities. The filmmakers also gave some brief background of these indigenous people. Except for the movie itself, Q&A was also an important learning section, which is a valuable part of any premieres. With the explanation of filmmakers and guests, audience were able to have more comprehension about the areas they were interested.


Celebration: the entertaining function

Celebration function makes sense to the public that why a “film festival” is called “festival”. “Celebration” is about making common life meaningful and entertaining participants both physically and mentally. At film festivals, audience are able to amuse themselves with films and other entertainment: foods and alcohol (for example, afterparties). No wonder some film festivals called themselves as a “carnival” (for example, Indywood Film Carnival).

As “carnival” derived from religions, film festival, this kind of “modern carnival” is also full of religious metaphors: screens could be “altars”; films could be “offerings” and audience, clearly, would be “followers”. However, people who come to the film festival are not worshiping gods but satisfying their needs of celebration. (To be continue-Part 2)

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