Unlike other international film festivals, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) began in 1952 as an audience-driven film festival in Olinda, and after many years’ progress, MIFF now has a firm root in Australia, which reaches the target of the public interests and makes Melbourne a paradise for filmmakers. (Stevens, 2016)
There were so many questions in my mind about the MIFF and the film itself before I went to the event. What is a film festival? What are the differences between a film shown in a film festival and a film shown in a cinema? What is the most distinctive factor in MIFF? How they select the films? And what are the aims of showing the films in MIFF? The ideas came out after the show. MIFF is not very formal; it doesn’t have red carpets and famous stars. People waited in lines with the guidance; they are not experts, some of them just came from work, probably the film they were going to watch in MIFF doesn’t have any difference to them with other films they saw in the cinema before. MIFF doesn’t have competitions through the history, so probably there are less political factors in MIFF, in other words, that’s the reason why MIFF could become an audience-driven film festival. In addition, the film selection in MIFF emphasises more about the public reasons rather than the aesthetic reasons. MIFF wants its audiences to think something related to their daily lives after they watched the movies.
It’s hard to remark MIFF whether good or bad, what I have to say is that my experience in MIFF is entirely different than seeing a film in the cinema. There was a small introduction before the film, the director, producer and actor introduced the film with their own words. I could still remember the main actor of the film sang a song to the audience to share his feeling before the film. And after the film, there was a Q&A section. Different audiences made comments and asked questions to the filmmakers; this is a win-win approach because not only the audiences could get their answers but also the filmmakers could have a unique interaction with the audiences, it helps them to understand what are the audiences want to see in a film.
So what about the film itself? The documentary which called UNDERMINED: TALES FROM THE KIMBERLEY is about the aboriginal people’s issues and bad influences of doing business in their homeland. I think the reason why the festival organisers selected this film in MIFF is that the issues are very close to Australians, and people have their rights to know the truth. Therefore, this film was shown on MIFF for particular reasons, not for political reasons or for aesthetic reasons but for the purpose to reach the target of the local audiences. As a result, the film made a strong echo directly after the show, audiences made positive comments, and they are willing to introduce the film to their friends, sharing and celebrating together. Just as de Valck (2016) mentioned: “Celebrating film festivals means celebrating film as art, film as a political tool, and the film’s invaluable role in society.” MIFF plays an individual and successful role to celebrate films in Australia and helps Melbourne to increase its city brand around the world. What I mentioned in the article is only a small part of the glamour from MIFF, it’s better to be in the MIFF and feeling the film celebration by yourself.
Stevens, Kirsten. “Enthusiastic Amateurs: Australia’s Film Societies and the Birth of Audience-Driven Film Festivals in Post-War Melbourne.” New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 22–39., doi:10.1080/17400309.2015.1106689.
Valck, Marijke de. Film Festivals History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.