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A buff's paradise awaits those willing to brave the bracing early-August cold of the southern capital. SCREEN-SPACE takes a brief glimpse at this year's MIFF ahead of the extensive daily coverage we will offer for the duration of the event, which begins August 2 and wraps up August 19.

The 2012 edition of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), centred at the iconic Forum Theatre (pictured, above) on busy Flinders Street but taking place at 8 venues citywide, may very well pride itself on an expansive programme of global cinematic delights, but takes its status as an Australian institution ver seriously. The decision to allot the two most prestigious slots – the opening and closing night sessions – to highly-anticipated Aussie pics is a fervently nationalistic nod and a gesture that honours 61 years of happy co-reliance between MIFF and the local industry.

Kicking off the Festival will be Wayne Blair’s Cannes hit The Sapphires, further priming the marketplace for what many are predicting will be the year’s biggest film when it goes wide on August 9; an 11 strong contingent of cast and crew notables (among them stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy) will attend. The always-debauched closing night revelry will by fired-up by PJ Hogan’s Mental, which sees him reunited with Muriel’s Wedding muse Toni Collette.

Other indicators that MIFF remains focussed on Australian content include 11 local works that make up this year’s Australian Showcase, including the world premieres of Boyd Hickin’s Save Your Legs, Luke Walker’s Lasseter’s Bones, Alan Rosenthals’s The First Fagin and Jeffery Walker’s made-for-TV crime drama Jack Irish – Bad Debts, starring Guy Pearce; a selection of works from indigenous artists (amongst them Tiffany Parker’s Scar and Leah Purcell’s She, Say) presented by Blackfella Films; Ian Darling’s stirring profile of one of great musical poets, Paul Kelly: Stories of Me; and, 27 locally-produced shorts across 8 divergent strands dedicated to the short-film form.

International cinema has been afforded a vast platform at MIFF 2012. The strands that offer an insight into the state of global filmmaking are:
Telescopes: Visions from the EU – A selection of 12 films that will be judged by representatives from the Film Critics Circle of Australia and awarded the Telescope Award; they include, Oslo, 31. August (Norway), The Red and the Black (France), The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (Italy; below), Palaces of Pity (Portugal) and L (Greece; pictured, right);
Through The Labyrinth: Latin American Cinema – Screening will be the Sundance-honoured Las Acacias, drug-running drama Miss Bala and two searing portraits of the volatile student politics movement, Celina Murga’s documentary Normal School and Santiago Mitre’s feature The Student.
Facing North: Swedish Cinema in Focus – A two-tiered examination of Swedish film. Criminal Record looks at five films from the region that have helped defined the Crime Film, including 1938s A Woman’s Face, 1976s The Man on the Roof and 2010s Easy Money. In the contemporary strand, Fijona Jonuzi’s Pure and Patrick Edlund’s Flicker are highlights.
And Asian cinema is prominently featured in two programming initiatives - Accent on Asia, a 20 film strong overview of Eastern film culture, including classic Takashi Miike works and the developing cult-hit, Vulgaria (pictured, left); and, Street Level Visions, a celebration of independent produced Chinese documentary makers.

Retrospective events this year include 70s New Hollywood Comedy, a revisiting of some comedy classics from the period, including works by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude), Woody Allen (Take the Money and Run), Mike Nichols (The Fortune), Carl Reiner (Where’s Poppa) and Albert Brooks (Modern Romance); 5 archival prints, supplied by the Cinematheque Francais, will lead a celebration of the impressionistic French filmmaking master Jean Epstein; and, The Last Romantic, a selection of Leo Carax’s most divisive works  (Bad Blood, 1986; Pola X, 1999) designed to put his latest, Holy Motors (screening at MIFF) into a career context.

The reputation that MIFF has cultivated amongst the international cinephiles has always ensured the roster of global talent is a highlight of the event. Amongst the 33 notaries scheduled to attend in 2012 are acclaimed UK historian/critic Adrian Wotton, who will present the Charles Dickens on Film screenings and lectures; a return visit by script analysis expert Wendall Thomas, who will hold four masterclasses dealing with the intricacies of script writing; and, key talent such as directors Benh Zeitlin (Beast of the Southern Wild), Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America), Ben Lewin (The Sessions), Lee Hirsch (Bully) and Axel Petersen (Avalon).

To get your MIFF 2012 experience started, here is a selection of SCREEN-SPACE reviews and interviews. Please bookmark this page and check back regularly as we aim to provide coverage leading up to the August 2 opening night and then every day from the event, which we will be attending in full:
Golden Slumbers
: Interview with director Davy Chou.
The Sapphires
: Directed by Wayne Blair, starring Deborah Mailman and Chris O'Dowd.
: Directed by Lee Hirsch; interview with Lee Hirsch.
Maniac: Directed by Franck Khalfoun, starring Elijah Wood.
Killer Joe: Directed by William Friedkin, starring Matthew McConnaughey, Emile Hirsch.
Postcards from the Zoo: Directed by Edwin, starring Ladya Cheryl, Nicholas Saputra.
Side by Side: Directed by Chris Kenneally, featuring Keanu Reeves.
¡Vivan las Antipodas!: Directed by Victor Kossakovsky.
Safety Not Guaranteed: Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Audrey Plaza, Mark Duplass.
The Imposter: Directed by Bart Layton.
A Monster in Paris: Directed by Bibo Bergeron.
Bestiaire: Directed by Denis Côté.

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