Since 1967, international guests have joined Australian filmmakers and local celebrities in the festival’s cinemas and on its red carpets. Attending MIFF offers the chance to glimpse these famous faces through the crowds, or rub shoulders with them at screenings or gala parties. Post-screening Q&As offer a chance to glimpse the artists behind the screen, to find out more about who made the films and the stories that inspire them.
For many, highlights have included seeing Morgan Freeman in the foyer of the Regent Theatre at opening night in 2001, chatting with Josef von Sternberg or Satyajit Ray in the late 1960s, Wim Wenders in the 1980s, Darren Aronofsky or Jacques Martineau in 1998, and Quentin Tarantino a decade later. A sign of the world coming to Melbourne each year to share in our love of film.
For others, though, it was our local stars who shine brightest. Directors like Ana Kokkinos, or famous cinephiles Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, or even meeting people who would only later shoot to fame – such as Tony Ayres, who was first spied by past MIFF director Tait Brady as he worked the MIFF ticket desk.
Big or small, these celebrity sightings and shared moments are all part of the festival fun.
“Meeting Ang Lee, the two-time Academy Award-winning film director, [was a highlight, when] his second film, The Wedding Banquet, opened MIFF one year. I was there, I was a member at that stage, and I was lucky enough to meet him. A nice enough guy, and 25 years later he’s considered one of the world’s great living directors. So yeah, I can remember when he came to Melbourne with his second film. I also remember [James Hewison, MIFF Director 2001–2006] getting Geoffrey Rush to sit down and talk to the audience after a screening ... It’s been brilliant.”
Kevin Cassidy, regular MIFF attendee since 1985
“With film festivals, you see some great films. And you also see some crappy ones. But that’s the nature of the film festival. And the Melbourne International Film Festival had some of the best. I remember talking to the director Aka Kokkinos. In 1998, she premiered her film at the Capitol Theatre. Head On, which was fairly controversial at the time. The scene where the immigrants were arriving on the big cruise line at Melbourne dock, that really struck a chord with me … she captured the scene brilliantly. And she’s a great director. So I like following directors. That’s what film festivals taught me: to follow the directors, because quite often, in the guides, they will tell you what they’ve done previously. And that was a high recommendation. If you’re really seeing something from that director, you tend to follow them.”
Tony Coleiro, long-time MIFF attendee
“So 2009, I went in the capacity as a volunteer. It was the year that Inglorious Basterds was screening with all of the fancy guests – with Quentin, and I think Christoph Waltz was there, I think Mélanie Laurent was there. And I was doing front of house over at ACMI but I remember when that big session was on, with security everywhere, because they had to close off all the streets. And the other sessions that were happening at ACMI at the time, they were not at capacity. So I got sent over to Forum [where the Inglorious Basterds screening was happening]. I was in my oversized t-shirt, because they didn’t have a t-shirt that fit me. So I was wearing this gigantic dress of a vollies shirt, and I was standing up at the top of the stairs at Forum about this far from Christoph Waltz, and Mélanie Laurent and Quentin Tarantino, and I got to be the person to say ‘you can go in now’ when they were waiting to go and do their Q&A. That was kind of a blast.”
Melanie Sheridan, former MIFF program guide editor