Artistic Director’s Report – May 2023
May brings with it our peak programming period, as we continue to view and consider key works and prepare ourselves for the delight and the onslaught that is Festival de Cannes. It’s a festival that is always a significant stake in the ground for us, and marks the start of the reliably frenzied last weeks of our programming processes through to full program lock.
I’d gather by now you’ve probably seen the Cannes program yourself – much-rumoured and much-speculated-on for months – and may have even amassed your own trickle-down wishlists for MIFF this year.
In among the reliably populist blockbuster mode still found on the Croisette within the latest Indiana Jones inclusion, what cinephile wouldn’t be excited by the probable treasures within the Official Selection and its sidebars – the prospect of a new Alice Rohrwacher, Lisandro Alonso or Todd Haynes? Whose curiosity wouldn’t be piqued by Víctor Erice’s first film in 30 years?
For me, with the roll-on of major-tier festival calendar awards cavalcading through the nonfiction and documentary space, in what feels like the most significant simultaneous and cumulative moment of A-list success in that context – to go hyperbolic here – perhaps ever (consider the evidence: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed winning at Venice, Le Spectre de Boko Haram winning at Rotterdam, On the Adamant winning at Berlin, all within the last cycle), it’s refreshing to see Cannes, which typically has a fairly unknowable programmatic relationship to the placement of documentary, select one in competition for the first time since 1994: Wang Bing’s Youth (Spring).
Team MIFF will indeed be present on the Croisette, and we’ll be able to share our experiences from the thick of it in a future report – and hopefully you’ll see the end results of our chasing in the festival upcoming. We’ve continued to travel elsewhere, too, in the interests of scouting films and building connections to create possibilities for the festival – be sure to check out MIFF Program Manager Mia Falstein-Rush’s New York report.
Above: 2022 Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness | Header: Youth (Spring)
Outside of that, May is when we start to make hard decisions as programmers and curators, and as custodians of this wonderful festival.
Time to get a little philosophical. One of the fundamentals of programming, for me, is to ensure that what you are building, in totality and in combination, is always led by the program at scale. You’re working at the level of the whole and the context, and the pieces you add by inviting certain films or by creating programs, in their combination, ultimately create value, complexity, composite alternatives, and deepen and adjust the frames of perspective and understanding you can (hopefully!) find within the MIFF program. Or simply, every part changes the whole, and every part creates a new path for the audience.
But May is the moment when that abstract thinking becomes a real-world imperative – and when, excitingly, things take shape as decisions start to get made, and start to accelerate.
And as things take shape, there are a couple of dates you might like to keep track of in the grand countdown to the next MIFF.
These are dates to be placed in your calendars – encircled with hearts; lovingly gazed upon as you cross down the days; to be loaded against timed reminders on your devices, spring-loaded with abrasively ear-confronting dings. Tell your significant other your relationship depends on them reminding you. Whatever you need to do to remember, remember this:
Our First Glance announcement, featuring a whirlwind 20-film first course of MIFF 2023 cinema unveilings, will be live on Thursday 8 June. Keep an eye out for those very first titles marking your return to the world of MIFF this year.
The full program will be announced on Tuesday 11 July at our Program Launch (with Member pre-sales available directly afterwards).
The programming team and I will be there to take you through the ebbs and the flows of MIFF 2023 – the big titles, the auteurs, the formally adventurous, the unabashedly popcorn-leaning, the deep-dive retros, the hidden gems – all things MIFF, all set for your cinematic gouging this winter.
MIFF 2022 Program Guide (photo: Myles Formby)
What’s more, I’m pleased to announce there will be a welcome return.
After several COVID-decimated years that rendered our guide format vulnerable to sudden, major changes and cancellations, which necessitated a ‘summary’ format in 2021 and 2022, we’re now thrilled to bring back the full, all-singing, all-dancing, all-cinema MIFF print Program Guide in 2023!
We know that it’s a much-loved text when it comes to MIFF movies, a definitive document for navigating the nooks and crannies of the program, and a publication that each year tells the very story of the festival. It means a lot to you, and I can assure you it means even more to us. We’re thrilled to bring it back – once again available to attendees first at MIFF’s Program Launch and distributed in The Age following.
The guide will again act as a full catalogue of the entire program, but with a live schedule online ensuring you’re across any necessary changes to navigate the festival.
As always, plan ahead for Program Launch. Required: spreadsheets, leave forms, a sense of curiosity at the world, and a desire to leave your square-eyed algorithms behind for something more adventurous, more esoteric, more amazing and much, much more MIFF.
While you’re at it, perhaps consider a membership for the inside track to a mother lode of movies in August?
We can’t wait to welcome you back.
MIFF Artistic Director