By Bronwen Beechey
The 44th Melbourne International Film Festival begins on June 8, screening more than 200 films from 28 countries. The centenary of cinema will be a theme of the festival, which will begin with a restored print and newly commissioned score for the Australian silent classic The Sentimental Bloke.
Other retrospective screenings under the centenary banner include rare Czech silents, Japanese animation and little-known Indian films of the 1960s.
Special events include Australia's first environmental film and video program. Films include Ecological Design: Inventing the Future; Ross Gibson's Wild, which examines the way that environments shape our history; and Taxi to Timbuktu, an examination of the social and environmental impact of global economics on the small African country of Mali.
Other films of interest include Antonia Bird's controversial Priest; Dust of Life, a French/Algerian/Vietnamese co-production set in the period following the liberation of Saigon in 1975; Michael Handke's 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, another examination of alienation and violence from the Austrian director of the chilling Benny's Video; and US director Charles Burnett's The Glass Shield, billed as a "thinking person's cop-thriller", about a black rookie posted to an intolerant inner-city station.
On a lighter note are Canadian director Patricia Rozema's lesbian romance, When Night is Falling, and the eagerly awaited Ed Wood, Tim Burton's biography of the cross-dressing Z-grade film director. Documentaries include Crumb, the story of US underground cartoonist Robert Crumb and his "positively psychotic" family and Carmen Miranda: Bananas is my business, examining how Hollywood manipulation and greed destroyed the Brazilian actor.
New Australian films include John Ruane's (Death in Brunswick) adaptation of Tim Winton's novel, That Eye the Sky, Aleksi Vellis' The Life of Harry Dare and Alan Madden's black comedy Mushrooms.
The festival runs from June 8 to June 25, at the Astor, Kino and Valhalla Cinemas and the State Film Theatre. For programs, screening details and bookings, ring (03) 9417 2011.