MIFF 2024 first glance: Memoir of a Snail, Audrey, I Saw the TV Glow, and more

Adam Elliot's claymation revealed as opening night film, alongside other local and international highlights.
Memoirs of a Snail. Image: Madman Entertainment/MIFF

Melbournians rejoice, for the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is back for another year, and it brings with it a jam-packed program of anticipated features and surprise curations.

Screening in Naarm and surrounds from 8-25 August, MIFF brings together some of the most talked about local and international films of the year, many of which will be shown for the first time in Australia.

This year’s festival opens with Adam Elliot’s latest stop-motion film Memoir of a Snail, which took eight years to complete and has been supported by the MIFF Premiere Film Fund. The voice cast includes Sarah Snook, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Magda Szubanski, Eric Bana, Tony Armstrong, Nick Cave and Jacki Weaver.

Elliot won the Academy award for Best Animated Short Film in 2004 for Harvie Krumpet, which saw him become a household name overnight. Now, he returns to claymation in the feature-length Opening Night Gala selection, Memoir of a Snail.

‘After eight long years, producer Liz Kearney and I are a bit exhausted but thrilled to be asked to be the Opening Night film for MIFF 2024,’ said Elliot.

‘It is truly a Melbourne film and MIFF is the perfect place for its Australian premiere. About Melbourne, made by Melburnians and voiced by Melburnians, Memoir of a Snail is a handmade stop-motion film lovingly crafted by a team of local artists. Opening night at MIFF will be a celebration of their artistry and a celebration of this wonderful city in which we live’

Read: Sarah Snook joins Memoir of a Snail, from the director of Harvie Krumpet

Audrey. Image: Bankside Films/Rialto/MIFF

Plenty more Australian films follow Memoirs of a Snail, with Natalie Bailey’s Audrey also announced as part of the Premiere Film Fund. Audrey follows a soap opera has-been and self-proclaimed Mother of the Year, Ronnie Lipsick, as she tries to take another stab at stardom by stealing the identity of her comatose teenage daughter. It stars Jackie van Beek (The Breaker Upperers), Hannah Diviney (Latecomers), Josephine Blazier (The Gloaming) and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (The Dry).

From Queensland we have Flathead, Jaydon Martin’s directorial feature debut that’s been executive-produced by Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Hail, MIFF 2012; Bastardy, MIFF 2008). This blending of narrative and non-fiction scooped a Special Jury Award as part of Rotterdam’s Tiger Competition. Shot in cinematic black-and-white, Flathead is an intimate portrait of a working-class community in rural Queensland and their dealings with loss, masculinity and faith.

This year will also see MIFF’s inaugural ‘Premiere with Purpose’ feature, a ‘black-carpet’ event at ACMI where social justice documentary Left Write Hook will screen. Left Write Hook takes the audience inside a recovery program attended by seven female survivors of childhood sexual assault. Under the guidance of boxing instructor and trauma survivor Donna Lyon – who also serves as producer on the film – the women band together as they break their silence for the very first time.

Directed by Shannon Owen, Left Write Hook explores how the physicality of boxing combined with the emotional power of creative writing gives space to survivors to release their memories, reclaim their bodies, and imagine new lives for themselves. 

Read: Learning by doing: documentary maker Shannon Owen on the VCA’s Master of Film and Television course

Grand Theft Hamlet. Image: Altitude Film Entertainment Sales/MIFF

The Winner of SXSW’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature, Grand Theft Hamlet, is perhaps this years’ most unusual film. It sees two locked-down actors take Shakespeare to the least likely stage imaginable: the streets of multiplayer video game Grand Theft Auto. What begins as a playful collusion between the simulated thuggery of online gaming, the violent mayhem of Shakespeare’s Denmark and the real-world camaraderie of theatre dorks swiftly develops into a surprisingly poignant story about unbridled creativity even during the worst of times. 

Among the year’s most anticipated international films, we have Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw The TV Glow, a story about the ways that technology, art and pop culture can be lifelines for outsiders. The film interweaves themes of gender, queerness and identity. With twists on genre, music by Caroline Polachek and yeule, and a plethora of pop-culture easter eggs (including appearances by Phoebe Bridgers, Snail Mail and Fred Durst), this is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

Coming from overseas as the latest Cannes Critics’ Week award winner, Constance Tsang’s Blue Sun Palace investigates the complexities of the migrant experience alongside a study of the universality of the human hunger for connection. Starring Golden Horse winning actor Lee Kang- Sheng, the story begins in New York City where two recently arrived Chinese workers are navigating the demands of family back home and the difficulties of their new lives working in a massage parlour, when an unexpected act of violence brings the pair together in an unlikely bond. 

And in environmental docos, we have a film from Australian production house Stranger Than Fiction Films that screens exclusively in IMAX: Fungi: Web of Life. The film follows UK biologist Dr Merlin Sheldrake on a mission to educate the population about fungi’s possibilities, advocate for their preservation and, in his own words, give this kingdom of life ‘a kingdom’s worth of attention’. Lulled by the soothing narration of Björk – a fellow fungi lover – and featuring mesmerising time lapse footage, this 3D documentary makes for a journey that’s both ‘meditative and awe-inspiring’. 

Sharing a first look at the festival’s 2024 program, MIFF Artistic Director Al Cossar, said: ‘MIFF is pleased to share our First Glance for 2024, a sneak peek of the program arriving this August – the marvelous visions, diversions, and cinematic surprises coming your way as over 250 films illuminate the screens this Winter across 18 days of unbridled binge-viewing.’

All the films unveiled so far for MIFF 2024

The Teaches of Peaches. Image: Avanti Media Fiction/Magentfilm/MIFF

A Different Man
Blue Sun Palace
Fungi: Web of Life
Future Council
Grand Theft Hamlet
I Saw the TV Glow
La Cocina
Look Into My Eyes
Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros
My Favourite Cake
Occupied City
She Loved Blossoms More
Teaches of Peaches
We Were Dangerous
Welcome Space Brothers

Audrey (Premiere Film Fund)
Ellis Park (Premiere Film Fund)
Left Write Hook (Premiere Film Fund)
Magic Beach (Premiere Film Fund)
Memoir of a Snail (Premiere Film Fund)
Queens of Concrete (Premiere Film Fund)

MIFF Regional and digital showcase

Outside of metro Melbourne, the MIFF Regional showcase will again tour the regions with some of this year’s biggest titles, expanding with venues in Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Echuca, Geelong, Rosebud and Shepparton set to screen some of the festival’s biggest titles.

MIFF’s digital offering will also be back from 9-25 August, with a limited selection of festival highlights, including new films, retrospectives, and free short films available on demand with MIFF Online – streaming via ACMI.

MIFF Awards: $140,000 Bright Horizons

The annual MIFF Awards are also back to once again share what is claimed to be one of the richest filmmaking prize pools in the world, including the international $140,000 Bright Horizons Award for filmmakers on the ascent. (Last year’s winner was Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy, for Banel & Adama.)
The full MIFF 2024 program, including the Bright Horizons competition line-up, will be unveiled Thursday 11 July. Nominees for the various MIFF Awards categories will be announced in late July. 

Tickets are on sale to the general public on 9am Tuesday 16 July.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from 8 to 25 August 2024. To see more about each film or find ticketing information head to the MIFF website.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports