Move over to Cannes and co: With the announcement that MIFF will now offer one of the world’s richest cash prizes for a feature film, Melbourne is clamoring for a place at the high table at film festivals around the world.
“We want Melbourne to be seen and talked about in the same way people talk about Venice and Toronto,” Victorian Creative Arts Minister Danny Pearson said on Wednesday as he unveiled a $140,000 prize for best film. which will be awarded for the first time at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.
The award will go to a producer nominated on behalf of the team behind the film.
To mark the festival’s 70th anniversary, there will also be an award for Australian innovation – which will be awarded to an individual rather than a film – and the reintroduction of the audience voted audience award.
The Best Picture award will be “right up there” with all the cash prizes in the world, MIFF artistic director Al Cossar said.
It will be the biggest prize in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, eclipsing the $60,000 offered by the Sydney Film Festival for the most “bold, courageous and forward-thinking” film in its programme, as well as the prize CinefestOz of $100,000 awarded by the Western Australian Festival for the best Australian title in its annual line-up.
A three-person jury will select up to 10 films, from which a winner will be chosen at the end of the festival. To be eligible, films must be the director’s (or directors’) first or second feature film. Documentary, narrative and animated feature films are all eligible.
The focus on emerging talent will make the festival “a prestigious and dynamic space where reputations are earned and names are built,” Cossar said.
No figures have yet been revealed for the Australian Innovation Prize, but the Victorian government has committed $500,000 a year over four years to support the expanded awards scheme. MIFF is also providing additional funds from its existing budget.