By SHIAMAK UNWALLA
The 66th annual Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) kicked off on Thursday, with Jungle headlining the opening night.
Directed by Australian Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter series), Jungle tells the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg who was stranded in the Amazon rainforest in 1981.
Mr Ghinsberg, who served as an advisor on the film, said, “I was on the set. I was allowed to voice my opinions. It was very generous of the production to involve me.”
“It’s been delightful. It’s been a long time in the making, because I was very cagey. I finally found in this beautiful team of people who wanted to tell the story with great passion. I think it came at the right time. I’m old enough that this doesn’t go to my head,” he said.
Mr McLean first gained prominence at MIFF more than a decade ago with his 2005 film Wolf Creek making a big impact at the festival.
He said that returning to MIFF in 2017 has been a “full circle” for him.
“[Jungle] is an amazing true story. Yossi is an amazing figure. I hope people love it.”
Mr McLean is also optimistic about the Australian film industry’s chances of gaining more mainstream recognition and support.
“We very much punch above our weight internationally already,” he said.
“Can we do more? Sure, but I think it’s always just about the quality of movies. Australian actors are slaying constantly.
“I mean it’s embarrassing.”
MIFF Artistic Director Michelle Carey said that she and her team watched “thousands” of films over the course of a year before settling on the 358 films that will be aired during the 17-day festival.
“What people respond to is filmmakers being authentic, being themselves. Not trying to present an image of Australia that we think people want to see internationally,” she said.
“I think the images people respond to are just authentic images of Australia, and indigenous stories, and multicultural stories, because this is what Australia is.”
About 2000 people attended the screening Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.
The attracted a number of Australian film and TV personalities, including Geoffrey Rush, Tahyna MacManus, Dan Wyllie and Damien Walsh-Howling.
MIFF 2017 will showcase a number of Australian as well as international films, with categories including documentaries, short films, animated, virtual reality among others.
Headliner films: Song to Song (Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalia Portman), Good Time (Robert Pattinson), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman), Wonderstruck (Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams).
MIFF runs until August 20.