The Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia has canceled its in-person screening component, due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the city.
After a fully online edition in 2020, the 2021 festival was scheduled to run Aug. 12-22 as a hybrid combining online and real-world elements. But on Wednesday, the premier of Victoria state Daniel Andrews announced that Melbourne will spend a further week in lockdown. The current restrictions were scheduled to end on Thursday evening, but are now extended until at least Aug. 19, 2021.
Following the cancelation of the in-person screenings MIFF will operate its online streaming platform – which has been operational since last week and is available to viewers across Australia since last week, and its Extended Reality program, which is available to audiences, free, globally. Some in-person screenings that made up MIFF’s regional cinema season will continue.
On Tuesday, Victoria recorded 20 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases out of 41,571 test results processed that day, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Of the new cases, 15 are linked to current outbreaks and 14 have been in quarantine throughout their infectious periods.
“MIFF’s heart was in a return to cinemas this year, and this is a goal that we have pursued with determination to this point. It is with deep sadness and profound frustration that we must take the step of cancelling our Melbourne cinema-based screenings for 2021,” said the festival’s artistic director Al Cossar. “From the outset of a volatile year, we designed the festival to be scalable and adaptable — a festival that could change with these uncertain times to meet audiences where they are.”
“Despite the duress of this moment, we are proud that elements of our program can still continue; that our commitment to regional audiences will be fulfilled through the delivery of in-cinema programming across Victoria; through our XR platform, global audiences anywhere can continue their season of MIFF’s exciting range of immersive experiences; and, centrally, through MIFF Play we can continue to deliver the very best Australian and international films to audiences not just in Melbourne but right around the country, at a time that it’s most needed,” Cossar said.
More than 30 additional titles have been added to the MIFF Play program, which will now feature close to 100 films. Additions include four that recently played in Cannes: “The Hill Where Lionesses Roar,” “La Civil,” “Rehana Maryam Noor,” and “Babi Yar.”