Melbourne Cinemagoing: Festivals and Film Societies

Deakin Edge

Film Festivals and the City: Locating celebrations of film within the Melbourne’s urban history

Kirsten Stevens, Monash University

Film festivals have long been a key feature of Melbourne’s screen culture. Hosting one of the oldest, continually running film festivals in the world – the Melbourne International Film Festival – Melbourne’s screen history has been indelibly marked by these events, influencing not only cultures of filmmaking but cultures of film viewing and appreciation. Over the last thirty and more years the number and range of festivals operating in the city have mushroomed, with some fifty film events and festivals now operating each year.

This paper charts Melbourne’s experience with film festivals, specifically looking at the role the city has played in not only hosting, but also shaping events as they evolved. Since its first festivals in the late 1940s, through to today, Melbourne’s film festivals have developed their own distinct characters, shaped by the desires of local audiences and the environments they occupy. Looking in depth at the period from 1980-2000, which marked the first significant proliferation of film festivals in Melbourne, this paper will explore how the operation of film festivals fits within broader narratives of the city’s development.

In particular, it considers how the significant urban renewal and cultural reinvigoration that marked Melbourne through the 1980s and 1990s – when the city transformed from a declining industrial ‘doughnut’ city into a prosperous and vibrant cultural hub – connects with the rapid growth and expansion of film festival offerings. Exploring the influences of urban planning strategies as well as the city’s fascination with events on the development and expansion of these celebrations, this paper considers how the city has influenced not only film festival operation but also the expression of film culture in Melbourne more broadly.

Kirsten Stevens teaches courses in Film, Television and Screen Studies at Monash University and RMIT University. Her book, Australian Film Festivals: Audience, Place and Exhibition Culture (2016) examines the development and operation of film festivals in Australia, with a focus on how local contexts have influenced the tenor, function and shape of the these events. An AFI Research Collection Research Fellowship supported her research into the era of Melbourne’s film festival history explored in this paper.


From Joseph Losey’s M to Erich von Stroheim’s The Merry Widow: The Melbourne Cinematheque and Australian film culture

Adrian Danks, RMIT University

The Melbourne Cinematheque is one of the longest-running film culture organisations in Australia. It started operations as the Melbourne University Film Society in 1948 before changing its name to the Melbourne Cinematheque in 1984. Throughout its history it has been an important contributor to broader understandings of international screen culture, has· been involved in the production of various films (particularly in the 1950 and 1960s), has been a significant shaper of curatorial practice and tastes and represents one of the key ·surviving links between post-war screen culture and the broader film society movement and the more disparate ecology of contemporary film culture activities in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia. This paper will examine the contribution made the Melbourne Cinematheque to the city’s screen culture over the last 30 years and explore its links to contemporary curatorial practice, the broader programming of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the often forgotten history of the film society movement and the shadow economy characteristic of volunteer-run organisations. It will also detail my own role as co-curator, President (1988-2006) and publications editor since the late 1980s.

Adrian Danks is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University. He is also co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque and was an editor of Senses of Cinema from 2000 to 2014. He has published hundreds of essays on various aspects of cinema in a wide range of books and journals. He is the editor of A Companion to Robert Altman (Wiley, 2015) and is currently writing several books, including a monograph devoted to 3-D Cinema (Rutgers), a co-edited collection on the nexus between Australian and US cinema, and a volume examining “international” feature film production in Australia during the postwar era (Australian International Pictures, with Con Verevis, to be published by Edinburgh University Press).


Before and After ACMI: Researching, Curating and Advancing a Cultural History of, and Future for, Melbourne’s State Film Centres

Constantine Verevis & Deane Williams, Monash University

The opening of ACMI in 2002 reconfigured Melbourne’s State Film Centres for a new millennial moment of cinema and media, and within the context of the new languages of post-production, media convergence, digitisation, and globalisation. This occasion, with its ongoing emphasis on ever-presence and the future, urgently requires a substantial research project that looks backwards and forwards at the same time: that is, a project that at once provides an understanding of the historical underpinning that gave rise to the present institution, and also of the current context that will give shape to the institution as it evolves into the future. This paper, anticipating a new research project from the presenters, will explore the complex series of threads drawing on a host of ancillary organisations, events, locations, and individuals that have a similarly intricate history beginning with the establishment of the State Film Centre in 1946.

Constantine Verevis is Associate Professor in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. He is author of Film Remakes (2006), co-author (with N. King and D. Williams) of Australian Film Theory and Criticism, Vol 1: Critical Positions (2013) and co-­editor of Second Takes: Critical Approaches to the Film Sequel (2010), Film Trilogies (2012), Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions (2012), B Is For Bad Cinema (2014), US Independent Film After 1989 (2015), Transnational Television Remakes (2016) and Transnational Film Remakes (2017).

Deane Williams is Associate Professor of Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. He is the editor of the journal Studies in Documentary Film, and his books include Australian Post-War Documentary Film: An Arc of Mirrors (2008), Michael Winterbottom (with Brian McFarlane, 2009) and the three-volume Australian Film Theory and Criticism (co-edited with Noel King and Constantine Verevis, 2013-2017). In 2016 his The Cinema of Sean Penn: In and Out of Place was published by Wallflower Press.