If you happen to be in the city at this time of year and see a very long line of people, they are most likely queuing to see one of the many hundreds of movies on the Melbourne International Film Festival program. Over 18 days, around 165,000 people brave the cold Melbourne winter to enjoy an impressive array of films from all over the world. The film festival has been an annual event since 1952 and is one of the oldest in the world.
I have attended the festival for many years now. I still recall the first time and being a bit daunted by the queues. I worried that I’d have to sit in the front row, or worse still, miss out on a seat altogether. I soon learned that a cinema can easily accommodate a line of people that stretches well over two city blocks. Now I just enjoy the atmosphere of the queues. Strangers chat and compare notes about the films they’ve seen. Others read a book or listen to music on their iPod. The queue starts to move about ten minutes before the film is due to start and before you know it you’re seated, the cinema goes quiet, the lights go out and you’re transported to another world for a few hours.
The festival lounge is located at the Forum, a quirky but beautiful theatre built in 1929, and a well-known Melbourne landmark. I love to go there before or after a film to grab a meal, a glass of wine or a coffee and just enjoy the general buzz of the festival.
I’ve only seen three films so far this year, due mostly to my lack of organisation and an already pretty full diary. The first, titled John and Jane was a fascinating documentary about an Indian call centre and the people who work there. It was interesting to see what happens at the other end of those annoying phone calls that we usually get around dinner time. The next night I saw Doll and Em which wasn’t a film at all, but six episodes of a very witty and well-written British television series about two best friends living together in LA. The third film, Dior and I, a documentary about Raf Simons the Creative Director at Christian Dior in Paris, followed his first few months on the job when he had to design and make a collection in just eight weeks.The film was mostly set in the workrooms where the clothes were designed and constructed and was a fascinating look at how the collection came together. The fabrics were so beautiful and his designs simply stunning. I could very happily have sat through the film all over again as soon as it ended.
Every year toward the end of the festival I bemoan the fact that I didn’t get to all the films I wanted to see and vow that I’ll be more organised next time. Who knows – maybe next year I’ll pull it off!