MIFF 1954

Organising Committee


Six years ago members of the Melbourne University Film Society began a modest festival. For one week each year in the Union Theatre they showed their members the best feature films they could lay their hands on. Year by year the annual Festival grew in prestige and influence. Each year it was easier to persuade distributors to part with their cherished products.

Then in 1950 something happened which completely changed the Festival situation in Australia. The Federation of Victorian Film Societies were looking for a quiet spot to hold a convention of the Australian Council of Film Societies, and they selected Olinda. Quickly the idea developed into a Festival, and Olinda seemed the obvious place to distribute the Commonwealth Jubilee Film Awards. Members flocked in numbers that were an embarrassment, and accommodation which seemed optimistic at first, became wholly inadequate.

Last year, the Federation of Film Societies decided to hold its annual Festival in the Melbourne Exhibition Building, which, unfortunately, was never designed for showing motion pictures. Once again technical problems beset the organisers. Another change seemed imperative.

In 1954, the Federation has pooled its resources with the University Film Society's Festival, to create a new Festival which will combine the advantages of all previous ones.

It is the belief of the Festival Committee that a proper home has at last been found in the Union Theatre, and that the public will in future look to the Union Theatre for intelligent and entertaining cinema.

An awareness of film will be implanted in 1954 audiences' minds not only by the screening of first-class feature films, but by means of carefully selected speakers and discussion programmes. In this widening of the scope of the Festival, it has been found that the efficiency of organization has been increased by co-operation amongst the several film societies and federations which are jointly concerned in the festival.

This attitude of co-operation is a healthy sign: the single achievement of a group pooling its resources is much more impressive than the separate, un-integrated efforts of single organizations. 

Introduction taken from the 1954 official guide

Festival Program
13 feature films and 78 short films screened from 31 May to 19 June
Full Program

Program in Focus
The 1954 program focused on feature and short films as well as discussion sessions. The feature films of curatorial importance were categorised into 6 programs and included Jacques Tati's Jour de fête, Buster Keaton's The General, René Clair's Sous les toits de Paris and Roberto Rossellini's The Wanderer.

Short films were categorised according to topic, including Peoples and Places, and Science and Man, and also by country - Films From France, Australiana, The American Scene all featured. The majority of films programmed were European, mainly produced in Britain, France and Italy, however films from Australia and North America were also screened.

Featured Film
Martin Luther (Irving Pichel, 1953)

Featured Film
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1928)

Image Gallery

From the Festival Files

Making the Festival

The Melbourne Film Festival began as the idea of a few passionate individuals. A sub-committee, formed from delegates to the 1951 Australian Council of Film Societies film weekend, suggested that a small festival of films in the tourist town of Olinda should be held in 1952. The resulting festival was a testament to the do-it-yourself initiative of the Olinda festival committee. As some 800 festiv …

On Screen and in the Cinema

The magic of the festival is reached through its screens. These are places and spaces that captivate our attention, providing windows where films come to life before our eyes. As portals to the world, the festival’s screens allow us to travel the globe, move through time, and see through another’s eyes. … Yet these screens also remind us of home. They are fixed in place, in our memories and in o …