MIFF Timeline


Established as the ‘Olinda Film Festival’ by the Federation of Victorian Film Societies (FVFS), and held over the Australia Day weekend in Olinda and neighbouring Sassafras, the festival screens eight features and 79 short films alongside seminars and discussion panels, in local community halls and one open-air venue.

Tickets are sold exclusively to society members, and only exist in the form of a festival-wide season pass.

The State Film Centre of Victoria offers technical support, but no government funding is provided. FVFS expects around 80 attendees, but audience balloons to 800.


The festival, renamed ‘Melbourne Film Festival’ (MFF), moves to the Exhibition Building in the Melbourne CBD and is held over the Labour Day long weekend. Attendance reaches 1800 people, but the festival – still funded entirely by society members – ends up in the red.


FVFS financially rescued by the Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS), which has been running its own film event for six years. The revamped MFF includes around 54 short films and discussion events, and from that year on holds screenings at the University of Melbourne’s Union Theatre and six lecture theatres.

Festival dates moved to late May until early/mid June on an ongoing basis.


Erwin Rado is appointed as MFF’s first ever Festival Director; he programs the 1957 festival onwards.


The Australian Film Awards, co-sponsored by MFF and Kodak, are inaugurated.

The newly founded Australian Film Institute comes aboard as MFF partner.

MFF gains the endorsement of the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films (FIAPF), allowing the festival to screen films from France and other countries requiring FIAPF accreditation.

The Australian Censorship Board makes MFF’s member-only ticket offering the only official option.


Total number of films screened surpasses 100 (27 features and 85 shorts).


Membership numbers reach 4000. MFF partners with the State Film Centre to co-present a retrospective Australian season highlighting local screen-industry milestones and achievements since 1952.


MFF relocates to the Palais Theatre in St Kilda, which accommodates 2800 viewers. Films are also screened at the adjacent Palais de Danse, which seats approximately 350.

Program soars to 175 films from 31 countries. The short-film competition (today known as ‘MIFF Shorts’) is introduced.

Following a FIAPF mandate, MFF becomes restricted to screening each film only once, and to a maximum audience of 2000 per film; remaining in only one city/township; and capping the festival’s duration at 14 days.


MFF begins inviting filmmakers from overseas as official festival guests.


MFF’s 25th edition is commemorated with the release of a book, 25th Melbourne Film Festival Retrospect: 1952–1976.


Geoff Gardner replaces Rado as Festival Director.

Sunday sessions and local-cinema offerings are introduced in an attempt to encourage more attendance.


MFF relocates to the Metro Malvern Theatre, a smaller venue reflecting a shrinking audience base as MFF competes with commercial art houses, SBS programming and other avenues for alternative film-viewing.

MFF’s association with film societies is officially severed.


Rado returns as Acting Director, assisted by Mari Kuttna as Program Director, for one festival.

Programming shifts to incorporate mainstream titles, and flexible ticketing options are offered. Despite this, audience take-up remains low and the festival is left in a precarious financial position.


Paul Seto assumes the Directorship of the festival, which is renamed ‘Melbourne International Film Festival’ (MIFF) and relocates to the Arts Centre in the Melbourne CBD.

The festival is plagued by technical difficulties and insufficient operational/logistical preparation, and is met with terrible attendance. After the organisation is forced into liquidation, the Filmfest 85 group is formed with support from the Victorian Government and Film Victoria.


Paul Coulter takes over the Directorship, with David Stratton enlisted as Program Advisor.

The festival, reverting to the name ‘Melbourne Film Festival’, moves to Greater Union’s Forum Cinemas in the CBD.

Programming places emphasis on Asia-Pacific filmmaking and film-culture events such as forums, seminars and lectures. Audience take-up rises.


Santina Musumeci becomes Festival Director.


Following the sale of the Forum Cinemas, MFF relocates to Hoyts’s MidCity cinemas, also in the CBD. Attendance numbers dwindle again, partly due to MidCity’s commercial (rather than arthouse) reputation.


Tait Brady takes over as Festival Director.

MFF returns to St Kilda, but this time planting its roots in the Astor Theatre. Feature documentaries are upgraded to a major program stream.

Single-session ticket options are introduced, increasing flexibility and opening up the festival to a much larger audience.


The festival is permanently renamed ‘Melbourne International Film Festival’ and regains financial stability.


The prominence given to retrospectives (seen in previous festivals) is diminished in favour of showcasing more recent and region-relevant films.


MIFF relocates to the Regent Theatre in the CBD and henceforth remains in the CBD, progressively expanding its venue slate.

Festival dates are moved from May/June to mid/late July until early/mid August.


Sandra Sdraulig becomes Executive Director.

The number of features programmed increases to 112, marking the first time that features overtake shorts (65 titles this year) – a pattern only occasionally broken. From this edition onwards, the program is divided into genre and thematic streams.


The Age formally partners with MIFF, including taking on the printing and distribution of the program guide.


James Hewison becomes Executive Director.

The festival’s 50th edition is celebrated with the release of a commemorative book, Paul Kalina’s A Place to Call Home: Celebrating 50 Years of the Melbourne International Film Festival.


The number of features programmed breaks the 200 mark (215 this year).


The MIFF Accelerator Lab talent-development program is established.


Richard Moore becomes Executive Director.

Additional Victorian Government funding allows for the establishment of 37°South and the MIFF Premiere Fund; along with Accelerator, they form MIFF’s Industry department.


Michelle Carey becomes Artistic Director.

The festival’s 60th edition is commemorated with a specially curated exhibition and a publication, Dylan Rainforth’s MIFF 60: The Graphic Art of the Melbourne International Film Festival (1952–2011).


Critics Campus and the Travelling Film Showcase (at the time called ‘MIFF Premiere Showcase’ and now called ‘MIFF Regional’) are established.


Virtual Reality is included in the festival program for the first time.

The MIFF Blog (today titled Revue) goes live for the first time.


Al Cossar becomes Artistic Director.


COVID-19 prompts MIFF to pivot to digital. The MIFF Play streaming platform is established.

The MIFF Circle and the Deluxe Membership tier are introduced.

MIFF’s film program achieves gender parity.


MIFF holds the Shorts Awards’ 60th edition.

In an Australian-first, MIFF XR is presented as a fully digital platform that is free, available globally and accessible even to users without VR equipment.


MIFF celebrates its 70th anniversary, marking the occasion by programming the Melbourne on Film strand and its accompanying book of essays, Melbourne on Film: Cinema That Defines Our City; and by launching the MIFF XR Commission, the MIFF Signatures series and the historical compendium Festival Files.

To match the expansive milestone program, the 70th edition expands to 25 days (18 days of in-cinema programming overlapping with 18 days of streaming).

The Bright Horizons film competition (presented by VicScreen) and the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award are inaugurated.

The festival programs its first ever relaxed and sensory-friendly sessions.


The MIFF Awards slate expands to include the First Nations Film Creative Award (presented in collaboration with Kearney Group).

MIFF introduces the U26 Membership tier.

Critics Campus celebrates its 10th anniversary with a special retrospective, Critical Condition.

The festival programs three groundbreaking accessibility-focused offerings: a Deaf-led screening and complementary discussion; the incorporation of haptic vests for XR; and an Open Audio Description session.


Gerry Harant, ‘The Melbourne Film Festival, 1952–2001’, Overland,  no. 164, 2001, pp. 92–96.

MIFF Festival Archive.

MIFF Years in Review, 2016–2023.

Kirsten Stevens, Australian Film Festivals: Audience, Place, and Exhibition Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2016.

Kirsten Stevens, ‘Enthusiastic Amateurs: Australia’s Film Societies and the Birth of Audience-Driven Film Festivals in Post-War Melbourne’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, pp. 22–39.