This article was supposed to cover two festivals –  Sydney Film Festival(SFF), which planned to launch its full program on 21 July after its initial June launch, and Melbourne International Film Festival(MIFF), which released its incredible, wide-ranging program in full on 13 July, a Tuesday. But as the Delta variant rampaged through Sydney and case numbers exploded, SFF’s program announcement was postponed. That same day, a Wednesday, the virus hopped borders south. By Thursday, Melbourne announced a snap lockdown. The state’s film festival (5 – 22 August) was less than a month away.

I’d spoken with MIFF’s Artistic Director, Al Cossar, on the Monday. In COVID time, this was now a lifetime ago. There was a weariness to Cossar’s voice when he first answered my call but soon he was talking animatedly – about the 283 international and Australian films on the program, its experimental offerings, its multi-sensory components, its diversity, its scope, its aspirations. About what it could be. ‘Could’ being the operative caveat.

2018 Melbourne International Film Festival