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Melbourne International Film Festival

The first international film festival in Australia was held at Olinda during the 1952 Australia Day weekend. Its organisers, the Federation of Victorian Film Societies, were surprised by the popular response when 800 people turned up. The film society movement had expanded rapidly in the early postwar years, catering to film enthusiasts dissatisfied with the limited range of films exhibited by commercial cinema chains. Though restricted to members of affiliated film societies and holders of advance purchase season tickets, the festival for many years attracted huge audiences with its distinctive mix of cinema classics, the latest European and Asian art cinema, documentaries and short films. The limited seating capacity of the Union, Rivoli and Dendy theatres proved inadequate to the festival's needs. It moved into the vast Palais Theatre in St Kilda from 1962 to 1982, and from 1985 into the City of Melbourne, utilising several different theatres. Prospering under the strong artistic direction of long-term pioneer director Erwin Rado (1954-79) and benefiting from the business acumen of three recent directors with experience in film distribution and exhibition - Tait Brady (1988-96), Sandra Straulig (1997-2000) and James Hewison (2001-) - the festival remains a major event in Melbourne's cultural calendar. It has conducted an international short film competition since 1962, and in 1982 introduced the Erwin Rado Award for the best Australian short film.

Freda Freiberg