Fest uses ‘Fish’ for bait

Pic stars Blanchett

SYDNEY — The 54th Melbourne Film Festival has cemented its reputation as Australia’s leading festival and again trumped its sister events in Sydney and Brisbane by securing the year’s most anticipated local film, “Little Fish,” for its July 20 curtain raiser.

“Little Fish” stars Cate Blanchett as a woman trying to escape her past in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs.

Pic marks helmer Rowan Woods’ return to the bigscreen after his critically acclaimed “The Boys” in 1998. He’s spent the period since directing numerous episodes of “Farscape” and various domestic TV skeins.

The fest’s two previous opening-night films, “Japanese Story” and “Somersault,” both collected the Australian Film Institute’s film kudos four months later.

New Zealand short film “Tama Tu” will also screen on opening night. Pic marks a return to the Melbourne fest for director Taika Waititi, whose short “Two Cars, One Night” screened on opening night last year.

Timing of the festival, two months after Cannes, has again allowed artistic director James Hewison to cherry pick the best of that fest, including Palme d’Or winner “L’enfant,” from Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, and Johnnie To’s “Election,” which will close Melbourne on Aug. 7.

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