Kicking off at its 70th anniversary edition in August, the Melbourne International Film Festival is to introduce a trio of new prizes. The best film award will come with a A$140,000 (approximately $100,000) cash reward, making it the richest film prize in the southern hemisphere.

Contenders in the new, annual, ten-title MIFF Film Competition can be from any genre, including documentary or animation. But they will be limited to a director’s first or second feature-length effort. And they must also have their Australian premiere in Melbourne.

The festival will also introduce an Australian Innovation Prize, recognizing an outstanding Australian creative (director, technical or creative lead or cinema craft person) within a film playing anywhere in the Melbourne MIFF program. The 2022 festival (Aug. 4-21) will also see the return of the festival’s audience award.

“The Competition will recognize and amplify the new, the next, the breakthrough and the best in-screen from Australia and across the globe,” said MIFF artistic director Al Cossar.

“The introduction of the competition positions MIFF as the only Southern Hemisphere film festival to feature all the key components of major international festivals such as Rotterdam and Berlin: a film competition; a screen content financing market for creatives, producers and investors (37º South Market); a commissioning fund (MIFF Premiere Fund); and talent escalator programs (MIFF Accelerator Lab and MIFF Critics Campus),” Cossar said.

The moves, which come after two editions of the festival that were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, are supported by the Victorian Government through screen industry support agency Film Victoria.

“We’re investing in the future of Victoria’s screen industry to deliver growth, jobs and opportunities to our creative industries workforce.” said Victoria state government minister for creative industries Danny Pearson. “Victoria is a film powerhouse offering cutting-edge production facilities, iconic destinations and world-class creative talent – this competition celebrates the milestone of a much beloved festival and will further cement our state’s reputation as Australia’s creative destination.”

In recent weeks, Melbourne has seen the start of production on Jocelyn Moorhouse’s six-part crime drama series “Savage River” and confirmation that season two of NBC’s disaster action series “La Brea” will return to the city and Victoria state. It has also learned of the likely cancelation of long-running soap opera “Neighbours.” The show has been on air in Australia and the U.K. for 37 seasons and has been a training ground for on-screen talent including Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Russel Crowe, Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie.

The second season of “La Brea,” in which Australia stands in for central Los Angeles, is expected to generate local production spend of A$118 million ($84.6 million) in Australia and some A$98 million ($70.2 million) of that in Victoria.

The Australian federal government is backing the production through its 16.5% location offset tax rebate, as well as a direct grant from its location incentive fund that is equivalent of a further 13.5% of the budget. The Victoria state government will also provide finance through its regional production incentive scheme.

“MIFF welcomes the Victorian government’s vision of a thriving screen culture in Melbourne – evidenced here with its support enabling MIFF to award a film prize of global significance to an independent filmmaker of substance,” said Melbourne festival chair Teresa Zolnierkiewicz.