Take even a cursory glance at the Melbourne International Film Festival’s 2012 lineup (August 2-19) and you’ll understand why, despite the barbarically interminable flight overseas, we’re looking forward to sampling this world-class festival’s impressively eclectic offerings. As always, MIFF is strong on home-grown entries: Jeffrey Walker’s Guy Pearce–starring Jack Irish – Bad Debts premieres in the Australian Showcase and debut helmer Boyd Hicklin’s Bollywood-meets-Melbourne-cricket romp Save Your Legs! (sure to be a crowd pleaser) will have its first public showing at a mid-festival gala screening. Two historically weighted Aussie docs, Coniston (about the last-known massacre of indigenous people) and the WWII-era Croker Island Exodus, both co-presented with Blackfella Films, look promising as well, but we’re particularly excited to lay eyes on Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s reputedly visionary and exquisitely haunting love story Hail, which comes highly recommended from our in-the-know filmmaking pals Down Under. (They’re a picky lot.)

    Melbourne is a vibrant city with a strong, palpably international flavor, and MIFF (under the savvy leadership of fest director Michelle Carey) reflects that cultural cosmopolitanism with several programming strands geared toward exciting new cinematic work from Europe, Sweden (including the Sundance-buzzed music doc Searching for Sugarman), Asia (the Chinese doc selection looks especially enticing), and Latin America (Las Acacias and Celina Murga’s Normal School are at the top of our list). Spotlights on inimitable French auteur Jean Epstein and contemporary enfant terrible Leos Carax, with his Cannes-feted Holy Motors, should be fun as well. Speaking of Cannes, Carey and company went to the star-studded French coast in May and returned with a passel of this year’s most intriguing debuts, perhaps none as critically admired as Michael Haneke’s Amour, about an elderly couple enduring a painful, late-life strain on their bond. (We greedily reserved tickets for this one as soon as it was legal to do so.) And that’s barely scratching the surface of what’s on tap over seventeen days: sidebars on ’70s New Hollywood comedy, a special tribute to late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch in the perennially popular Backbeat strand, and the presence of several top-notch contemporary thrillers in Night Shift, the festival’s midnight-movie-centric farrago of trash and gore flicks, make us wild with anticipation.

    Of course, we’re also proud to be world premiering four new Focus Forward films by Lixin Fan, Fredrik Gertten, Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern, and Stanley Nelson, which will be paired with feature films beginning August 3. Our full list of screenings can be found here. And a rundown on our Talking Pictures panel event, “Say It With a Short: Creative Storytelling for 21st Century Audiences” is here