First ever Aust-Slovenian film on at MIFF

·2-min read

The first ever Australian-Slovenian co-production is among a swag of films premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

MIFF is returning to cinemas in August for the festival's 70th anniversary, after two years of staging virtual screenings.

Moja Vesna is the first feature for local director Sara Kern, who emigrated from Slovenia eight years ago.

The film's title is not only the names of the two main characters, in Slovenian it has an extra layer of meaning, and can be translated as My Spring.

It tells the story of a young girl, Moja, from an immigrant family, who has to play the role of cultural mediator after her mother dies.

Lead actor Loti Kovacic, 10, speaks English and Slovenian for the role.

"I was so happy when when we found Loti, she just was perfect... You can see that she's processing things and she's kind of captivating in this way," Ms Kern told AAP.

The film also features well-known local talent: Claudia Karvan's agent read the script and suggested the in-demand actor to play the mother of Moja's best friend.

It was mostly shot in the Melbourne suburb of St Albans by a Slovenian and Australian crew during the winter of 2021.

Ms Kern said while the film is not autobiographical, she drew on her own childhood to write the script.

"I kind of draw on the emotional landscape of it ... there's been a couple of deaths in my family and it just kind of affected me as a child," she said.

For recent immigrants, the experience of grief can be extremely isolating, Ms Kern said, and the film explores how Moja is able to find solace with people outside her family.

The director has won international awards for her short films and developed the feature script in Paris during 2018, as one of six filmmakers worldwide selected for the Cannes Cinefondation Residence.

But she did not want Loti Kovacic, who is not a professional actor, to have to memorise lines of script, so much of the film was developed through improvisation and later in the edit process.

The film is one of 11 features launched in MIFF 2022 that have been partially funded by the festival's premiere funding program.

The festival will be a mix of city, suburban and regional screenings, with shows also streaming online.

Tickets go on sale Friday.

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