By Simon de Bruyn

Robert Connolly’s third feature as director is set to open the Melbourne International Film Festival on July 24 and will mark the world premiere of the political thriller.

MIFF will also announce today that Rachel Perkins’ musical spectacular Bran Nue Dae will close the festival with a gala event on Saturday August 8.

Perkins’ film is based on the popular musical comedy of the same name and features a diverse cast including Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Deborah Mailman, Nigali Lawford, Tom Budge, Dan Sultan and Jessica Mauboy.

Both Bran Nue Dae and Balibo were part funded by the MIFF Premiere Fund, which requires its films to world premiere at the festival.

Balibo tells the true story of five Australian journalists who go to East Timor in 1975 to cover Indonesia’s invasion, and what happened when a sixth journalist, played by Anthony LaPaglia, travelled there to investigate their subsequent deaths.

The July 24 screening will hold special significance for the events portrayed in the film, occurring little over a month before the 10th anniversary celebrations of East Timor’s independence.

"It’s terrific news that Balibo has been selected to open MIFF in 2009. Melbourne is so intrinsically part of this film, with the Balibo Five journalists based here in 1975 and the largest Timorese population outside of Dili living here today," Connolly told INSIDEFILM.

"It’s also extraordinary timing that Balibo’s world premiere at MIFF will coincide with the 10 year anniversary celebrations of East Timor’s independence in 1999."

The 2009 festival will screen almost 300 films from world-class festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin and Toronto. MIFF executive director Richard Moore will announce the full program on July 7, and a selection of highlights will be announced on May 26.

The 58th Melbourne International Film Festival will be held July 18 to August 5, 2009.

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