The Australian premiere of Matt Saville’s thriller Felony and the first two episodes of Devil’s Playground are among the highlights of the 63rd Melbourne International Film Festival.

The line-up consists of 341 films, 28 world premieres and 168 Australian premieres, and there will be 17 program strands and 19 Talking Pictures events.

Felony, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, will be the closing night attraction on August 16 at Hoyts Cinemas Melbourne Central.

Roadshow will launch the Goalpost Pictures-produced film, which stars Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Jai Courtney and Melissa George, on August 28. The plot follows three detectives who become embroiled in a tense struggle after an accident that leaves a child in a critical condition.

As announced, the Spierig brothers’ time-travelling thriller Predestination, which stars Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor, will open the fest on July 31; it opens nationally on August 28 via Pinnacle Films.

The first two episodes of Devil’s Playground, which were previewed at the Sydney Film Festival ahead of the miniseries’ debut on Foxtel’s showcase on September 9, will be shown in a new program strand, Big Scene, Small Screen.

The six-part Matchbox Pictures production follows the character played by Simon Burke in Fred Schepisi’s 1976 movie The Devil’s Playground 35 years later when, as a Sydney psychiatrist, he is hired by the Catholic Church to counsel troubled priests and discovers systematic abuse of minors by the clergy.

Paper Planes, a 3D children’s film by Robert Connolly, starring Sam Worthington, David Wenham, Terry Norris and Deborah Mailman, will premiere as part of the festival’s inaugural Kids’ Gala. That won't open in Australia until January, via Roadshow.

Among the MIFF Premiere-funded films are Tony Ayres’ Cut Snake, Mark Hartley’s Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, Ian Pringle’s The Legend Maker and Stephen Lance’s My Mistress.

Other local offerings include Still Our Country – Reflections on a Culture, a companion piece to Rolf de Heer’s Cannes-winning Charlie’s Country; Fell, a film about two very different men linked by grief and remorse, from MIFF Accelerator alumnus Kasimir Burgess; and Kitty Green’s documentary Ukraine is not a Brothel.

The Melbourne Stories mini-program will focus on some of the people and places that make the city unique. Screenings include Don’t Throw Stones, a documentary based on Stephen Cummings’ memoir Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?; and Curtain Call, a profile of the couple behind Australia’s pantomime theatre the Tivoli.

The special events include:

MIFF 54th Shorts Awards, for which there is a total cash prize pool of $42,000. The awards ceremony takes place on August 10.

MIFF’s Talking Pictures – A program designed to have audiences discussing, questioning and arguing all things cinematic with the festival’s filmmakers and personalities.

Jerusalem 3D – Director Daniel Ferguson gained unprecedented access to Jerusalem’s most sacred sites, guided by archaeologist Jodi Magness.  Screenings at IMAX.

Planetarium Fulldome Showcase – MIFF again presents a special program of fulldome screenings at the Melbourne Planetarium.

From MIFF’s media release:

A new program strand, I Dream of Genius: Science & Technology on Screen showcases the practical, philosophical and potential facets of science and technology in daily lives. Web Junkie is an engrossing look inside one of China’s prison-like rehabilitation camps for internet-addicted teens; Happiness, winner of Sundance’s World Cinema: Documentary Award for Cinematography, follows the introduction of television into a remote Bhutan village; and the Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award winner, Particle Fever, tells the story of the Large Hadron Collider’s discovery of the Higgs boson God particle.

Co-curated with Shweta Kishore, MIFF will go beyond the glossy Bollywood façade to present a portrait of contemporary Indian life via the spotlight India in Flux: Living Resistance. This documentary program includes Invoking Justice, an inspiring and intimate picture of Muslim sisterhood and collective action directed by Deepa Dhanraj; and Anand Patwardhan’s Jai Bhim Comrade, which shines a light on a centuries-old conflict in Mumbai drawn along caste lines, where people are denied everything and forced to live in a world of scorn and prejudice.

MIFF has curated a new program, Celluloid Dreams: Films Shot on Film, showcasing works that embrace 20th century celluloid technology to give their 21st century cinematic storytelling a unique edge. Offerings include: Happy Christmas, in which auteur Joe Swanberg reunites with Anna Kendrick for a candid and wry exploration of ‘adultescence’; Hard to Be a God, inspired by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky’s sci-fi novel of the same name, from the late enfant terrible of Russian filmmaking Alexei German; and Manakamana, a rhythmic meditation on pilgrimage in the age of mass transportation, set in central Nepal’s mountains and jungles.

A Perfect Midnight: Haunted Hong Kong takes a sampling of the supernatural to present spooky cinema. Screenings include Rigor Mortis, from pop star-turned-actor-turned-filmmaker Juno Mak, who cements his predilection for extreme Asian horror with one of the first jiang-shi films (Chinese hopping vampire genre) in over 20 years; and Mr Vampire, the 1985 classic from Ricky Lau.

A retrospective on Jean-Pierre Léaud is co-curated with Philippa Hawker. Known as the child of the French New Wave, Léaud has a gift for physical comedy, a singular approach to dialogue, and a distinctive presence. The retrospective will include screenings of François Truffaut’s classic film, The 400 Blows, a bittersweet tale of a misunderstood adolescent, and Out 1 – Noli me tangere, Jacques Rivette’s most ambitious work: a mostly improvised 12-and-a-bit-hour serial set in the studios, cafés and streets of Paris.

Backbeat puts sonic visions on the big screen to capture the power of music. New Zealand director Florian Habicht returns with a cinematic love letter to Sheffield and its best-known 90s export in Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets; and John Pirozzi attempts to reclaim the unheard musical history of Cambodia, from the grips of the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, in Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll. Edward Lovelace and James Hall co-direct The Possibilities are Endless, a film about singer song-writer Edwyn Collin’s road to recovery after being close to death; Heaven Adores You traces the late Elliott Smith’s creative life in the cities where he explored his songwriting – Portland, New York City and Los Angeles; and Time is Illmatic tells the story behind the most pivotal album in the history of hip-hop: Nas’ Illmatic.

Truth remains stranger than fiction in this year’s bumper Documentaries program which features Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s documentary The 50 Year Argument. Travelling to the Congo for Virunga, director Orlando von Eiseniedel follows Belgian prince Emmanuel de Merode and his fellow rangers as they battle against the corrupt forces that threaten the national park’s endangered gorillas; Advanced Style, an interpretation of Ari Seth Cohen’s popular street-style blog of the same name, showcases New York City’s fashionable senior citizens; and Ryan White’s The Case Against 8 explores the historic case to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Maxim Pozdorovkin’s The Notorious Mr Bout looks at a Russian home-moviemaker extraordinaire and dodgy entrepreneur, who filmed his face-to-face deals with warlords and corrupt politicians.

The Masters and Restorations program will include the Australian premiere of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, an extraordinary cultural artefact depicting the Holocaust through a 1945 lens, and assembled by a team including Alfred Hitchcock. MIFF will also screen a new print of Phase IV, the only film directed by Saul Bass, the mastermind behind the opening titles of Psycho, North By Northwest and Vertigo; and Trespassing Bergman, in which directors Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas visit Ingmar Bergman’s home, bringing along a small posse of directors – including Michael Haneke, Claire Denis and John Landis – to examine the director’s personal film collection.

Commedia all’italiana is a unique opportunity to see the genre’s best-known and most-loved films – in glorious 35mm projection. The program goes back to where it all began in the 1950s with Mario Monicelli’s Big Deal on Madonna Street, a landmark of the crime caper genre starring Vittorio Gassman and Claudia Cardinale. Also screening is Pietro Germi's Divorce, Italian Style, in which Marcello Mastroianni plays a bored Sicilian baron, who hatches an outrageous plan to lure his wife into another man's arms so that he can justify shooting her.

The diversity of Australia’s neighbouring filmmakers comes under the spotlight in MIFF’s regional focus Accent on Asia. From Mongolian love stories to Japanese madness and Filipino epics, the program includes two films from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang: the Venice Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner Stray Dogs, a bittersweet reflection on the people who fall through society’s cracks, and Journey to the West, an almost wordless, meditative experience. Also screening: Remote Control, a poetic coming-of-age story about a teenage boy living in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator, the debut feature from documentary director Byamba Sakhya; and Love Hotel, a documentary giving audiences a look at what goes on behind closed doors in a distinctive element of Japanese culture.

In Night Shift, the festival’s annual cinematic showdown, there are a dozen films to choose from including Housebound, the debut feature from Gerard Johnstone, about a petty thief under house arrest who can’t escape the paranormal activity of her childhood home; cult auteur and MIFF regular Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell?; and filmmaker Andrew Leavold’s The Search for Weng Weng, a documentary about a short-statured Filipino film star.

In International Panorama, audiences can catch James Gray’s The Immigrant, starring Marion Cotillard as a Polish woman newly arrived in New York, who is forced into prostitution by a charming but wicked man played by Joaquin Phoenix; Abuse of Weakness, from director Catherine Breillart, is the feature-length film telling how the filmmaker came to give over $1 million to a convicted conman; and Appropriate Behavior, directed by and starring Desiree Akhavan, is an amusing take on a bisexual Iranian-American woman trying to find her way in modern-day Brooklyn. Fantail, from first-time director and MIFF Accelerator graduate Curtis Vowell, is a comedy drama that received eight nominations at the NZ Film Awards; and Jacky in the Kingdom of Women is a twisted take on the Cinderella story from France. 

Taking the art of storytelling beyond the bounds of live action, the Animation program features new work from and about big-name animators and animation studios, as well as anime masterworks and documentaries. Michel Gondry’s Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? takes Noam Chomsky’s philosophical and linguistic work and interprets it via the director’s unique style; legendary cult animator Bill Plympton returns with Cheatin’; and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata is the tale of an old bamboo cutter who discovers a tiny girl inside a bamboo stalk.

MIFF venues for 2014 include Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall; Forum Theatre; Kino Cinemas, a Palace Cinemas Partner; ACMI Cinemas, Australian Centre for the Moving Image; Hoyts Cinemas, Melbourne Central; Treasury Cinema; and RMIT Capitol Theatre.