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Without A Box Bans Melbourne Underground Film Festival

By Mike Everleth ⋅ February 11, 2009

Film festival submission site Without A Box (WAB) has banned the Melbourne Underground Film Festival from collecting film entries through their website. WAB makes it easier for filmmakers to submit to festivals and for festivals to manage those submissions through online tools. MUFF has used WAB’s services in the past, but following a press release put out last December that announced the dates for the 10th annual fest this year, MUFF’s account on WAB was closed down.

MUFF director Richard Wolstencroft has issued a press release regarding the specifics of the situation, which I’ve reprinted in full below. The gist of it though is that a local Melbourne representative from WAB, Toni Powell, is the one who enacted the ban after taking offense at this MUFF press release put out back in December.

In that release, Wolstencroft announced that this year’s edition of the fest will be held in direct opposition to and as a direct challenge to the Melbourne International Film Festival, which Wolstencroft has regularly criticized for being too tepid and for not addressing the current dismal state of the Australian film industry. As far as I can tell, MIFF does not use WAB for accepting film submissions.

The WAB site was acquired a year ago by the website IMDB, which itself is a subsidiary of Amazon. Many underground film festivals use WAB, such as the Boston Underground, Arizona Underground and the Chicago Underground. The WAB site is also a social networking tool for filmmakers and film fans. The¬†Underground Film Festival even has an account on the site. Last year’s acquisition also made it easier for filmmakers who use WAB’s services to get listed on IMDB.

Wolstencroft says he’s appealing to the corporate WAB office to overturn the ban, which I hope happens. As readers of the site might know, I’m a big supporter of MUFF and even programmed their Avant MUFF section last year. Since I don’t follow MIFF or the Australian film industry that closely, I can’t speak to Wolstencroft’s complaints made in the original press release. But, at the same time, I don’t understand why making those criticisms should get MUFF banned. Many underground fests have been created specifically to challenge the status quo of mainstream festivals. Just because Wolstencroft officially cemented that challenge in a press release shouldn’t matter.

For filmmakers who want to submit to MUFF this year, you can still do so through the MUFF website. The deadline this year is May 15.

And here’s Wolstencroft’s press release, reprinted in full without any edits:


It appears MUFF is banned from the Withoutabox website due to our controversial nature. Its unbelievable and unheard of, but it appears to be true!

WAB is a site that connects filmmakers to film festivals, and is the brainchild of David Straus and Joe Neulight. Unfortunately the site ropes in local hacks to assist it in its regional operations, and has called on the services of a one Toni Powell.

Powell is the gimp behind the goody, goody Gympy lollipop event – Heart of Gold Film Festival – uhhh shucks. Heart Of Gold is the Oprah Winfrey style feel good fest of cute puppies, flowers and sunshine, that makes me want to vomit. For some unknown reason it appears Powell has some authority at Withoutabox, and has summarily banned MUFF from partnership with it in 09. Why we asked? We got back this terse response, “You might get some clues looking at your press release. Remember we represent a whole film festival community”. Huh? I looked at our Press Release, and apart from fair comment on the state of the local film industry, and the running of MIFF, I can’t see a problem?

Does Withoutabox have a right to ban a festival because it is controversial and questions the status quo?

This is outrageous and we at MUFF are going to get to the bottom of it, if we can, through Withoutabox’s management in LA. Lets see how much they back the sun beam and light festival ideology of Heart Of Gold’s Toni Powell. But until then just enter by down loading the entry form as normal from our site, and fight corporate censorship from WAB and self appointed cultural apparatchiks like Toni Powell, who the want the industry to be one big G-rated bowl of flowers!

MUFF will fight this tooth and nail! More later as things develop.

MUFF X, as you can tell is on the way!

Best Regards

Richard Wolstencroft
MUFF Festival Director

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