Current Issue #487

Sundance favourites and local produce headline Adelaide Film Festival's 2020 return

Minari won big at Sundance Festival

With COVID forcing productions to halt and cinemas to shutter, 2020 has been a particularly disrupted year for the screen industry and audiences. A revived Adelaide Film Festival program hopes to coax more people back to the theatre to take in storytellers from around Australia and the world.

“Festivals are about bringing people together and we are so lucky in South Australia to be able to do this during this challenging time,” CEO Mat Kesting says of the biennial festival’s 2020 return. Having taken over the role from outgoing festival head Amanda Duthie last year, it’s safe to say Kesting’s first festival comes in quite a different context than originally intended with many South Australians still unlikely to have headed back to the cinema since restrictions eased (sorry Tenet).

Despite the upheaval, the festival has kept its head above water with a handful of pop-up events and releases, such as the July release of Daniel Radcliffe-starring Escape From Pretoria, filmed in Adelaide, and the recent premiere of Helen Reddy biopic I Am Woman starring Adelaide-born actor Tilda Cobham Hervey. Both films were financially supported by the Adelaide Film Festival Fund, with I Am Woman set to return to the big screen in October when the festival’s full 2020 program.

“We have taken great care with this year’s program to celebrate our local and national talent within a broader international context,” Kesting says. “We have consciously selected work we hope will have broad appeal and there will be something for everyone.”

In keeping with the festival’s usual tradition of unveiling world and Australian premieres, 2020 features 22 world premieres and 27 Australian premieres. with locally-made, Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood)-starring spec-fic thriller 2067 opening the festival on 14 October.

Jacob Junior Nayinggul and Simon Baker in High Ground

Other local highlights include Nel Michin and Wayne Blair’s dance doco Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra, High Ground, the new film from Yolngu Boy director Stephen Maxwell Johnson, gory tribute to local trash cinema Video Nasty: The Making Of Ribspreader, Eleanore Sharpe’s celebration of The Voice of Cycling Phil Liggett, My First Summer, a queer coming-of-age story starring Adelaide’s Maiah Stewardson, climate activism doco Wild Things and a revival of Craig Lahiff’s 2002 dramatisation of the Stuart Case, Black and White.

The festival’s reliable spread of international selections will also carry greater resonance in 2020 given the whole no-one-but-Tony-Abbott-has-been-overseas-in-months situation, including Lee Isaac Chung’s Sundance Grand Jury prize and Audience Award-winning film Minari, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Saudi-German feature The Perfect Candidate, Iranian director Massoud Bakhshi’s Sundance hit Yalda, A Night For Forgveness, and an adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical novel How To Build A Girl  starring Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart, Lady Bird).

Additionally, a raft of short films from filmmakers far and wide will pepper the program as preludes to featured features, along with the usual Made In SA showcase which in 2020 will include Kiara Milera and Charlotte Rose’s Waiyrri, Matt Veseley’s robot comedy System Error (lot of robots lately, South Australian film industry) and Melanie Easton’s anthropomorphic Aquaphobe.

“We invite audiences to embrace all that the Festival offers, including lots of fabulous nights out!” Kesting says.

Adelaide Film Festival runs from 14 – 25 October 2020 at cinemas around Adelaide

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