Adelaide gets set for its biggest film fest yet

By Norma Hennessy

October is a celluloid spring month in Adelaide. It’s a time that spells magic.

All the markers are there – mesmerizing blue skies, sunshine, parklands breathing life, avian world breaking out into symphonies, fresh morning breeze rubbing against the skin with a whiff of ticklish chill and then there’s the sensuous aroma of cappuccino pervading the outdoors and city street corners from Leigh Street off Currie and Hindley Streets to Rundle Street in the East End. And the city of Adelaide buzzes up.

High up the King William side of Hindley Street and at the eastern end of the arty Rundle Street, gigantic banners gently billow against the wind, with the black and white profile of “Tilda” drawing the viewer’s eye. The enigmatic eyes seem to slightly move invitingly, daring and exciting the viewers mind into a realm of curiosity. A caption underneath states “Screen 42, Roll 7, film name: the film you wrote.” It’s the cover image of this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, a bold, endearingly irreverent biennial festival of filmdom’s arty novelties and mind-craft’s odds and ends.

Here and there – some soulful genius at play are embodied in works of exceptional sensitivity. Nooks and crannies in the city are alive in eye catching colours of graffiti. The CBD’s street sidewalk pavements are trapping foot traffic with Tilda’s face which has replaced gaudy street art. Some footpaths that were dotted with doodles now have Adelaide Film Festival events painted over them screaming for attention.

There is a notable increase in crowds that congregate at the festival’s cinema sites in Rundle Street anytime of the day. The Palace Nova’s cinemas are on clockwork schedule with movies showing one after the other. Tilda-covered magazines are piled in stack by the box office next to the theatre’s cordoned entrance. Outside palace Nova, a bar stand offers superb Langhorne Creek Shiraz. Two seater low and tall tables are set-up along the entrance way. Crowds swell and ebb as movies for screening open at the designated theatres on scheduled slots.

This international film festival is packed with 72 projects and more than 180 films from 51 participating countries. The list of entries is a movie connoisseur’s dream.

It is the 11th year of the festival and true to the tradition of having each year outdoing the previous one, this year’s festival teems with cinematic haute cuisine yet again. The eleven day event kicked off with an opening gala on the 15th of October premiering Scott Hick’s “Highly Strung” at Adelaide’s historic Her Majesty’s Theatre.

The projects on the festival’s list are a cross section of fiction, documentaries, short films, talks, forums and cinematic self-expressions that promise to intrigue, challenge the current trend of art thinking at the same time to stir up discontent while satiating old longings of the human soul.

The Festival features works of film greats and cinema personality A-listers Scott Hicks, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Matt Saville, Sue Brooks, Stephen Page, Matthew Bate, Meryl Tankard and Rosemary Myers, Todd Haynes, Paul Weitz, Paolo Sorrentino, Peter Sollett , Mark Cousins and Laurie Anderson.

Vying for AFF’s Foxtel Movies International Feature prize is the ten entry-line up of Australian premieres led by Cate Blanchett starrer “Carol” which is currently flavour-of-the month following its critical acclaim earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival. “Freeheld” by Peter Sollett, “Looking for Grace” by Sue Brooks, “Gold Coast” by Daniel Dencik, “Lamb” by Yared Zaleke, “Neon Bull” by Gabriel Mascaro, “Office” by Hong Won-Chan, “316” by Payman Haghani, “Father” by Visar Morina, “Tanna” by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler.

The International Feature competition will be under the multi-scope eyes of a jury with bigger-than-life personalities themselves. Christian Jeune is the Deputy General Delegate and Director of the Film Department at Cannes. Maggie Lee is the Asia Chief Film Critic of US Variety magazine and is currently Programming Consultant for Tokyo International Film Festival. Annemarie Jacir ia a Palestinian-born filmmaker who is a leading figure of the Arab new Wave. Tom Hajdu is a notable music composer the co-founder of music production company tomandandy. Sophie Hyde was an awardee for directing at the World Cinema Dramatic Art at Sundance and received the Crystal bear for Best Film at berlin in 2014. She’s also a recipient of the Sydney Myer Creative Fellowship and the Screen Australia Feature Enterprise program.

The Documentary Feature Competition jury is composed of Beck Cole – a multi-faceted filmmaker and director, Michael Loebenstein – curator, researcher, cultural entrepreneur, CEO of the NFSA and Secretary-General of FIAF, and Jane Shoettle – International Programmer for the Toronto Film Festival and has served on numerous film festival juries and film development projects around the world.

Each film genre offers its own appeal. The sense of the familiar reverberates in the theme of some of them yet it is still potent in offering idiosyncratic excitement. There is a trend, however, among the indie films which flood international festivals including this one and it is the propensity of the film maker to push the ordinary viewer’s take of what could be mind- and sense-deadening extreme.

No matter, the pulse of the festival is rising. And the pubs, diners and cafes along Rundle Street will be buzzing till the festival concludes on the 25th.

The Adelaide Film Festival is one of the boldest and most innovative festival of its kind in Australia, making a name for itself internationally as a talent platform.

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