As COVID-19 restrictions ease, Film Festival chief executive and creative director Mat Kesting told InDaily yesterday that organisers were moving ahead with plans to present the 2020 festival in cinemas from October 14 to 25.
Amid the uncertainty of recent months, he says they had been working to ensure they could pivot to an online format if necessary, “but our hearts are really about presenting a festival in cinemas so we are excited that it looks like we can do that now”.
“We are really hopeful we will be the first physical film festival to take place and bring the Australian film industry together.
“I certainly know there is an appetite for that – everyone is keen to get out of their homes again.”
The AFF announced today that it has partnered with Palace Nova Eastend, Palace Nova Prospect, GU Film House (Glenelg) and Wallis Cinemas (Mitcham, Noarlunga and Mt Barker) to “reignite Adelaide audiences’ passion for the cinema” through the big-screen premieres of two new films, Escape from Pretoria and Never Too Late, at 7pm on July 11 and and 1pm on July 12, respectively.
Both movies were filmed in South Australia. Escape From Pretoria, starring Daniel Radcliffe and filmed largely at the old Adelaide Gaol, is a thriller based on the real-life prison escape of two political prisoners in South Africa in 1978. Never Too Late – featuring a cast including Jacki Weaver, Jack Thompson, James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman, Shane Jacobson and Roy Billing – is a comedy-drama about a different type of breakout, from a nursing home, and is described as “The Great Escape meets Grumpy Old Men”.
Although it is uncertain what the maximum capacity will be for venues come July, Kesting says the simultaneous screening at all six cinemas will give plenty of people the opportunity to see the two films and he hopes audiences will show their support.
“They were both filmed here in South Australia and neither of them have had a proper in-cinema release.
“They deserve to be honoured on the big screen and we think people will want to see Adelaide on the big screen.”
Kesting, who has around 20 years’ experience in the film industry and was previously the Adelaide Film Festival’s project manager, was appointed CEO and creative director early last year, taking over the role vacated by Amanda Duthie.
He acknowledges it has been “quite challenging” trying to prepare for the biennial event against the backdrop of COVID-19.
The exact size and format of the 2020 Adelaide Film Festival is still being determined, but Kesting says it will include the premiere of “some really brilliant works” through the AFF Investment Fund.
Among them will be The Voice of Cycling, a documentary about cycling commentator Phil Liggett that includes footage from the Tour Down Under in South Australia.
Although many people spent the COVID-19 shutdown period binge-watching movies and television series on the small screen, Kesting says that as a film lover, he’s found it tough not to be able to visit a cinema.
“It’s been like home detention!” he laughs.
“I love going to the cinema. I think a big-screen experience is completely different to seeing things on the small screen; my real love is seeing films on the big screen with other people… it’s much more immersive and impactful.”
Adelaide’s Palace Nova Cinemas were the first indoor cinemas in the country to reopen as social-distancing rules began to ease at the start of this month.
Other Australian cinemas have been slower to respond, due to both restrictions on capacity and the delayed release of new films by major distributors, but SA-owned Wallis Cinemas said today that it was making a tentative return from next weekend. In addition to the Mainline Drive-In at Gepps Cross – which reopened at the end of last month – Wallis’s other cinemas will be open June 26-28 and then every day over the school holidays from July 3.
It was also announced this morning that the Alliance Française French Film Festival, which was forced to close early in March due to COVID-19, will resume its season from July 14 to August 4 at Palace Cinemas nationally – including Palace Nova Eastend and Palace Nova Prospect.
Detail of the July 11 and 12 screenings of Escape from Pretoria and Never Too Late can be found here.