The Adelaide Film Festival (AFF, formerly ADLFF) is an international film festival usually held for two weeks in mid-October in cinemas in Adelaide, South Australia. Originally presented biennially in March from 2003, since 2013 AFF has been held in October. Subject to funding, the festival stages full or briefer events in alternating years; some form of event has taken place every year since 2015. It has a strong focus on local South Australian and Australian produced content, with the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund (AFFIF) established to fund investment in Australian films.
Established in 2003, it was listed in Variety's "50 Unmissable Film Festivals" in 2007.
The 2020 Festival was scheduled to take place from 14 to 25 October, but owing to its high attendance figures and success, the season was extended for an extra five days.
An independently financed Adelaide International Film Festival (AIFF) had been held from 1959 to 1980. The idea of a new film festival to stimulate the local film industry and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the South Australian Film Corporation was raised by South Australian Premier Hon. Mike Rann in 2002, and a director and board were appointed. The Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund was created to fund the Film Festival and other events.
After its first edition, the festival ceased to use International in its title, denoting a withdrawal from FIAPF membership. It was known as the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival, or BAFF, for a period until 2011, as its main sponsor had been BigPond (now Telstra Media).
Katrina Sedgwick was the Festival's founding director in 2002. She had previously co-founded the 1995 Sydney Fringe Festival, was the Special Events Producer (1998, 2000) for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, and the Artistic Director for the 2002 Adelaide Fringe. In 2007, Sedgwick introduced an international jury prize to the festival. At the time of her stepping down from the role of Festival director in 2013, Sedgwick said that the festival was the first in Australia to introduce an international competition, and a production fund, and that ticket sales had grown by 20 per cent each year.
2013 was Amanda Duthie's first year as Festival Director, after spending eight years at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and eight years at the Special Broadcasting Service during the 1990s.
Since the first event in 2003, the Festival has been held (originally in odd-numbered years) in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 (a one-off "Rogue" event), 2017, 2018, and a "pop-up" weekend festival in March 2019.
Since 2017, Festival events have taken place mainly at the GU Filmhouse in Hindley Street (defunct as of 1 October 2020), with some sessions at the smaller Mercury Cinema in Morphett Street. Audiences have grown year on year, with an audience of more than 64,000 people in 2018, and estimated to have had an impact of A$26.5 million on the state's economy. In 2020, most screenings will be hosted by Palace Nova at their Eastend and Prospect locations, with some showings at Mitcham Wallis Cinemas at Mitcham Square Shopping Centre, Odeon Star in Semaphore, Tandanya, the Warriparinga Wetlands, and at Alberton Oval.
2013: 10–20 October
The 6th Adelaide Film Festival took place from 10 to 20 October 2013. This was Amanda Duthie's first year as Festival Director (after eight years at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and eight years at the Special Broadcasting Service during the 1990s), having taken over from Katrina Sedgwick. Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton served as the festival's patrons.
Scott Hicks received the 2013 Don Dunstan Award for his contribution to the Australian film industry.
The poster in 2013 depicted Screen Worship, which celebrates work for all screens—cinema, television, phone and computer.
2015: 15–25 October
The 7th Adelaide Film Festival was held from 15 to 25 October 2015. Amanda Duthie was again the Festival Director. On the opening night of the festival, Director and screenwriter Andrew Bovell received the 2015 Don Dunstan Award for his contribution to the Australian film industry.
More than 180 feature films were screened at the festival, 40 of which were Australian films, 24 South Australian films and total of 51 countries were represented at the Festival.
As part of the 2015 Adelaide Film Festival, a public art installation was presented, incorporating a Laneway Cinema in Cinema Place, showing moving image artworks, and a 'Reactive Wall', where six artists created 2D visual artworks live in response to content within the festival.
2016: 27–30 October
Having previously been held biennially, the highlight of "AFF Goes Rogue" in October 2016 was a 4-day "mini-festival" in the in-between year. The first of the works commissioned by the Adelaide Film Festival Fund in that month was the Australian premiere season of Lynette Wallworth's Collisions (5–30 October). Then there was a free talk by Greg Mackie at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas on 23 October, and the events culminated in a 4-day mini-festival (27–30 October) featuring world premiere screenings of two films – Australia's first Muslim rom-com Ali's Wedding, based on the life of actor, writer and comedian Osamah Sami, and a special "work in progress" screening of David Stratton's Stories of Australian Cinema, directed by Sally Aitken (later released as David Stratton: A Cinematic Life). Other films shown were Gimme Danger, a documentary film about the Stooges, and a retrospective screening of Lucky Miles (2007).
2017: 5–15 October
At the 2017 festival, the theme "Vive le Punk" celebrated the punk movement's 40th anniversary. It featured A Fantastic Woman, Call Me By Your Name, a set by Adelaide punk band Exploding White Mice and Ai Weiwei's documentary about migration, Human Flow.
2018: 10–21 October
2019: 5–7 April "pop-up"
2020: 14−30 October
In 2020 the Adelaide Film Festival was scheduled to run from 14 to 25 October, one of the few events of its type during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the success of the festival, an extended run of selected films was scheduled as part of the Best of the Fest programme, re-showing ten of the programmed films from 26 to 30 October.
To open the festival, the locally filmed sci-fi thriller 2067 played in seven cinemas simultaneously, with extra screenings added due to demand. One of the headlining films was I Am Woman, starring Adelaide actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey, who returned from Los Angeles in September. Other films included the documentary The Painter and the Thief, and High Ground, and the films include 22 world premieres, 27 Australian premieres and a total of 54 feature films from many countries.
The earliest screening at the festival took place on 22 August, with a couple of early showings of I Am Woman; the final event, a documentary about Port Adelaide Football Club called This is Port Adelaide, premiered at Odeon Star Semaphore from 5–7 February 2021.
Patrons and Board
The Board of the Adelaide Film Festival as of September 2020 consisted of:
- Chair, Sandra Sdraulig , a lawyer with more than 20 years experience as a film and TV executive, in both the commercial and cultural sectors of the Australian film, TV and digital media industry. Sdraulig has been involved since the founding, having developed the original plan for its establishment in 2001.
- Andrew Mackie, a film distributor, former managing director of Dendy Films, co-founder of the film distribution company Transmission Films, and an executive producer. Joined 2014.
- Maria Ravese, an accountant focused on the provision of taxation and HR related services associated with employment, and with extensive experience dealing with cross border regulatory compliance obligations in the entertainment and media industry. Joined 2014.
- Martha Coleman, a producer of film and television, a former Head of Development at Screen Australia, and now heading production company Revlover.
- Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide, previously CEO of the Adelaide Fringe and the Adelaide Festival, producer of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas in 2018.
- Anton Andreacchio, producer and entrepreneur, board member of the South Australian Film Corporation and Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.
Former Board members include Cheryl Bart, Andrew Bovell, Judith Crombie, Mojgan Khadem, Gabrielle Kelly, Wayne Lewis, Barry Loane, Sue Maslin, Jacinta Thompson, Leanne Thomas Sam White, Greg Knagge and Jamie Restas.
In 2007, the ADLFF featured in Variety Magazine's Top 50 unmissable film festivals, around the world. saying: "Of the planet’s 1,000-plus film fests, only a select few pack industry impact. A few dozen more, by virtue of vision, originality, striking setting, audience zest and/or their ability to mine a unique niche, also rank as must-attends".
Don Dunstan Award
The Don Dunstan Award was established in honour of Don Dunstan, Premier of South Australia through most of the 1970s, and is presented in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry by an individual.
Past recipients have included:
- 2003 - David Gulpilil
- 2005 - Dennis O'Rourke
- 2007 – Rolf de Heer
- 2009 – Jan Chapman
- 2011 – Judy Davis
- 2013 – Scott Hicks
- 2015 – Andrew Bovell
- 2017 – Margaret Pomeranz & David Stratton
- 2018 – Freda Glynn, , Warwick Thornton, and
- 2020 – Bruna Papandrea
Feature Fiction Award
ADL Film Fest was the first Australian film festival to create a juried prize for best feature film.
Winners have included:
- 2006 Still Life (Jia Zhangke, China)
- 2009 Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim (USA/South Korea)
- 2011 Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, Canada/France)
- 2013 Jîn (Reha Erdem, Turkey)
- 2015 Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil)
- 2017 I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, France/United Kingdom)
- 2019 (Kamila Andini, Indonesia/Netherlands/Australia)
- 2020 Beginning (Déa Kulumbegashvili, Georgia)
Feature Documentary Award
The Feature Documentary Award, also known as the Flinders University International Documentary Award, was first awarded in 2013, with the inaugural prize goingto (Australia, Vietnam), directed by Jakeb Anhvu. Since then it has been won by:
- 2015 Speed Sisters (Amber Fares)
- 2017 ()
- 2018 Island of the Hungry Ghosts ()
- 2020 Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra (about the Bangarra Dance Theatre).
Bettison & James Award
The Bettison & James Award, formerly Jim Bettison and Helen James Award, presented in collaboration with the Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation, was established to recognise Australians who "have contributed exemplary and inspiring lifelong body of work of high achievement and benefit; and that the completion, extension, recording and/or dissemination of such work would have benefits for both the individual concerned and for the wider Australian community". The annual award of A$50,000 is made to an individual who has contributed significantly in whatever their area of expertise is, be it arts, humanities, social justice, science, the environment or something else. The foundation was established by the estates of the and his partner . Bettison created the , co-founded communications company Codan and served as Deputy Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, his alma mater (an honorary position). Helen was an exhibiting studio artist, who served on a number of arts committees and was one of the founding members of the National Library of Australia’s Foundation Board.
- 2015: Greg Mackie , founder of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas
- 2016: Meryl Tankard , dancer, choreographer and director; and
- 2017: Robert McFarlane, social documentary and arts photographer
- 2018: Jackie Huggins , author, historian and Indigenous rights advocate, for researching the social impacts of Aboriginal soldiers going to fight in both World Wars.
- 2019: John Long, paleontologist, academic and author of popular science non-fiction and fiction.
- 2020: , scientist and expert on cell death, 2019 co-recipient of the Florey Medal for Lifetime Achievement
The Adelaide Film Festival teamed up with the Australian Writers' Guild to present the INSITE Award at the 2013 Festival. The Award celebrates and acknowledges outstanding work produced by AWG screenwriters and provides an important development opportunity for both writers and the industry. The winner gets to meet industry directors and producers, with a view to moving the project onto the screen.
It has not been awarded since 2017 and is not mentioned on the 2020 list of awards. Past winners have included:
- 2003 Cut Snake, by Blake Ayshford, was filmed by director Tony Ayres.
- 2005 Moving South, by Cath Moore.
- 2007 Salt, by Priscilla Cameron and Heather Phillips, was directed by Michael Angus in 2009. The film played at the Adelaide Film Festival that same year.
- 2009 Writing Rain, written by Ben Chessell.
- 2011 The Unlikeliest Hero, by Barbara Connell, was planned to be filmed by New Zealand director James Cunningham in an official Australia/New Zealand co-production, with completion of the film timed to coincide with the 100-year commemorations of ANZAC Day. (However, as of September 2020 it was last reported as being pitched as an animated film at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2015.)
- 2013 Tigress, written by Jane Hampson.
- 2015 Martingale, written by Harry Aletras.
- 2017 Petrova, written by Bec Peniston-Bird.
AFTRS International VR Award
In 2017, ADL Film Fest introduced the AFTRS ADL Film Fest International VR Award, the first competition of its kind in Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Nothing Happens, by Michelle and Uri Kranot, won the inaugural award, while The Other Dakar by Selly Raby, based on Senegalese mythology, received a Special Mention.
Indigenous Feature Documentary Initiative
In partnership with Screen Australia, and the National Film and Sound Archive, this initiative, the first of its kind, was created in 2015 to support an "innovative, observational and/or social justice documentary" with a funding package of up to A$738,000. The award provided funding for an established Indigenous film-maker to make a feature-length documentary, providing funding for the director and a producer.
On 9 October 2017, AFF held the world première of the resulting film, and it was sold out at the in Sydney in November of that year. The film focuses on a group of grandmothers (Grandmothers Against Removals) taking on the system over the increase in Indigenous child removal in the years following Kevin Rudd's Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples, in which he offered an apology on behalf of the Australian Government to the Stolen Generations resulting from historic child removal policies in Australia. It won Best Direction of a Documentary Feature Film from the Australian Directors Guild in 2018, and was nominated in three categories in the 2018 AACTA Awards: Best Direction in Nonfiction Television (Larissa Behrendt); Best Documentary or Factual Program (Michaela Perske); and Best Original Music Score in A Documentary (Caitlin Yeo).
Jury members for the International Feature Film Prize have included Afghani actor Leena Alam and Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues (2017); Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir and Adelaide filmmaker Sophie Hyde (2015); actor/filmmaker Wayne Blair and writer Lawrence Weschler ( 2013); Hossein Valamanesh (2011); JM Coetzee (2007 & 2009), Naomi Kawase and David Stratton (2009); Margaret Pomeranz and Ana Kokkinos (2007).
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