Almost 50 countries are represented across the October 19-30 Film Festival, which launched its full program last night and will include 15 world-premiere feature films and 19 Australian premieres.

After “white knuckling it” to present the 2020 Adelaide Film Festival amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, CEO and creative director Mat Kesting says organisers were spoilt for choice when selecting films for 2022.

“The films that we’ve selected are exceptional,” he tells InReview.

“I really describe our program as a cross-section of what’s out there. We don’t aim to be the directory of world cinema… rather, we have a tightly curated program and we think that honours the films. It works for our audience and our local market, and it’s representative.”

Kesting says local storytellers have been elevated in the program, which opens with the previously announced documentary The Angels: Kickin’ Down the Door – the band will also play live at a gala party – and closes with Talk to Me, a psychological horror that marks the feature film debut of the Philippou brothers (best-known for their RackaRacka YouTube channel).

A total of 15 Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund (AFFIF) projects will be celebrated throughout the festival, including director Rolf de Heer’s new feature The Survival of Kindness, SA-made environmental horror Carnifex and sci-fi thriller Monolith, and the documentary Watandar, My Countryman, which follows Adelaide-based former refugee and photographer Muzafar Al’s exploration of his identity through the history of Australia’s Afghan cameleers.

While Palace Nova Eastend is the Film Festival hub, other venues this year include Her Majesty’s Theatre, Wallis Mitcham, Palace Prospect, Semaphore Odeon and the Capri Theatre.

In addition to Talk to Me, Her Maj will host the Australian premiere of the French-Australian production Carmen – a contemporary retelling of the operatic love story directed by choreographer Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan) and partially filmed on location in South Australia – and the world premiere of the environmental documentary The Giants.

Carmen – ‘An explosion of dance and passion’.

Kesting predicts that The Giants, described by its producers as a “poetic, cinematic portrait of environmentalist Bob Brown and the Forest”, will be a major drawcard. “What they’ve done with it is just beautiful. It’s cinematically stunning and is equal parts Bob’s story, which is so compelling… woven in with the story of trees.”

Former Australian Greens leader Brown will be a guest at the festival and give a talk on Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest and why it urgently needs protection.

Also likely to prove popular are four films being presented at the Capri through a “Special Presentations” program. They include the previously announced My Policeman (starring Harry Styles), as well as the highly anticipated Tár, which sees Australian actor Cate Blanchett portray Lydia Tár, the first female chief conductor of a major German orchestra. Tár had critics gushing after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, with Vanity Fair describing it as “breathtaking… a ruthless but intimate tale of art, lust, obsession, and power”.

Rounding out the sessions at the Capri are Irish drama The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and American LGBTQI+ comedy Bros.

“These four films have all recently premiered at Venice or Toronto film festivals or both, and I think there’s going to be incredible demand on them,” Kesting says of the Special Presentations.

“We’re screening each of them once only and they’re all Australian premieres… we hope people who may not have previously engaged with the festival will come along and have a great experience, bring their friends and just start to engage with what we do.”

For sheer cinematic spectacle, the Danish documentary Into the Ice promises a breathtaking adventure as it follows scientists descending almost 200m down a glacier in Greenland in a bid to measure the rate at which the ice sheet is melting.

Other films of note include the Australian thriller Lone Wolf, starring Adelaide actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey alongside Hugo Weaving and Stephen Curry, and a New Zealand biopic about the influential Maori elder and activist Dame Whina Cooper.

When it comes to “hidden treasures” within the 2022 line-up, Kesting highlights the Romanian film Metronom, a teenage love story set against the backdrop of Ceausescu’s rule; Brazilian feature Tinnitus, about the struggles of an elite synchronised diver; and War Pony, which is co-directed by actor Riley Keough and Gina Gammel and follows two young Oglala Lakota men growing up on a reservation in South Dakota.

“This [War Pony] is a really powerful insight into a First Nations community, mostly from an observational perspective, but the audience just gets so drawn into the lives of these characters and the challenges they face,” Kesting says.

Australian First Nations stories also feature strongly in the festival program, including Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthew’s autobiographical documentary The Last Daughter (announced earlier and already almost sold out), opening night short Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), and a documentary about Indigenous artist Richard Bell titled You Can Go Now (directed by Larissa Behrendt).

As part of Tarnanthi and in collaboration with the Film Festival, the Art Gallery of South Australia will present Richard Bell’s Embassy, an installation inspired by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up 50 years ago on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. Embassy will be exhibited on the gallery forecourt from October 22-23.

The previously biennial Adelaide Film Festival will become an annual event from this year after a recent $2 million funding commitment by the State Government. Kesting tells InReview the move will bring numerous benefits, especially in terms of longer-term programming.

“From an operational perspective, it enables us to maintain contact with our audience, and it enhances our relationships with our partners and donors – already on that front, we’re seeing growth and increased investment…

“From a programming perspective, it means we are in simpatico with the rhythms of film production and festival presentation – the Oscars happen every year, Cannes happens every year, and from there the rhythm just flows, so I think it means we will be able to bring to Adelaide and present in Adelaide a program that is well timed and connected with the rest of the world….

“It gives us a lot more confidence and stability to move forward, so I think it will only benefit audiences and our overall offering in every way.”

At last night’s program launch, the festival announced producer David Jowsey as the recipient of the 2022 Don Dunstan Award and artistic director Pat Rix as winner of the 2022 Bettison & James Award. Rix – who founded Tutti Arts and also recently received a 2022 Australia Council Award for her outstanding contribution to community arts and cultural development ­– will give an in-depth interview at Palace Nova Eastend during the festival.

The 2022 Adelaide Film Festival will run from October 19-30. The full program is now online.

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