In its first year as an annual event, the Film Festival opened on October 18 with a red-carpet screening of the SA-filmed outback thriller The Royal Hotel at North Adelaide’s Piccadilly cinema and saw the presentation of more than 130 films from 43 countries over 12 days.

It officially closed on Sunday night with Adelaide director Scott Hicks’ My Name’s Ben Folds – i play piano, although a number of the most popular films on the program – including The Royal Hotel – have encore screenings through to Wednesday.

While AFF organisers don’t release the actual box office figures, they said the 2023 result sets a new record and is a 79 per cent increase on the last pre-pandemic festival in 2018. This year marks the start of the previously biennial festival going annual, following an extra $4 million in funding provided by the State Government.

AFF CEO and creative director Mat Kesting said the festival had been “an incredible celebration of cinema talent from South Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and around the world”.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work of the AFF team in creating a festival that has been so warmly embraced by audiences, and one that nurtures screen culture and builds new audiences for the cinema arts.”

At the closing event, Kesting announced several award winners, with the Frankenstein-like tale Poor Things taking out the AFF 2023 Feature Fiction Audience Award and a documentary about former Adelaide artist David Bromley, Bromley: Light After Dark, winning the AFF 2023 Feature Documentary Audience Award. Local films Blame the Rabbit and The Unrequited Life of Farrah Bruce were named joint winners of the AFF 2023 Short Film Prize, while Black Cockatoo Crisis won the AFF Change Award.

Actor Marta Dusseldorp. Photo: supplied

Coinciding with the closing of the Film Festival was the announcement that new feature film With or Without You, which begins shooting in Adelaide next week, will have its Australian premiere at the 2024 event. It is said to be inspired by the lived experience of South Australian director Kelly Schilling, whom Kesting praises as “an incredible new talent”.

With or Without You stars Marta Dusseldorp – most recently seen in the ABC’s twisted crime drama Bay of Fires – as the “entertaining but alcoholic” Sharon, with Melina Vidler (800 Words, Elvis) as her adult daughter Chloe. Looking to start new lives, the duo end up on a road trip with West African refugee Dalu (Albert Mwangi) that is plagued by “misconceptions and misunderstandings”.

The film is being co-produced by Su Armstrong and Carolyn Johnson. It has received principal production funding from Screen Australia and South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), plus investment from Adelaide Film Festival, with all production and post-production taking place in SA

“As it enters production, With or Without You is set to authentically portray a story of challenge and resilience between a mother and daughter, with a uniquely South Australian voice,” says Screen Australia head of content Grainne Brunsdon.

“Kelly Schilling’s debut feature will delve into the extraordinary aspects of everyday life and offer an intimate cinematic journey on the road. Don’t miss its Australian premiere at the 2024 Adelaide Film Festival.”

Read all InReview’s Adelaide Film Festival stories and reviews here.

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