Over the past 20 years, the Adelaide Film Festival has supported more than 150 projects including hits like Talk to Me and Samson and Delilah, which won Warwick Thornton the Cannes Caméra d’Or for best first film and kick-started his career. So this year, clearly flush with stellar films in the pipeline, it launched the Adelaide Film Festival Goes to Cannes program at Screen Australia’s headquarters overlooking a sparkling Mediterranean.

Not that anyone had time to completely take in the view.

South Australia’s Arts Minister, Andrea Michaels, admitting it was her first time in the coastal town, said it was an “amazing opportunity” to be there and that the Cannes Film Festival was “much bigger than I even thought it was going to be”.

At a breakfast event on the Screen Australia terrace on May 17, Adelaide Film Festival director Mat Kesting introduced representatives from five films by first-time filmmakers that AFF was set to showcase at a market screening the same afternoon. All five films received equity investment through the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund.

“All of these projects are near completion and they will premiere within the next 12 months,” Kesting told the throng of industry buyers, sale agents and other delegates.

They include Kelly Schilling’s road trip movie With or Without You, starring Marta Dusseldorp as an alcoholic mother whose daughter (played by Melina Vidler) tries to help her start a new life; Lesbian Space Princess, an animated film by Leela Varghese and her real-life partner Emma Hough-Hobbs; Mockbuster, a comedic documentary by Anthony Frith where Anthony tries to make a B-grade trashy movie in Australia; and Kasimir Burgess’s Australian-Mongolian documentary The Iron Winter, where herders in the Mongolian Tsakhir Valley try to keep their horses alive amid climate change and increasing globalisation.

The fifth film is Kangaroo Island by Timothy David (also known as Timothy Piper), who was one of the 10 South Australian filmmakers in Cannes for the AFF event. If his film is as good as it seems, it may be a contender for a berth at the Toronto Film Festival. Sally Gifford, the film’s screenwriter (and David’s wife), is Canadian.

Kangaroo Island follows a father’s wish for his estranged daughter Lou to return from Hollywood, where her career is stalling, to the family home on Kangaroo Island. Wild and untamed Lou (Rebecca Breeds) is the polar opposite of her religious sister Freya (Adelaide Clemens) and the pair must try to get along for the sake of their father, played by Erik Thomson. Maybe Kangaroo Island is the place where family differences can finally be resolved.

A still from the new film Kangaroo Island. Photo: supplied

David, who hails from Adelaide, left Australia in 2004 and pursued a successful career in advertising in New York. He has directed hundreds of commercials with his company, Piro, filming such celebrities as Zendaya and Kendall Jenner.

“Sally and I would come to Adelaide to visit my family every year and our favourite place is Kangaroo Island,” he told InReview  at Cannes.

“Sally fell in love with the place and she noticed how wild the place is. But she also noticed a lot of roadkill, a lot of kangaroos getting hit by cars. It just got her thinking about how fleeting life is, because when you’re on Kangaroo Island you’re removed from society, and you can step back and have a good look at life.

“It’s a very spiritual place. It also kind of makes you feel like you’re an animal, because it’s like a zoo without fences. So you feel more in touch with nature.

“Sally started to ask questions, like ‘Why do we humans have a very conscious awareness of death?’. We think about death all the time; we have religion to help us cope with death, all these things, and she wanted to create a story about two characters who are polar opposites, and how they live their lives and shape their lives around a tragedy and death.

“One of them turns to God for the answers and the other one believes life has no meaning and follows a more hedonistic path. And the story itself is about a father who’s trying to get them to reconcile their differences. And it’s the juxtaposition between the two that causes a lot of tension, comedy, love and empathy.”

The film came about when the couple had another film fall through.

“I said to my wife, ‘You know, we have money to make a movie, we just don’t have a script. You’re a great writer’. I pitched the idea of writing to a lot of great American writers, too, but in the end Sally had the best script. It was amazing. I was in tears when I read it, because it was so beautiful.”

Director Timothy David on the set of his film. Photo: supplied

Initially, he explains, the film was going to be called Animal.

“It’s such a beautiful film about the human animal and what makes it a different type of animal to other animals. The way I filmed it, I’m observing the actors; it’s very uncontrived. The emphasis of the entire production was on the actors’ ability to be completely authentic and in the moment. We don’t milk the tragedy; it’s kind of revealed. It’s about the humans’ reaction to tragedy and that’s how we avoided the film being melodramatic.

“There’s also a nice flow of comedy in places because if you can’t laugh at life, you’re in trouble. So this is a film about the ability, at least for the audience, to empathise with characters who are going through hardship. But also it’s a message about how we can cope, and how there are different coping mechanisms. But we don’t know the answers. And it’s okay to not know the answers. Bad things will happen. So will good things. And if you learn to roll with it, you can really enjoy what’s beautiful about life.”

Are there actual animals in the film?

“Yes, we filmed animals as they appeared throughout the landscape. There were always opportunities as they were everywhere on Kangaroo Island! We ended up with a library of beautiful footage of echidnas, great white sharks, seals, dolphins, kangaroos, koalas, goannas and fire ants.”

Davd says it has been been a great experience to see how the Cannes Film Festival works, with the AFF initiative offering valuable insight for SA filmmakers.

“It’s an industry that’s relationship-based, in many ways. So it’s wonderful to meet people from around the world and to see the types of films they’re making.

“I think the Adelaide Film Festival being here is important, because it helps filmmakers in South Australia understand where they fit in the international space. It gives them a proper and mature perspective on the film industry, which you need. Otherwise you’re really just working in South Australia with South Australians on South Australian films.

“You need to make sure you’re working to an international standard, if you want the films to be as good as they can be.”

Kangaroo Island, Lesbian Space Princess and With or Without You will all have their Australian premieres at the 2024 Adelaide Film Festival, which runs from October 23 until November 3.

Australian freelance film and travel journalist Helen Barlow is based in Paris and is reporting from the 2024 Cannes Film Festival.

The SA delegation at the Adelaide Film Festival Goes to Cannes breakfast. Photo: supplied

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to https://inreview.com.au/inreview/film/2024/05/20/french-connection-film-takes-director-from-ki-to-cannes/ to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard