Adelaide sets ‘High Ground’, Bangarra and Phil Liggett docs

‘High Ground’. 

Adelaide Film Festival announced its first five titles today, as it pushes forward with a physical event in October as originally planned.

Among the early local fare is Stephen Johnson’s 1930s drama High Ground, which premiered earlier this year in Berlin, and documentaries Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra, from Nel Minchin and Wayne Blair, and Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling, from Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe.

The biennial festival has also snared the Australian premiere of Thomas Vinterberg’s comedy Another Round, direct from Toronto. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, the film was selected to screen in Cannes and follows four friends, all high school teachers, who test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.

Also on the line-up is Benjamin Lee’s The Painter and the Thief, this year’s winner of the Sundance Film Festival world cinema documentary special jury prize. It follows the growing emotional bond that develops between Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova and a man who stole two of her paintings.

Backed by the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund, Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling saw Bird and Sharpe (Remembering the Man, MAMIL) spend a total of 11 weeks in South Africa, the UK, Australia and France to chronicle the 51-year career of Liggett, the 76-year-old English cycling commentator/journalist who has covered 47 iterations of Tour de France and 15 Olympic Games, as he faces retirement. Adelaide will be the film’s world premiere.

High Ground, produced by Bunya Productions’ Greer Simpkin and David Jowsey, Maggie Miles, Johnson and Yothu Yindi co-founder Witiyana Marika, earned raves when it premiered in Berlin’s Berlinale Special strand, scoring a US deal with Samuel Goldwyn Co. Scripted by Chris Anastassiades, the film stars Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Aaron Pedersen, Caren Pistorius and Ryan Corr.

Blair and Minchin’s hybrid doco Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra, lays out the 30-year story of Bangarra Dance Theatre, and how brothers Stephen, Russell, and David Page turned their dance company into a First Nations cultural powerhouse. Produced by Ivan O’Mahoney for In Films, it features dance sequences exclusively choreographed for the film.

Both High Ground and Firestarter are also scheduled for the Brisbane International Film Festival, on two weeks prior.

Adelaide’s 2020 event will be the first iteration under the stewardship of new creative director and CEO Mat Kesting, who succeeded Amanda Duthie early last year.

“We are so very lucky it is safe to enjoy seeing films in cinemas here in South Australia and it is thrilling to announce that we are going ahead with a physical Festival in 2020. I am excited to share the first films that will be screening. These five films are representative of the program we will be presenting in October – inventive, absorbing, brilliant, provocative,” Kesting said.

The principal venue partner for this year is Palace Nova East End Cinemas.

The Adelaide Film Festival will be held from October 14 – 25, with passes on sale now and the full program to be announced September 9.