'High Ground'.

‘High Ground’.

With Melbourne cinemas closed and most of those still in operation averaging capacities of 10 – 20 per cent, Madman Entertainment sensibly has decided to release Stephen Johnson’s High Ground next year.

The 1930s-set drama, which stars Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Aaron Pedersen, Caren Pistorius and Ryan Corr, was originally slated to open on July 9.

It will join a number of other Aussie titles dated for 2021, including Glendyn Ivin’s Penguin Bloom (January 1) and Robert Connolly’s The Dry (April 8), both Roadshow releases.

Inspired by true events, scripted by Chris Anastassiades and produced by Maggie Miles, Yothu Yindi co-founder Witiyana Marika, Johnson, David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, High Ground has its world premiere in the Berlinale Special screenings section of the Berlin International Film Festival.

High Ground obviously has had its trajectory post-Berlinale world premiere impacted by COVID-19,” Madman MD Paul Wiegard tells IF.

“With the anticipated festival opportunities that would have led into its planned July 9 release no longer an option, the film will hopefully screen at other festivals later this year.

“Currently we are currently looking to an early 2021 cinema release, which enables us to ensure it can receive the widest possible release, something we feel is important for a film of significant scale – both visually and thematically.

“We were thrilled with the response the film received at its world premiere in Berlin and look forward to sharing that experience with local audiences.”

Baker plays Travis, a bounty hunter and former soldier who enlists the help of Gutjuk (Nayinggul) a young Aboriginal orphan, to track down the most dangerous outlaw in the Territory – his uncle. During the manhunt a secret is revealed which ultimately pits them against each other.

Thompson is Moran, the head of the police outpost, with Mulvey as Ambrose, a police officer who fought with Travis in World War One, and Petersen as a lethal black tracker from Queensland.

The cast also includes Caren Pistorious as Claire, the mission manager and teacher, Ryan Corr as Braddock, a priest who is Claire’s brother, John Brumpton, David Field and Andy McPhee.

International sales agent Playtime sold North American rights to Samuel Goldywn Co., which released Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country.

Screen Australia provided major production investment with support from Maxo Studios, Screen Territory, Film Victoria, Bunya Productions and Savage Films.

‘Girls Can’t Surf’.

Meanwhile, Madman is looking to launch Christopher Nelius’ Girls Can’t Surf, a feature doc set in the 1980s male-dominated world of professional surfing, this summer.

Funded by Screen Australia and produced by Michaela Perske, the film shows how women surfers, who were paid a tenth of the prize money and relegated to holding contests during the men’s lunch breaks, broke through to turn women’s surfing into a multi-billion dollar industry.

The FINCH and Purskey Productions documentary was due to have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“The film celebrates the impact a generation of women had on surfing culture and summer feels like the perfect time to find a decently wide cinema release for this documentary,” Wiegard said.

“We hope that by this time it will be much easier for some of the inspiring subjects of the film to travel and participate in screening events, which will enrich the audience experience for a film that has amazing human stories at its heart.”

As IF reported, Jeremy Sims’ RAMS will be the first wide Australian release since cinemas re-opened, launching on 250-plus screens on August 27.

Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth debuts tomorrow via Universal Pictures and Umbrella Entertainment has booked Paul Ireland’s Measure for Measure for September 3.

Release dates for several other Umbrella titles, Roderick MacKay’s The Furnace, Seth Larney’s 2067, Tyson Wade Johnston’s Streamline and Tiriki Onus and Alec Morgan’s feature doc Ablaze are yet to be determined.

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