Scott Hicks doc ‘My Name’s Ben Folds – I Play Piano’ to close Adelaide Film Festival

My Name’s Ben Folds – I Play Piano'.

After announcing Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel as its opener last month, Adelaide Film Festival will close out with another South Australian feature, Scott Hicks’s documentary My Name’s Ben Folds – I Play Piano.

The latest work from the Shine director and producers Kerry Heysen and Jett Heysen-Hicks is a concert from Folds and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, backed by the festival’s investment fund. Folds will join the world premiere screening via video link.

I Play Piano is one of two films from the family filmmaking trio set for Adelaide this year, the other being The Musical Mind, a glimpse into the private worlds and musical processes of four musicians, Daniel Johns, David Helfgott, Simon Tedeschi and, once again, Folds. The documentary is interwoven by portraits, created on camera, by artist Loribelle Spirovski.

Adelaide Film Festival unveiled its full program this evening, with a theme of ‘see in the dark’ and 130 films planned from 43 countries, including 27 world premieres and 38 Australian premieres.

“The AFF2023 program celebrates courageous filmmaking and offers a chance to reflect on what it is to be alive and see the world differently while being entertained, provoked, and enriched,” said festival director Mat Kesting.

“From directorial debuts to master filmmakers and those bearing the highest of accolades, each film has been selected with the greatest of care, giving platform to Australian films within a broader international context. There’s serious gold in this program and you’ll thank yourself for seizing the chance to see as much as you can and be part of the festival. Numerous filmmaker and special guests will be in attendance with opportunities to hear from them, for deeper engagement with the most accessible and wonderous artform of our time.”

Competing in the festival’s Feature Fiction Competition are two Australian films; the previously announced indie horror You’ll Never Find Me, from Adelaide filmmakers Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell, and Raghuvir Joshi’s Sahela, about a young Indian-Australian couple facing up to the notion of cultural shame. They will vie against Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev’s Blaga’s Lessons; Greek-Cypriot writer/director Kyros Papavassiliou’s Larva Butterfly; Iranian filmmaker Behrooz Karamizade’s Empty Nets and Spanish road movie On The Go, from Julia de Castro and María Gisèle Royo.

Australian film ‘Sahela’ will compete in Adelaide’s Feature Fiction Competition.

Australia is also represented in the Documentary Competition by Ian White’s Mutiny In Heaven: The Birthday Party, an look at the post-punk band fronted by Nick Cave. It will compete against Apolonia, Apolonia from Danish director Lea Glob; Hollywoodgate, by the Egyptian journalist turned filmmaker Ibrahim Nash’at; Lakota Nation vs United States, from directors Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli; Seven Winters in Tehran, from director Steffi Niederzoll, and The Mountains, from Norwegian director Christian Einshø.

The jury for both competitions is made up of Australian directors Kitty Green and Goran Stolevski, The Hollywood Reporter journalist and critic David Rooney, Indonesian film curator Alexander Matius and former head of drama and entertainment at the ABC, Sally Riley.

Riley is also the recipient of this year’s Don Dunstan Award, which recognises an exceptional individual who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian screen culture. She joins previous recipients such as Andrew Bovell, Bruna Papandrea, Judy Davis, Freda Glynn, David Dalaithngu Gulpilil, Rolf de Heer, Hicks, Dennis O’Rourke, David Jowsey, David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz. Pomeranz will interview Riley in an in conversation at the Art Gallery of South Australia, presented in partnership with Tarnanthi: Festival Of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.

Other local films announced as bound for Adelaide today include the world premiere of Jolyon Hoff’s You Should Have Been Here Yesterday, as well as Sally Aitken’s Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles, which will screen as part of the Special Presentations program; Mark Leonard Winter’s The Rooster, starring Phoenix Raei and Hugo Weaving; Colin and Cameron Cairnes’ horror Late Night With the Devil, Gabriel Carrubba’s queer coming-of-age drama Sunflowers and Jason di Rosso doco The Hidden Spring.

They join the previously announced The Royal Hotel, from Green, the Australian premiere of Stolevski’s Housekeeping for Beginners, direct from Venice, docudrama Speedway, from directors Luke Rynderman and Adam Kamien, and documentaries Rewards for the Tribe from Rhys Graham, Daniel King’s Her Name Is Nanny Nellie and Marion Pilowsky’s Isla’s Way.

The South Australian Independent Voices strand will also play home to a number of world premieres, including Stephen de Villiers’ The Burnt Half; Pete Williams’ Emotion is Dead; Bill Mousoulis’ My Darling in Stirling and What Are We Fighting For? from Carolyn Corkindale and Christine Belford, in addition to Margot Nash short doc Undercurrents: Meditations on Power.

International highlights include Christo Nikou’s Fingernails, produced by Cate Blanchettand starring Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, Luke Wilson and Annie Murphy; Pedro Almodóvar’s short queer western Strange Way of Life, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal; and New Zealand coming-of-age dramedy Uproar, starring Julian Dennison, Minnie Driver and Rhys Darby and directed by Hamish Bennett and Paul Middleditch.

From Cannes, the line-up will also feature Todd Haynes’ May December, starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall, directed by Justine Triet, and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s most recent work, Monster.

The program also sports Berlin Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize winner Afire; Club Zero, starring Aussie Mia Wasikowska; Locarno Golden Leopard winner Critical Zone; animated French sci-fi noir Mars Express; Argentinian director Rodrigo Moreno’s The Delinquents; and from Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, The Sweet East, the directorial debut of cinematographer Sean Price Williams.

Four documentaries will compete for AFF’s annual Change Award, for positive social or environmental impact. They are After Work, a look at work/life balance from director Erik Gandini); Australian film Black Cockatoo Crisis, an urgent call to protect the habitats of three iconic native Australian birds before they face extinction, from director Jane Hammond; Is There Anybody Out There?, a personal film from director Ella Glendining about her determined quest to find someone who shares her rare disability; and Golden Bear winner On The Adamant, from Nicolas Philibert, which looks at a unique day care centre for those with mental disabilities that floats in the middle of the Seine.

Among this year’s special strands is A Spotlight On Indonesia, which include include the previous announced Galang (director Adriyanto Dewo), Like & Share (director Gina S. Noer), Monisme (director Riar Rizaldi), Orpa (director Theogracia Rumansara), The Exiles (director Lola Amaria) and The Tone Wheels (director Yuda Kurniawan). The filmmakers will be official guests of the festival.

Adelaide Film Festival runs October 18– 29.