Adelaide Film Festival to defy COVID-19’s effect on the arts, welcoming audiences back to cinemas

Adelaide Film Festival is set to defy the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the first events to welcome audiences back to cinemas despite the global crisis.

Adelaide-raised movie star Tilda Cobham-Hervey’s movie, I Am Woman, is one of the films set to screen at the festival.

The actor said she was prepared to serve a double period of quarantine in Australia to escape America’s continuing COVID-19 crisis and disastrous bushfires in California.

She will be out of quarantine in time for the biennial film festival next month — one of the first in the sector which has been decimated by the pandemic.

“I got pretty sick of being in America; we were basically in quarantine for about five months, so I didn’t actually see real humans apart from my partner for five months,” she told ABC News.

“A lot of people are choosing to ignore it exists and I think that can be quite hard when there isn’t sort of hope or a clear plan as to how it can get better; that got pretty exhausting after a while.”

Tilda Cobham-Hervey in I Am Woman
I Am Woman will be showing at the Adelaide Film Festival.(Supplied)

The pandemic has wreaked havoc with Cobham-Hervey’s 2020 plans.

“It’s sort of impossible to film in Los Angeles; I know some productions are starting to go back with some very strict rules and protocols, but it’s very challenging.”

Challenging role for actor

The pandemic also wrecked the release plans for Cobham-Hervey’s latest film, I Am Woman, which saw her play the role of Australian singer Helen Reddy and her trip to the top.

It was her most challenging role yet, shot in just six weeks and requiring her to play Reddy from the ages of 24 to 48, often on the same shooting days.

The movie was sent to streaming early and is booming, while there has only been a limited cinematic release due to the pandemic.

The actor, looking harrowed, holds an infant in a blue jumper to her chest.
Tilda Cobham-Hervey in Hotel Mumbai, which premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2018.(Supplied: Icon Distribution)

The actor said screening the movie at the Adelaide Film Festival in front of family and friends will be a big moment.

“Incredibly nerve-wracking, still nervous about it — it was really hard playing a real person,” she said.

“I’d sort of never done that before … she’s such an extraordinary person and someone we all know and love.”

Festival adopts COVID-safe cinema plan

The film festival is one of the first in the world to be able to show movies in cinemas.

It will adopt the checkerboard seating plan of about 50 per cent capacity in what will be a challenging debut for creative director Mat Kesting.

“We’ve been very careful with our box office forecasting and we’ve made adjustments to make that work,” he said.

“There are very few film festivals internationally that have been able to proceed, so there is indeed a great opportunity for extra buzz around and we’re really quite lucky in South Australia to be able to proceed in the cinema.”

A man and a woman sit on chairs in a messy lounge room
A scene from Sundance-winning documentary The Painter and the Thief.(Supplied)

The 2020 festival includes 22 world premieres, 27 Australian premieres and 54 feature films from more than 40 countries.

They include the Sundance-winning documentary The Painter and the Thief, and Australia’s High Ground, which wowed audiences in Berlin.

There is also the film ShoPaapaa, a collaboration from Tasmanian duo Molly Reynolds and Rolf de Heer, which features disabled English-based artist Shekhar Bassi.

The film is one of the first to depict the year 2020 and how London in particular was hit by the coronavirus, before Black Lives Matter protests began.

“This was sort of intended to be a psychological vaccine, a psychological remedy to these tumultuous times,” Reynolds said from her Tasmanian base.

So contemporary is the film that it is not finished yet, but the production team said it will be ready to be shown.

A man wearing a colourful hat
ShoPaapaa features disabled English-based artist Shekhar Bassi.(Supplied)

Mr Kesting said having the Adelaide Film Festival in cinemas was a blessing, as most new movies were being held back from mainstream release due to the pandemic.

As for Cobham-Hervey, she has no return date to her home in Los Angeles, and an industry she still struggles to feel totally comfortable in.

“It is a really tough business,” she said.

“Particularly in America, the system of Hollywood and filmmaking, I still find pretty confusing and a lot of it I don’t love — but I really love the work.”

The Adelaide Film Festival runs from October 14 to 25.