2 December 2020

The Adelaide Film Festival today announced the winner of its inaugural Change Award and Audience Awards.

The winner of the Change Award is the outstanding documentary feature Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra.  The Change Award, which attracts a $5000 cash prize, acknowledges that the most important question of our time is how to change and recognises a  film each festival that celebrates the social and environmental impact and expresses a desire to live in new ways.

Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra tells the origin story of the Bangarra Dance Company, one of Australia’s greatest performing arts company. It is vividly told through the eyes of its Artistic Director Stephen Page and other members of the dance company.

The film was directed by Nel Minchin and Wayne Blair and produced by Ivan O’Mahoney.

Last month, during the festival, it was announced that Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra had won the Adelaide Film Festival’s $10,000 Documentary Award and it was also announced this week that the film won the AACTA Award for Best Documentary.

Adelaide Film Festival’s  CEO and Creative Director Mat Kesting said:  “This is the inaugural year of the AFF Change Award and it is fitting that this first winner is for a film about an arts company that has been a leader in Indigenous self-determination and been a transformative force in artistic expression. The company has led Australia  and the rest of the world’s appreciation of contemporary dance.”

Producer Ivan O’Mahoney said of the Change Award win: “Wow! For Firestarter to have been awarded the inaugural Change Award in addition to the Feature Documentary Award is a big deal. What makes this award so special to us is that it goes to heart of what films can and perhaps more often should be about: how we can all work together to shape a brighter future. Bangarra have been at the forefront of reconciliation for three decades by bringing Indigenous stories and issues to mainstream audiences in an utterly captivating way. It’s simply impossible to see a Bangarra performance and to not want to engage more with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. This film was the result of a pretty special partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and it has led to something quite unique. Winning the Change Award is certainly a terrific incentive to stay the course with social impact films!’

The Audience Award for Feature Fiction was won by the coming of age comedy Shiva Baby set at a Jewish wake (shiva) in Brooklyn directed by Emma Seligman and produced by Emma Seligman, Lizzie Shapiro, Katie Schiller and Kieran Altman.

Shiva Baby’s SA-born producer Kieran Altman, who returned to Adelaide from New York for the Festival screenings, said: “Thank you to the Adelaide Film Festival audience who came out and not only supported Shiva Baby but all of the films at the festival. A special thank you to AFF CEO & Creative Director Matt Kesting, AFF Programs Gail Kovatseff and the entire AFF team for taking a chance on Shiva Baby and including it in this year’s program. In a year of streaming festivals at home, zoom meetings and distanced interaction, it’s an honour to have screened sold-out sessions of the film to enthusiastic, in-person audiences. As a born and bred South Australian from Murray Bridge, this truly means the world. On behalf of Shiva Baby‘s writer & director Emma Seligman and the entire filmmaking team – thank you, Adelaide!”

Shiva Baby has screened previously at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Audience Award for Documentary went to Yer Old Faither. One of the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund films, Yer Old Faither had its world premiere at the 2020 Film Festival. A daughter’s love letter to her eccentric father, it tells the story of John Croall,  a man ahead of his time. He quietly greened the industrial country town of Whyalla while delivering three generations of local babies and periodically writing hilarious letters to prod politicians into action.

Yer Old Faither was directed and produced by Heather Croall, who is also the CEO of the Adelaide Fringe. Heather said of the win: I’m completely blown away that Yer Old Faither has won the Adelaide Film Festival Audience Award. I can’t believe it, especially since there were so many brilliant documentaries in the festival program. I extend my immense gratitude to all who voted for Yer Old Faither and to everyone at the Adelaide Film Festival for putting on such an incredible launch of the film in these times. Since the premiere, messages have flooded into me from so many people telling me how much they loved the film – this is testament to all the amazing, talented people who worked on this documentary with me and to them all I just want to express my heartfelt thanks. Yer Old Faither was a true collaboration and I am so thankful to everyone who worked on it with me.” 

The Short Film Audience Award was won by Ayaan by Alies Sluiter.  Ayaan is the story of an escaped asylum seeker and her baby, who must decide whether the Indigenous man they meet on an isolated beach can be trusted, or should they proceed on their perilous 400-mile journey alone. Filmed in SA, Ayaan incorporates both Somali and the Indigenous Pitjantjatjara language. Ayaan has been previously nominated for a Dendy at the 2020 Sydney Film Festival

Alies Christina Sluiter said, “We are extremely honoured that Ayaan has received the AFF Audience Award! A huge thank you to Mathew Kesting and the entire Adelaide Film Festival team for programming our film and providing us with the opportunity to screen to a South Australian audience. Thank you so much!”

In a testament to their appeal to audiences, Shiva Baby and Yer Old Faither will both tour regionally as part of Adelaide Film Festival’s Curate Your Own Festival. Unique in Australia, Curate Your Own Festival brings regional community curators to the Adelaide Film Festival for four days to take four films back to their regional towns. Curators are encouraged to select films which would not usually be on offer in regional Australia while recognising and working to their community’s unique cultural make-up.

Yer Old Faither will screen at the Whyalla Cinema on Wed 9th of December. The screening will be accompanied by a Q&A with director and producer, Heather Croall.

Other films screening in Whyalla are the Danish dramedy Another Round starring Mad Mikkelsen and the Australian dramas High Ground and Disclosure.

Film bookings to the Whyalla screenings can be made here. The program’s local curator is Michal Hughes. 

Shiva Baby will screen at the Cameo Cinema in Murray Bridge on Saturday 12 December. The screening will be accompanied by a Q&A with producer Kieran Altmann who grew up in Murray Bridge. Also screening in Murray Bridge, as part of Curate Your Own Festival, are High Ground and Another Round. Bookings can be made here. The program’s local curator is Robbie Greenwell.

Cancelled due to Adelaide’s recent Covid-19 break-out,  the remainder of the Curate Your Own Festival regional tour to Goolwa and Port Lincoln is planned to recommence in the new year.

Also as part of Curate Your Own Festival, Firestarter – the Story of Bangarra recently screened to the Indigenous community at Raukkan, located west of Narrung on the Lake Alexandrina. The curator was Issac Lindsey.