At the beginning of 2021, festival goers were faced with the year of the Double Plan, as nobody really knew what would happen with Covid. As of April, festivals are more confident of the future and are sure of their live events, but there is still plenty of online offerings coming through on the revised program.
The Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival is grabbing new opportunities. As the website says, 'In May 2021, BOFA offers both a blended online and an in-cinema film festival (Launceston and Hobart) as research shows an appetite for both formats.' It will run twenty screenings in Launceston from 30 April – 2 May, and 28 April – 30 May in Hobart. It will also run classic films in quirky locations.
While this is a neat way of dealing with regional difficulties, it also offers an online version, with different films. This is free; just become a recipient of the online newsletter and go your hardest. This is Australia wide – even though so many travelling screen events don't reach Hobart, no-one has worked out how to geoblock the big island from the little island. It runs from 3-30 May.
Emerging from isolation we can say that the festival system is up and running again, while organisers keep lockdown plans on the table and cultivate some streaming action which could be a permanent addition. The feeling is really dynamic, from solid evidence of co-operation to the showcasing of hybrid and digital works.
The due dates for entries are mostly gone or unspecified as managements plan their futures. Still in play is the Antenna Documentary Festival which is accepting applications until 16 July. The Sony Film Festival started to accept entries on 2 Feb, and closes on 18 June. The screenings run in August, as per the calendar below. Looks tasty but promotional since films must be shot on Sony gear.
To track the more indie oriented international film festivals, Film Freeway has a good list of the top one hundred in its client list. The Byron International Film Festival and the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival are in that list. DocFilmDepot is useful while the Festhome list is eclectic. A simple way of finding the most serious festivals is to check the list for Academy Awards Qualifying Festivals. This was current for 2020.
The total list of film festivals in Australia among the 9000 listed on Film Freeway is 280. One of the many interesting festivals is The Focus on Ability Short Film Festival, for which entries close on July 30. More on the Facebook page.
THE IMMEDIATE PAST
Palace continues to hold its own brand of festival which tours the country. The Alliance Française French Film Festival finally finished in mid-April, but there are plenty more to come. Palace continues to invest heavily in physical screens, even though the general arthouse market over the last few years has been in decline. The most recent opening was the Pentridge complex just before Christmas, with Sydney's Double Bay and Chippendale announced last year, along with Raine Square in Perth. The company has the luxury of shifting the emphasis between arthouse and mainstream depending on the market and cashflow needs.
The Antenna Documentary Film Festival ran a program of screenings and events to replace the 2020 festival; the Japanese Film Festival ran through February in Sydney and included its classic Classics program, followed by a Nobuhiko Obayashi Tribute series, screened in 11-14 March. Since ACMI has now re-opened, we can expect the festival to reach Melbourne while we always hope for a national tour.