CinefestOZ, West Australia’s prestigious mini-festival, has confirmed that it will go ahead with live audiences at the end of August. It will be the first in the country to do so since the easing of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The festival will run August 25-30 with at least 40 live events and screenings, in the Margaret River area, along with a selection of online screenings. A full program will be unveiled on July 31.

For the first time in the festival’s 13-year history, CinefestOZ will also include a short film competition. Available prizes include best short film, best indigenous short film, best West Australian short film, best West Australian female short filmmakers, best lead actor, best director and audience choice. The festival’s feature film prize is one of the richest, worth $69,000 (A$100,000). Last year’s winner was John Sheedy’s locally-made “H Is For Happiness.”

The lifting of restrictions in Western Australia meant what was previously planned as an online festival can now allow for physical attendance within health guidelines.

To date there have, there have been very few film festivals going ahead with live audiences. Taiwan’s Taipei Film Festival is running now. France’s FID Marseille may be the next, running July 7-13. China’s FIRST festival this week confirmed that it too will go ahead as a real-world event, July 26-Aug. 3 in Qinghai Province.

“West Australians have been told to ‘wander out yonder’ and where better to visit than our beautiful South West,” CinefestOZ Chair Helen Shervington said. “However, we recognize these are challenging times for us all, particularly our interstate friends and industry family who may be bound by the state border closure, so we will be presenting a program for those who can – and can’t – physically attend.

“CinefestOZ will look and feel a little different in 2020 but will continue to champion Australian stories and film through an original program which will feature films, short film curations, Cinesnaps schools program activations, community screenings and more,” said Shervington.

“It has been a really tough year for all Australians, especially those in the arts and entertainment industry,” Shervington said.