The Sydney Film Festival will go ahead in a smaller and all-digital format next month, organizers announced on Monday. They had previously announced that this year’s event would be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, and that the next edition would be held in 2021.
“It’s not so much a change of heart. When we announced the cancellation of the physical festival we mentioned that in the coming months we would look for opportunities to celebrate films and filmmakers. We’re very determined to support the film industry, and the Australian film industry in particular, and this virtual edition is a way of doing that while remaining connected to our very enthusiastic audience,” a festival spokesman told Variety.
The virtual festival will run June 10-21. The program will include: world premieres of compelling true stories from some of Australian documentary filmmakers; a program of shorts from rising stars of the Australian film industry; and films from European female directors. All film screenings will be ticketed and require payment.
It will also host a series of prize events: the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary; the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films; and Europe! Voices of Women in Film.
“This year’s special 67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition and Awards is all about bringing audiences across the nation together at a particularly challenging time in celebration of filmmakers and particularly the Australian film industry,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley in a prepared statement.
Organizers describe the virtual edition of the SFF as a national event, and explained that scrrenings will be geo-blocked to be visible in Australia only. The festival will rely on New Zealand-based startup Shift72 as its technology partner.
Details of the line-up and ticket sales procedures will be unveiled on May 27.
Australia has recorded 6,801 coronavirus infections and 95 deaths from the disease. The country has been in a strict lockdown since late March, but authorities are now sufficiently confident that they have the disease under control that they are discussing a phased reduction of restrictions. De-escalation measures could include opening Australia’s borders to travelers from New Zealand, another Asia-Pacific country which has largely tamed the outbreak.