Feast for the cinephile

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A gastronomic theme for an upcoming film fest means cinema lovers can feed their stomachs while stimulating their minds, writes KATRINA LOBLEY.

When Adelaide does a festival, it's best to expect the unexpected.

How else to explain gastronome Gay Bilson's involvement in the 2011 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival?

The renowned restaurateur, who now calls South Australia's McLaren Vale home, will stage a large-scale meal for the festival on February 27 at Port Willunga Beach, south of Adelaide.

While the full program for the festival, which runs from February 24 to March 6, won't be revealed until the end of the month, the director, Katrina Sedgwick, says food will be a major theme.

''There are some fantastic classic films that have food as a central part of the story,'' she says. ''[There are] also really interesting documentaries about what's going on in the food industry that I think people are, shall I say, hungry to see.''

The festival, which will mostly be screened at Palace Cinemas in Rundle Street, will also include a visual-art program as well as one-off special events.

Sedgwick is well aware of Bilson's pulling power. She fed 2000 people at Loaves and Fishes, the closing event of the 1998 Adelaide Festival. Bilson also showed off the state's produce in a touring event for the 2000 Adelaide Festival.

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Those who travel to Port Willunga for their sunset dinner will receive a bowl made by leading ceramicist Prue Venables.

''You take your bowl down to the beach and there will be a series of stations set up with leading chefs from Port Willunga,'' Sedgwick says. ''You get a meal made from local produce and sit on the beach. There will be music and, as the sun sets, projections will start up on the cliffs behind you. It will be a wonderful event.''

Sedgwick knows her adventurous festival-goers are ''up for trying things out in quite unusual ways''. ''We've all grown up with the festival and the Fringe and we're up for kooky events,'' she says. ''We try to challenge our audience. It's a small, tight program enhanced by a series of special events, which we present through exhibitions, installations, conferences and forums.''

The other cat Sedgwick is letting out of the bag is the 2011 festival's visual-effects strand. ''We're interested in celebrating the history of special effects in film,'' she says. ''And we're very excited that we've secured a special guest who will be coming out for this strand.''

Hollywood visionary Douglas Trumbull, recipient of a lifetime achievement Oscar, is best known for his work on 2001: a Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner. During what will be his first visit

to Australia, he'll present a public lecture on the history and future of special effects and a masterclass.

The festival also distributes $1 million every two years to help Australian filmmakers. It can certainly pick the winners: among the 32 projects it's invested in since 2003 are the acclaimed features Look Both Ways, Ten Canoes and Samson & Delilah. Fifteen funded projects will premiere at next year's festival.

Twelve international feature films will also compete for a $25,000 directorial prize, the winner of which will be decided by a jury of industry experts.

Film critic Margaret Pomeranz was on the festival's first jury and has attended ever since. ''That part of Rundle Street is where everybody is - the filmmakers are just wandering down the street and having coffee at the same places,'' she says. ''It's a very intimate festival.''

For Pomeranz, the festival is an opportunity for both work and play. ''For me, Adelaide's a luxury because I go down there for a few days but I'm out of it - it's an enclosed space for me time-wise - so I can actually indulge myself in the film festival,'' she says.

''I don't get to go to the Sydney Film Festival because I'm too busy doing other things - I dip into it occasionally but it's not the immersion that I enjoy with Adelaide.''

While in Adelaide, she also interviews filmmakers.

''I was the first to get [Samson & Delilah director] Warwick Thornton and that was just stunning,'' Pomeranz says.

The 2011 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival runs from February 24 to March 6. For details see adelaidefilmfestival.org.

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