'Lucky Miles,' 'Dr. Plonk' to bookend Adelaide


MELBOURNE -- Two keenly awaited Oz premieres have been selected to open and close next month's Adelaide Film Festival.

The festival will open with "Lucky Miles," the feature debut of writer-director Michael James Rowland, and close with "Dr. Plonk," the latest from maverick helmer Rolf de Heer.

Described as an accessible, entertaining and slightly absurd political farce, "Lucky Miles" is the story of an Iraqi and two Cambodian refugees who search for democracy in the Australian outback after being abandoned by an Indonesian fishing boat.

De Heer's "Dr. Plonk" is a slapstick comedy in the style of silent-screen comedies and marks a change of direction from de Heer's widely applauded, indigenous-language "Ten Canoes." It stars Magda Szubanzski, a well-known film and television comedian in Australia.

While Adelaide trails well-established film festivals in Sydney and Melbourne in terms of profile and attendance, it has become a significant player in the production industry thanks to its associated investment fund.

In partnership with federal and state agencies, distributors and private investors, it has backed such films as "Look Both Ways" and "Ten Canoes" among others for premieres at the festival.

Its stock is likely to be further bolstered this year with the introduction of a $AUS25,000 ($20,000) cash prize for best film. The 12 films selected for the competition and the jury that will award the prize will be announced later this week.

Other high-profile festival premieres supported by the investment fund include Tony Ayres's Joan Chen starrer "The Home Song Stories"; indigenous drama "Crocodile Dreaming," starring David Gulpilil; "Kalaupapa -- Heaven," the latest film from veteran Paul Cox; and feature documentary "Words From the City," an exploration of Australian hip hop.

The Adelaide Film Festivals runs Feb. 22-March 4.