The State Theatre during the Sydney Film Festival.

In news that seemed all but inevitable, the Sydney Film Festival, scheduled for June 3 – 14, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

In a joint statement, festival chair Deanne Weir, CEO Leigh Small and festival director Nashen Moodley expressed their regret, and solidarity with the filmmaking, festival and arts community. It is the first time the festival has not gone ahead in its 67 year history.

“The decision to cancel this year’s Sydney Film Festival follows a review of the most up to date advice regarding ways to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus, and the New South Wales Public Health (COVID-19 Public Events) order banning events of 500 people, which is in place until 14 June. In this rapidly evolving and unknown environment, the SFF board and management know this is the only responsible decision – albeit a devastating one. However, the health and safety of our community is our first concern,” they said.

“Sydney Film Festival plays a vital role in the Australian screen ecosystem and the festival recognises the immense impact the cancellation will have on the filmmaking, exhibition and distribution community, as well as audiences, volunteers, sponsors, donors and staff.”

The festival intends to get in touch with 2020 ticket holders to offer 2021 replacements or offer returns. The festival said it will also look to “opportunities to celebrate film and filmmakers” in the coming months.

Sydney Film Festival joins a number of other screen industry events, including the Gold Coast Film Festival, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) conference and Screenworks’ Business of Producing conference that have had to be cancelled as a result of the crisis. Other events, such as the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) Awards, have been postponed until further notice.

As IF has reported, a number of productions across Australia are also on hold or postponed, while others are operating from closed sets.

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