THE inaugural Eaglehawk Film Festival will be opened by actor and director Anthony Hayes on Friday night.
Hayes, who has won two AFI awards as an actor, is the director of the festival's centrepiece film Gold, starring Zac Efron.
Festival founder Martin Myles said Hayes' visit would give the eight-day film festival the best possible start.
"When we dreamed this up, we didn't think we would have the pulling power to bring the director of a big budget film here," Mr Myles said. "It is absolutely the icing on the cake. It was always a long shot and, because of COVID, it felt like an impossibility.
"We were trying to get him provide a clip introducing his film or even some words we could read on his behalf. But he has had a negative RAT test and is good to go.
"It's more than we could have hoped for in terms of giving the festival its best possible start."
Hayes won his Australian Film Institute awards for Look Both Ways and Suburban Mayhem. His new film Gold is a survival thriller starring Zac Efron and follows two men who discover the biggest gold nugget ever found and must excavate it.
"He has directed before but this is by far the biggest budget film he has done and he co-wrote it with his partner," Mr Myles said.
It's national release includes its screening at the Eaglehawk Film Festival and like the other nine films screening at the festival it is titled Gold - a theme that fits with the event's central Victorian setting.
"This is biggest film of festival. It is brand new and we are getting on release," Mr Myles said.
"This film opens the festival, it will screen every afternoon and then we are closing with it on the last evening.
"The nine other films are all titled Gold. It is one of the strange ironies of the program - the films have the same title but if you look at the eras, where they have come from and their genres - it is a diverse cast of films."
Mr Myles said preparations for the first Eaglehawk Film Festival had gone well despite the threat of coronavirus.
"Preparations are as well as we could have expected," he said. "We couldn't be happier with how it has come together in terms of the components we had to put together, the choice of films, how it looks and feels - it's better than we could've hoped.
"There is a certain apprehension in world (in terms of returning to cinmeas) but not withstanding that roadblock, we have certainly had enormously positive feedback from all aspects that make up the festival.
"People seem excited about it. Attendances will be something that COVID dictates but we are hoping for as good attendances as we can."
The Eaglehawk Film Festival is on from January 14 to January 21. Anthony Hayes will introduce Gold on Friday, January 14 at 8pm. Visit www.eaglehawkfilmfestival.com for more details.
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