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July 28, 2015

My Adelaide with Glenys Rowe

After a lifetime spent living wherever her work in film and television took her, Glenys Rowe picked Adelaide as her ideal home city, moved here, and accidentally found herself working an ideal job as program curator for the Mercury Cinema.

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  • Pictures: Ben McGee

“Most recently I was living in Sydney, but I actually made the decision to come to Adelaide when I was in London about four years ago,” says Glenys.

“I’d floated around the world all my life like you do when you’re in the film world – you go where the work is. I was in the Lake District working on a film called Miss Potter and I sort of thought ‘this is so pleasant, people seem to be living pleasant lives here’.

“So I started making a list of all the things I wanted in a perfect city. When I got to the end of the list, I found that Adelaide had it all.

“The main thing – of course – was an arthouse cinema that was easy to get to. The ones in Paris are fantastic, but it’s like three tube rides and a walk up a hill to get to them.

“I was living a perfectly satisfactory life, loving Adelaide, loving living at Semaphore and I’m not really sure how this job happened. It was one of those incredible happenstances. A friend mentioned me to Gail [Kovatseff – Director of the MRC] just about the time that the original programmer for the Mercury, the adorable Mat Kesting, was going on secondment to the Adelaide Film Festival.

“They rang me up and I said, ‘that sounds great, that’s just my cup of tea’. That’s what I do – my specialty is audiences, building audiences for what might be seen as marginal product – both on television and in cinema.

“For me and from what I have observed, the kind of film that brings audiences in is one that has the sense of an authentic reflection of life. You can have a bit of fun and people will massively suspend their disbelief to have a bit of fun, but when it comes down to it, people want to see an authentic reflection of the things that they feel, they want to be emotionally engaged.

“The richness of life here is based around the quality of human relationships.”

“The programming I’m doing for the Mercury brings together films where you can feel that sense of truth – there’s something meaty you can grab onto.

“I just think it’s a rich life here in Adelaide – it works in a way that other cities with comparable resources, economics and geography just don’t. The richness of life here is based around the quality of human relationships, because everyone isn’t hysterical about paying their mortgage.

“There’s not that headspace of constant anxiety and there’s the time to invest in the things that really matter. The sense of competition that exists in those bigger cities gets in the way of proper human engagement because people have to be at the top of their game all the time.

“And there’s a creative core to the city – there just seems to be an artisan quality here, Adelaide has the best pottery in the world, and the bread you get here is the best bread in the world – no-one makes bread like the Mylor Bakery. Bread and wine are the staples of life and Adelaide really has that.


See Glenys’ film curation sensibilities at work in the Mercury’s Cinémathèque program every Monday and Thursday night. We’re particularly excited about the ‘Marriage is for Grown-ups’ section of this winter’s selection.

“In a way I’ve come full circle, because 40 years ago in Adelaide I ran the National Film Theatre of Australia at the Media Resource Centre.

“The city has changed since I last lived here, but the fixtures of the city remain. The fact you can get to the hills in 20 minutes, the fact the Central Markets still exist, that you can get to the coast – you might say that these are tired old things but actually these are the fixtures that provide relief from pressure. They’re what make life pleasurable.”

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