Michael James Rowland's almost completed debut film Lucky Miles is to open the Adelaide Film Festival on Feb 22 while Rolf de Heer's Dr Plonk is to close the event on March 4.

Festival director Katrina Sedgwick also announced today that Australia's newest capital city film festival will this year award a FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) prize to a debut or second film. Late last year she revealed that the festival would be the first in Australia to introduce a competition; the juries for the Natuzzi International Award and the FIPRESCI prize will be announced this Friday as part of the programme launch.

Lucky Miles tells of Iraqi and Cambodian refugees bound by misfortune after being abandoned in the Australian desert by an Indonesian fishing boat. The film has an absurd, comic edge and was inspired by true stories of survival.

It is also the debut film for its producers, sisters Sydney-based Jo Dyer and Los Angeles-based Lesley Dyer. They and Rowland, who is also based in Sydney, all returned to their home state of South Australia to shoot Lucky Miles although the opening scenes were shot in Phnom Penh.

Dr Plonk , de Heer's follow-up to Ten Canoes, is a black-and-white comedy shot in the style of old silent slapstick films. Its chief protagonist is an inventor who builds a time machine to prove to the government of the day that the world is going to end if nothing is done. It will have a live music accompaniment when it closes the festival.

A number of Australian features, including these two, will debut at the festival as a result of being partly financed through the Adelaide Film Festival Fund. Lucky Miles and Dr Plonk also have investment from Film Finance Corporation Australia, the South Australian Film Corporation and private investors.