Pick a number, any number. This year’s Sydney Film Festival has an embarrassment of riches. Here are 63 movies, talks and experiences you can’t resist.
A Jane Austen adaptation to treasure!
US filmmaker Whit Stillman brought an Austenian sensibility (and sense) to indie classics Barcelona, Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco. Now with Love and Friendship he adapts Austen’s early novella Lady Susan, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. It’s the festival’s Closing Night film.
A Danish Oscar-nominated war drama!
In A War (from the director of A Hijacking), a company commander (Pilou Asbaek) makes a fateful decision in Afghanistan that has a shattering impact on his family.
A haunted apartment thriller from Iran!
Babk Anvari’s Under the Shadow has drawn comparisons with The Babadook. As a mother and daughter struggle to cope in war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.
The Jeffrey Weiner sexting scandal dissected!
Weiner is a doco about former congressman Anthony Weiner and the sexting scandals that brought his New York mayoral campaign to an ignominious end. It won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance in January.
The new film from the Irish director of The Guard and Calvary
John Michael McDonagh’s rip-roaring comedy War on Everyone teams Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña as corrupt, drug addled cops. Expect The Guard on steroids.
A virtual reality movie experience!
Strap on a VR headset to experience one of nine VR movies in Down the Rabbit Hole: Virtual Reality at the Hub, Lower Town Hall. Find yourself in Wonderland with the Cheshire cat or on stage with the Sydney Dance Company, or prowling a haunted asylum. All nine VR sreenings are free on a first-in-best-dressed basis.
A chance to enter the eye of the cyclone!
iCinema, a world leading 360 degree cinematic platform, will take you into Deluge, about the devastating cyclone Yasi. It’s free and on at UNSW.
Martin Scorsese’s incredible Raging Bull on the big screen!
A highlight of David Stratton’s retrospective of Scorsese is the 1980 black-and-white saga of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a middleweight boxer undone by his obsessive jealousy over his wife (Cathy Moriarty).
The final documentary by the great avant-garde filmmaker Chantal Akerman!
Belgium-born Akerman died last year but not before completing a project that weighed on her mind for decades. No Home Movie is a portrait of her relationship with her mother, a holocaust survivor whose chronic anxiety shaped Akerman’s art.
A new Noma documentary, plus dinner at the Bridge Room!
Ants on a Shrimp: Noma in Tokyo is about René Redzepi’s Tokyo pop-up and search to find a Nordic take on Japanese ingredients. One screening will be followed by a dinner at one of Sydney’s best restaurants, the Bridge Room. Trust us: you’ll be starving.
The new film from director of Dallas Buyers Club!
Jake Gyllenhaal is getting some of the best reviews of his career for Demolition, the new comedic drama from Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club). An investment banker (Gyllenhaal) struggles with the tragic loss of his wife by writing lengthy letters of complaint.
Mel Gibson vents live on stage – free!
Garry Maddox will interview the great Aussie-trained star and director about his career, his latest directorial effort Hacksaw Ridge, and also his new film as an actor, Blood Father.
Mel Gibson in a crime chase thriller
Gibson’s new film, fresh from Cannes, portrays a father and mother on the run from a violent drug cartel in Blood Father, a witty and dark French-American thriller in the tradition on Taken.
An Indonesian movie with terrible subtitles!
In A Copy of My Mind, a movie-loving beautician meets the DVD pirate who ineptly subtitles the monster movies she obsessively watches. Love blossoms – then the film shifts into thriller mode.
Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke in a sparkling New York comedy!
Rebecca Miller’s Maggie's Plan is a complicated love triangle in the best Woody Allen tradition. A career advisor (Gerwig) is about to embark on single motherhood when she finds love with an anthropology professor (Hawke) who happens to be married to a demanding academic (Julianne Moore).
The French answer to Russian Ark (with Nazis!)
Alexander Sokurov created a one-take love letter to the Hermitage in St Petersberg in Russian Ark. His ode to the Louvre, Francofonia, is slightly different: a docu-drama about the curator and the Nazi officer who worked together to protect the museum’s works during the war.
This year’s Oscar-winning documentary short, about honour killings in Pakistan!
Directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who has been announced as a festival guest, ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’ is a powerful short documentary about Saba Qaiser, who fell in love, eloped, was hunted down by her father and uncle, shot in the head, stuffed into a bag and tossed into a river. Amazingly, she survived.
The new film from the director of Once!
Musical comedy-drama Sing Street by John Carney is about the struggles of growing up in 1980s Dublin. A boy attending a tough inner-city school sets out to impress a girl by forming a band. There’s music from ’80s bands like Duran Duran and the Cure.
Steven Spielberg directs Roald Dahl’s The BFG!
The festival is previewing Spielberg’s new kids’ movie that adults will love, starring Oscar winner Mark Rylance as the lovable giant. Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement are in it too.
A Canadian coming-of-age charmer!
Coconut Hero’s suicidal protagonist fails at everything, including suicide. Then he learns he has a brain tumour.
Cronulla Riots: the movie!
The funny side of racism gets a fearless airing in Down Under, Abe Forsythe’s provocative, daring comedy.
Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused!
Linklater’s Boyhood was the sensation of the 2014 Sydney Film Festival; now the festival gets Everybody Wants Some!!, in which Texas college freshmen enjoy a weekend of partying prior to the start of semester.
The sensitive side of Martin Scorsese in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore!
David Stratton presents a rare screening of this early (1974) work that earned an Oscar for Ellen Burstyn, playing a widow who sets out with her young son to change her life.
De Niro as the world’s worst comedian in Scorsese classic The King of Comedy!
A prescient 1982 film has De Niro kidnapping a TV comedian (Jerry Lewis) so that he can perform his act on live TV. It’s an underrated gem, with a superb supporting turn from the hilarious Sandra Bernhard.
The new Muriel’s Wedding!
Based on Matthew Whittet’s play, Girl Asleep is a wildly imaginative coming of age story set in the 1970s. A 14-year-old girl (Bethany Whitmore) suffers the birthday party from hell and descends into a rabbit hole of surreal events.
A sort-of successor to Once Were Warriors!
Kiwi director Lee Tamahori reunites with actor Temuera Morrison for Mahana (aka The Patriarch), a melodramatic Maori family saga set in the 1960s.
Tom Hiddleston in the futuristic High-Rise!
From the director of Kill List comes an adaptation of JG Ballard’s sci-fi novel concerning an apartment tower which descends into tribal anarchy – an allegory for the class system with echoes of A Clockwork Orange.
An insight into the surreal, apocalyptic visions of Hieronymus Bosch!
Documentary Jheronimus Bosch: Touched by the Devil follows five Dutch historians around the globe as they unravel the secrets of Bosch (1450-1516), whose blackly funny scenes of heaven, hell and carnality befuddle and amaze to this day.
The Boys are back in town!
The festival is reviving an Australian classic: the tense 1998 drama loosely based on the 1986 murder of Anita Cobby. It stars Toni Collette, David Wenham, Lynette Curran and John Polson.
A brand new Almodóvar film!
Julieta screens in competition in Cannes this year and sees the Spanish provocateur in a more serious mode, adapting three stories by Alice Munro into a mystery spanning three decades.
Controversial Aussie classic Bliss on the big screen again!
It was booed at Cannes in 1985 and shocked audiences with its sex and sheer craziness. But the epic film, directed by Ray Lawrence (Lantana) based on Peter Carey’s novel, is among the most daring and witty in the Australian canon. Stars Barry Otto.
A Jonas brother goes gritty!
Fraternity violence is the topic of Goat, in which Nick Jonas plays the brother of a freshman who sees and suffers the worst of college ‘hazing’.
The NY gay ballroom scene of Paris is Burning revisited!
Kiki looks again at the thriving vogueing culture for queer black youth in New York, dealing with prejudice, homelessness and illness.
Daniel Radcliffe in that farting corpse movie!
Cast Away meets Weekend at Bernie’s as a marooned man (Paul Dano) whose solitude is broken when a flatulent drowned man (Radcliffe) is washed up on his island. File Swiss Army Man under ‘love it or hate it’.
A Sundance award-winning teen drama!
Morris from America has an African-American teen adjusting to a new life in Germany where he’s misunderstood at every turn.
India’s answer to Bridesmaids!
Refreshingly frank and real Indian comedy Angry Indian Goddesses has modern women exploring gender, sexism and harassment and is part of the ongoing conversation about women’s rights on the subcontinent.
An amazing Filipino film, fully restored!
Insiang is the 1976 film that screened at Cannes and portrayed a girl who is raped by her mother’s lover and exacts revenge.
Poor body image revealed as a global epidemic!
With interviews wih Mia Freedman, Ricki Lake and more, Embrace by Adelaide’s Taryn Brumfitt explores how women feel about their bodies.
The secrets of Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour!
In documentary Strike a Pose, seven male dancers on Madge’s landmark 1990 tour speak out 25 years later about being gay and closeted while on the cutting edge of pop culture.
A vampire-mermaid musical from Poland!
The Lure has sibling mermaid bloodsuckers performing as strippers in a seedy burlesque club. Kitschy, kooky and sexy, The Little Mermaid this ain’t.
A rapping child bride from Tehran!
Sonita tells the story of a YouTube sensation who raps against forced marriages even though it’s illegal for women to sing publicly in Iran without government permission.
The film at the centre of a court injunction!
Because of a NSW Supreme Court Injunction, Hollie Fifer can’t show all of her doco on the fight to save a Papua New Guinea community from an Australian five-star hotel development. Actor Sarah Snook will narrate over the redacted sections of The Opposition. Expect lawyers to be in attendance.
Indigenous women following in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Doco Destination Arnold shows Sydneysiders Natasha and Kylene pushing their bodies to the limit to compete in the Arnolds, the ultimate bodybuilding awards.
One of the best movies of all time, fully restored!
Yasujiro Ozu’s family drama Tokyo Story (1953) is an incredibly sensitive film about an old couple visiting their children and grandchildren in the city, but no one has any time for them.
Muslim women peacekeepers!
A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers shows what happened when 160 women from Bangladesh went to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake (their husbands were not happy).
Refugee families in rural Australia!
Constance on the Edge shows African Australians from refugee backgrounds attempting to make their town a friendlier place.
The female James Brown in focus!
Miss Sharon Jones by documentary legend Barbara Kopple is an inspiring piece about the lead singer of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings as she fights cancer.
The new film from director Kelly Reichardt and star Michelle Williams!
The maker of Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves, and Wendy and Lucy has made an acclaimed three-part film about three women in crisis (Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart) – Certain Women.
A grim murder mystery from China!
A small town schoolgirl discovering her sexuality gets tangled up in the investigation of a series of killings in What’s in the Darkness, a searing indictment of police incompetence in an authoritarian state.
An adults-only fairytale!
It’s a case of beauty and the beast(iality) in German film Wild – in which a young woman tries to break free of modern life and in the process builds an unusual relationship with a wolf.
London Film Festival’s surreal Best Film award winner!
Six wealthy men on a fishing trip kill time when their boat breaks down in Chevalier, the new film from Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg). Their games are hilarious and deeply disturbing.
A window on modern-day Havana, Cuba!
Irish director Paddy Breathnach has made Viva Cuba Party, a heartbreaking drama about a troubled drag queen, capturing the beauty of the Cuban capital.
R-Patz in an uncompromising period drama, with Ser Davos!
The Childhood of a Leader is a grand and ambitious historical fiction about a man’s rise to power at the end of World War I. Cast includes Robert Pattinson and Liam Cunningham.
A South African western!
The Endless River is a savage and epic story dealing with violence and racism, post-Apartheid.
Nordic backpackers in a rough outback town!
Two Finnish girls on working visas work behind the bar of the Hotel Coolgardie in remote Western Australia, deal with drunkenness, a nasty boss and endless sexual harassment in this doco.
Elvis Presley meets Richard Nixon!
Michael Shannon is Elvis. Kevin Spacey is Nixon. How can you resist? Elvis & Nixon is a surreal comedy about a real-life meeting between a gruesome twosome indeed.
Jim Jarmusch on the Stooges!
The director of Only Lovers Left Alive and Down by Law has made a documentary about Iggy and his band. Gimme Danger promises to be a meeting of minds so cool, the universe will basically freeze forever.
A halal romcom!
Love and lust in Beirut are the subject of Halal Love (And Sex), three intertwined stories that defy stereotypes.
A Hank Williams biopic!
Tom Hiddleston stars as the country music legend in I Saw the Light, a handsome film exploring his legend and troubled life.
A rollicking horror movie about three conjoined women!
Three women who are dissected and sewn back together is the Frankenstein premise of a wickedly funny horror movie, Patchwork.
The global refugee crisis on film!
Documentary Lampedusa in Winter shows what happened when refugees from Africa flooded the island.