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The best film events in Sydney

From blockbusters under the stars to indie film festivals, here are the best film events in Sydney right now

Written by
Time Out editors
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Sydney loves its movies. We have some of the best pop-up and outdoor cinemas in the country, plenty of great movie theatres and loads of film festivals throughout the year. From one-off screenings of classic movies to reoccurring midnight movie sessions, here are the best film events in Sydney.  

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If you’re still smarting from the news that the Sydney Film Festival has been pushed back until November, then panic not. Boredom has no hope of setting in as the brilliant team at the Queer Screen Film Festival (QSFF) is here to save the day. Streaming direct to homes across Australia from September 16-26, the LGBTIQA+ showcase of cinematic gold is and bold and beautiful as ever, even if the screens are a bit smaller than usual.   The QSFF line-up brings a global perspective, with movies hailing from 17 countries worldwide, with more than half of the 40 films on offer being Australian premieres. Those national debuts include Beautiful Dreamer, a San Francisco-set dramedy starring The L Word’s Erin Daniels that’s billed as having a touch of Tales of the City creator Armistead Maupin’s style. There’s also a powerful doco in the shape of AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman. We are so used to hearing about this particular global crisis from the perspective of gay men, which makes Norman’s focus on the trans and non-binary communities so welcome. And don’t miss filmmaker Alex Liu’s wonderfully candid doco A Sexplanation, which takes a look at why so many of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. And have the tissues at the ready for Taiwan-set Dear Tenant, which details the emotional journey of a grieving man caring for his late boyfriend’s son. In the weepy good familial groove, also check out Belgian-French co-production Lola, a road trip movie about a young trans woman and

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You know the drill by now: this year’s Taiwan Film Festival in Australia was delayed at first, and then took the plunge with an online showcase instead. As it did last year too. The good thing about these unexpected digital events is the accessibility it allows. Anyone, anywhere in the country can jump online and stream horizon-expanding flicks from all corners of the globe. Streaming on-demand from September 16-30 and running under the theme ‘Flavours’, the program is spectacular. Rom-com lovers will get a taste of the good stuff with director Chen Yu-Hsun’s kooky movie My Missing Valentine, depicting a lovelorn postal worker who is always one step ahead of everyone, and a bus driver who is one step behind, trying to figure out where a missing day of their life went. There’s a retrospective sidebar of the director’s previous movies too, including Tropical Fish and Love Go Go. As festival director Benson Wu says, “We wanted to focus on comedy this year to bring joy into people’s life and there is no better choice than showcasing Chen’s works that are full of creativity and comical storytelling style.” C.B. Yi’s debut feature Moneyboys, about gay male sex workers, desire, the divide between the city and the village and societal resistance went off at Cannes, nominated for the Queer Palm, Un Certain Regard, and Caméra d’Or prizes. Also on the LGBTIQA+ front you can check out the visually mesmerising Butterflies, which depicts love on the run between a woman hunted by the author

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For many ardent cinephiles, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s lushly lit romance In the Mood for Love (2000) is their favourite film of all time. It certainly wowed critics at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for, but did not win, the top prize, the Palme d’Or (which went to Lars von Trier’s also excellent Dancer in the Dark). Star Tony Leung did take home Best Actor for his remarkable turn as a cuckolded man who slowly but surely falls for a neighbour, played by a radiant Maggie Cheung, whose spouse is also doing the dirty. Her dresses alone have been seared into cinematic history, as gorgeous as the sumptuous cinematography they’re folded into, as captured by Aussie Christopher Doyle alongside Kwan Pung-leung and Mark Lee Ping-bing. To celebrate 20 years of the film sashaying into the sublime, the Opera House staged a livestream event In the Mood: A Love Letter to Wong Kar-Wai and Hong Kong, a night of entertainment inspired by Kar-wai’s vision. You can watch it here.  Performing on the Joan Sutherland stage, Hong Kong-born, Australia-based pop star Rainbow Chan debuted new music inspired by the movie’s unforgettable score. She also threw some Bossa Nova moves from a famous sequence. Chan was joined by Sydney-based composer, singer and performance artist Marcus Whale – who has popped up at Liveworks, Vivid and Sugar Mountain Festival – and regular collaborator Eugene Choi, who narrated this lavish audio-visual feast, guiding us through a fever dream brought

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Not even a global hullabaloo could prevent the wild minds behind the Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF) from delivering the WTAF Cinema we so badly craved last year. Pivoting to bring their outrageous excellence to our homes instead via the darkest corners of the internet, they’re back to do it all online once more in 2021. “At a time when there is so much uncertainty, we couldn’t bear to postpone or cancel SUFF in 2021,” SUFF director Katherine Berger says. “We owe it to so many people that support us, including all the filmmakers. It’s been a tough time to host an event, and a tough time to be making films, but creative outlets are so important, especially now.” The 15th annual program will invade your laptops and stream insane stuff to your TV from September 9-26. Navigating all the outré places most other festivals rarely dare to tread, it’s one of the best film festivals on the Sydney calendar because it’s unafraid of pushing the envelope right over the edge of a cliff, while it’s on fire. There are 30 fantastic feature films and documentaries up for grabs, and 100-plus wild and wacky shorts, with 20 Australian premieres up for grabs. Tickets are $12 a pop, or you can gorge on the lot for $194. There are also four packs for $36, or ten for $85. So what can intrepid types expect from this year’s far-out selection? Kicking off like it means to continue, with a fishing trip going horribly (gorily) wrong, is opening night horror comedy Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It, fro

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While we are big fans of surfing television streaming offerings as it’s possible to be, every now and then you crave something a little artsier in your life. That’s why we’re psyched about Carriageworks delivering a thought-provoking new video work from award-winning Polish-Australian artist and filmmaker Kuba Dorabialski. While we can’t visit the Eveleigh arts institution right now, they are keeping our cultural lives well-fed with this chance to stream the Invocation Trilogy – a series of video works exploring the intersection of language, politics and cultural memory – totally free from August 18 to October 10. Dorabialski examines his Eastern European ties, taking a somewhat unique approach. While Slavic language speakers will pick up bits and pieces, the work also features an entirely made-up lingo. Presented as absurdist comedy, the artist uses the imagery and this new tongue to ask what we really mean when we refer to ‘Eastern Europe’? Anyone who has ever found themselves stereotyped by their background will get a kick out of this new work, which begins with an encore for his award-winning short Floor Dance of Lenin’s Resurrection from 2017, and culminates in the world premiere of the third and final film in the sequence, the feature-length Connection of the Sticks. The series was due to be unveiled at Carriageworks IRL, but they’re treating us to a digital pivot instead.   You can check it out here from August 18, and a chat between Dorabialski and curator Daniel Mudi

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In another plot twist, the back-in-real-life Sydney Film Festival (SFF) has been postponed again because of the current situation. They will now shift to within an inch of the summer, unspooling in cinemas from November 3-14 instead of its usual wintry berth in June. We'll have to sit tight for the full program reveal, but for now, you can explore the first crop of cinematic excellence set to light up screens in their jam-packed 68th program. Including a film lover's treat in the shape of a career retrospective of game-changing Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami.  From Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, to The True History of the Kelly Gang via The Babadook, Essie Davis is a legit living legend of the Australian screen. So consider us super-excited to see her team up with Jojo Rabbit star Thomasin McKenzie in The Justice of Bunny King. Davis plays a single mum battling to reclaim her kids in this feature debut from director Gaysorn Thavat, with McKenzie as her rabble-rousing niece. On the Australian documentary front, Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow, is a tribute to the power of First Nations musicians Archie Roach and the late Ruby Hunter, a meeting of great minds. Both members of the Stolen Generation, it celebrates their indomitable strength. You can also follow the meteoric rise of game-changing Australian fashion figures Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson are celebrated in Step into Paradise. First Nations excellence is also on show in Canadian-New Zealand co-pro Night Raiders, a dy

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UPDATE, June 28: As of June 26, the Greater Sydney region including the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong is under a compulsory two-week lockdown until 11.59pm on July 9. Many events in Sydney have therefore been cancelled or postponed until after this period. You can keep your Oscars, your Golden Globes, your worthy French films. Give us a terrible movie that we can laugh at any day.  And that's exactly what Ritz Cinemas is doing, with a monthly screening of notoriously terrible movies on the second Friday of the month.  What are these films that are so bad they're good? They include Batman and Robin (featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman and George Clooney's rubber nipples); Troll 2 (which was clearly meant to be called 'Goblin' but was shoehorned into becoming a sequel for a movie it has nothing to do with); Birdemic (the "CGI" – and we use the term loosely – appears to have been done on MS Paint); and Road House (starring Patrick Swayze, and even though it has 37 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it's clearly a mistake in this list. Patrick. Swayze.). They are a guaranteed good time (well, a good bad time, you know what we mean). We recommend you take advantage of the Ritz's alcohol licence and get ready for the best worst movies. 

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Now in its 12th year, the annual Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) is returning to Sydney from October 14 to 23. Showcasing the very best of Hallyuwood – that’s the affectionate term for the Korean entertainment industry, in case you were wondering – festivalgoers can expect an eclectic program featuring 22 flicks by some of the country’s top filmmakers. Highlights include the Academy Award-winning Minari, a moving drama by Lee Isaac Chung about a Korean-American family’s experience after moving from Los Angeles to rural Arkansas, and Waiting for Rain, which tells the story of a long-distance relationship that plays out over a series of written letters between strangers. There are thrillers in the form of Recalled, while comedies like More Than Family, Samjin Company English Class and The Golden Holiday will leave audiences in stitches. There’s even something for the kids: Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, an animated parody of the Disney classic.     Presented by the Korean Cultural Centre Australia and held at Event Cinemas on George St, KOFFIA will delight movie fans of all tastes, ages and cultural backgrounds. Each film presented will also include English subtitles. Tickets to the Korean Film Festival in Australia start at $12 for concession, and $16 for adults. You can score yours here.

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You would think that all round legendary bloke and Quandamooka man Wesley Enoch would have his hands full crossing the Ts and dotting the Is of January’s fast-approaching all-Australian Sydney Festival. But somehow he’s also found time to help spread the word  about a brilliant series of short online films examining the aftermath of last summer’s terrifying bushfires, dubbed We Need To Talk About Fire. Marking the directorial debut of Bridget Ikin – the super-producer behind such notable Australian films as Sherpa and Jirga – the films explore the ongoing impact the fires have had on individuals, community and land. Filming largely at Bundanon in Illaroo, Ikin has captured a range of voices who share Indigenous knowledge systems, stories of community action, healing initiatives and creative responses to changing the way we live with bushfires. The We Need To Talk About Fire series couldn’t be any timelier as Sydney swelters, and with the knowledge that the last fire season burned a 17 million-hectare swathe through the country, claiming 31 lives on top of an estimated 3 billion animals and insects. Bundanon CEO Deborah Ely says, “In the middle of the stressful and unpredictable crisis presented by the 2019/20 summer fires, we realised that this experience was shared by our entire community. We understood that the impact would be long and hard, and that Bundanon was uniquely placed to bring people together, to assist in the recovery and to build resilience.” It’s all about hop

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