Get your credit cards out and start booking: the 65th Sydney Film Festival (June 6-17) has announced its full program of 120 feature films and 57 documentaries.
In the year of #metoo, films by women have more prominence than ever before in the program. There are also movies by auteurs direct from Cannes; focuses on Italy and experimentation; and a retrospective of Finnish great Aki Kaurismäki.
Opening night gala is NZ comedy The Breaker Upperers. The film’s writer-director-stars Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami, and Australian actress Celia Pacquola, will be in attendance at the screening and party. Almost all the key creative roles on the film were performed by women.
Closing night is also in a lighter vein, with warm-hearted indie comedy Hearts Beat Loud, starring Australia’s Toni Collette and Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. It’s about an ageing hipster dad forming an unlikely band with his reluctant daughter (Kiersey Clemons).
There’s gender parity in the festival’s official competition this year, with six of the 12 films vying for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize directed by women. The 12 films are Jirga (Australia); BlacKkKlansman (USA); Leave No Trace (USA); One Day (Hungary); The Miseducation of Cameron Post (USA); Matangi/Maya/MIA (UK); The Heiresses (Paraguay); Wajib (Palestine); The Seen and Unseen (Indonesia); Ága (Bulgaria); Daughter of Mine (Italy); and Transit (Germany). Artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth is the Jury President this year.
As occurred last year, the festival has managed to nab a bunch of films direct from this month’s Cannes Film Festival, including new movies by world famous directors Spike Lee, Jafar Panahi, Debra Granik, Wim Wenders, Kevin Macdonald and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
Films by great women directors lead the program of Classics Restored: Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career, lldikó Enyedi’s My 20th Century, and Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days.
A new festival section, Flux: Art + Film brings experimental films to the screen, including two startling and entertaining Australian efforts ([Censored] and Terra Nullius) and the final film by Iranian great Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames.
There’s a strong Australian contingent as usual, and several movies by first-time directors including thrillers 1% and A Vigilante. Screen Australia is presenting First Nations: A Celebration, which marks 25 years of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department with new documentaries and short films by First Nation filmmakers, as well as a retrospective of shorts.
The festival’s Aki Kaurismäki retrospective showcases the wry humour of Finland’s greatest filmmaker. Ten films will screen spanning 1983-2011, selected and presented by David Stratton.
A Focus on Italy brings some cutting-edge new films from the Boot, and Screenability returns, with six films made by filmmakers with disabilities. A highlight of the popular Freak Me Out horror section will be Upgrade, from Australian horror master Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), who will present his film.
The Europe! Voices of Women in Film section returns with ten films by outstanding European women directors, eight of whom will be in attendance. The Sounds on Screen section has films about Joan Jett, Whitney Houston, Ryuichi Sakamoto, MIA and Australian boyband fangirls.
The Festival Hub under Sydney Town Hall will host filmmaker talks, parties, an extensive program of VR (including a virtual reality look inside Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs) and a pop-up bar with drinks from with drinks from Archie Rose Distilling Co, Eden Road Wines and Young Henrys. See you there during happy hour (4.30-6pm weekdays).
It’s the seventh year for festival director Nashen Moodley, who can feel justifiably proud at the way the festival has expanded under his watch: in terms of attendance (185,000 people last year), geographically (11 venues across town), and also in terms of quality – many films from last year’s festival went on to be cinema hits and major award-winners.
Sydney Film Festival runs run June 6-17 and all tickets are on sale now.