Taking place over five packed days, the hugely ambitious Cockatoo Island Film Festival continues the revitalisation of one of Sydney's most interesting historical sites. Films will screen in the repurposed industrial surrounds of the blacksmith's workshop, a naval store building and the turbine shop, while a yacht race around the island on the closing Sunday will make use of the island's spectacular location. For the outdoor types, there’s even camping and midnight screenings on offer.

The film program boasts some excellent choices, including the opening night film, Paul Thomas Anderson's much talked about The Master, which looks at a charismatic outsider who forms a cult-like organisation known as ‘The Cause’. Seen by some as a parable of Scientology, it's already winning high praise for the performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.

Other highlights include the Australian premiere of Tim Burton’s 3D stop-motion Frankenweenie, which sees the director revisit a short film he made in 1984 and is being hailed as a return to form for the incomparable Burton. There's also Dead Europe, an adaptation of the confronting novel by Christos Tsiolkas (author of The Slap) and Me and You, the new drama from Italian genius Bernardo Bertolucci – his first in almost a decade since classic The Dreamers.

It's not just Hollywood heavy hitters, however. There is a range of short and low budget film sessions, while seminars include Gregor Jordan (director of Two Hands) talking career development and Donald McAlpine, director of photography on Moulin Rouge, in a Q&A.

With its focus on developing emerging talent as well as showcasing some great films in a completely unique location, let’s hope this debut edition of the festival is the first of many.

Cockatoo Island Film Festival runs from October 24 to 28.

cockatooislandfilmfestival.com