Sixty years of any cultural event is a milestone well worth celebrating. In the case of the Sydney Film Festival, the team have truly pulled out all the stops in commemorating their 60th anniversary, with the online publication of Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive.

The archive is a world-first, digital-only publication that collates not only listings of all the films that have played during the festival’s 60 years – an admirable effort in and of itself – but also includes essays, media in the form of videos (which often include whole short films) and photo galleries (the changing fashions alone are a visual treat). Countless stories from patrons and directors ranging from Gillian Armstrong, George Miller and Jane Campion are included, as are comments from many of the Film Festival staff, who have been first-hand witnesses to momentous occasions in Australian film history.

Read stories of the early days of the festival when patrons watched films in freezing venues at Sydney University, where the standard method of saving seats was by utilising long scarves. Delve into tales of the constant battles between the festival and the Censorship Board, with the board frequently and often messily cutting offending material from films, which enraged many patrons including a young David Stratton.

Stratton would of course become the festival’s longest serving director and lead the campaign that resulted in the festival finally being given censorship exemption status in 1971.

There are countless other stories populating the archive, from protests directed at a Jean-Luc Godard film in the 1980s, to tales of festival guests ranging from renowned critics like Donald Ritchie, great directors like Michelangelo Antonioni and Satyajit Ray, to Hollywood royalty in James Stewart.

What is truly remarkable about this project is that the archive is a living document that is designed to grow and expand with each year. So get out your tablets and explore the evolution of one of Sydney’s truly great cultural institutions.

Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive
sff.org.au