It’s only been five months since the last Sydney Film Festival (SFF), which was postponed to November last year, but as director Nashen Moodley tells Broadsheet, he’s seen so many excellent films in preparation for 2022’s event that he’s keen to showcase all the exciting new talent he’s witnessed.

“It’s going to be a festival with a great deal of new talent, both Australian and international,” says Moodley. “I think that’s one of the fantastic things the festival can do: introduce to audiences the next generation of filmmakers.”

The 69th SFF returns to the usual Sydney cinemas and theatres from June 8 to 19. When the full program is announced in May, there’ll be 200-plus films and events to pore over in the 12-day festival. Until then, we’ve been given a taste of what’s to come with 22 inclusions so far.

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There’s new Australian horror Sissy starring Aisha Dee (The Bold Type). Fresh from screening at South by Southwest, the film follows influencer Cecilia on a hen weekend that turns nasty. “[She’s] confronted with her childhood bully. It’s very funny but also very gory – a very unusual film – and it shows the strength of new talent in Australian cinema.”

Dance doco Keep Stepping was filmed over seven years in Sydney, tracing the steps of two female street dancers as they train for the biggest street dance competition in the country. “It’s about obsession and about how transformative it can be,” says Moodley.

Then there’s new Aussie feature film 6 Festivals, directed by Macario De Souza, which tells the story of a boy with brain cancer and his friends who try to go to as many music festivals as they can. It features real musos, such as G Flip, Dune Rats and Peking Duk. “The film shows how life-changing live music can be, especially when you’re a young person. It has an incredible influence on who you are and who you become and I think the film beautifully captures that.”

A “truly fascinating film” is The Plains. It’s a three-hour long docudrama, shot almost entirely in a car. The main character is an IRL Melbourne lawyer on his daily commute. “How do you make something compelling out of three hours in a car?” asks Moodley. “Director David Easteal manages it. It’s a film about everything that makes up life – love, death, illness, work, philosophy, family. It’s a remarkable film.”

Moodley has also selected a new film from one of his standout world cinema directors. “I’m a very big fan of Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini … Her new film Yuni won the Platform Prize in Toronto.” It follows the story of a young girl who’s excited to leave school and start uni, but her dreams are thwarted by marriage proposals and the expectations of her family. “It’s a powerful story of a young woman trying to forge her own way in a pretty conservative community.”

Calendar Girls, by Swedish filmmakers Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen, recently screened at Sundance. It’s a documentary about sexagenarian dancers in Florida that’s uplifting and “absolutely joyous,” says Moodley. There’s also Sirens, a doco about the Middle East’s first all-female, queer death metal band. And a moving film called A House Made of Splinters about social workers in Ukraine caring for neglected children, filmed before the current conflict.

“Though it’s tough circumstances for these children, when you look at the social workers who are confronting the trauma that these children have to deal with, that’s quite uplifting – watching people really make a difference,” says Moodley. “There’s hope … that it’ll lead somehow to an improved world that we can all play a role in.”

Several themes have emerged from the selection of films so far. “I feel there are lots of films about family, there are love stories. There are films that tackle the challenges that we face, whether that’s environmental or societal,” says the festival director.

Two films he’s keen to watch again are Costa Brava, Lebanon and Private Desert. The former is set in a near-future Lebanon, where a family moves to the mountains. “It’s soon intruded upon by a government plan to build what they refer to as a ‘green rubbish dump’, but there’s nothing green about it,” says Moodley. “What fascinated me so much about the film is it’s about politics, it’s about environmental concern, but it’s also about this intriguing family. It’s quite something.” It stars Nadine Labaki and Saleh Bakri (Wajib).

Private Desert is a Brazilian film which takes an unexpected turn. “In the first part of this film, you meet this very hyper-masculine violent cop and you see that he’s having a relationship, through his phone, with someone far away. When he gets ghosted, he goes searching for this person. You think it’s going to go quite badly, but it turns into this very beautiful tender love story … I think it says a lot about the political and cultural situation in Brazil.”

For something totally different, there’s Flux Gourmet. Asa Butterfield (Sex Education) and Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) star in the deadpan comedy by filmmaker Peter Strickland (In Fabric). “The performances are completely over the top and wonderful. It’s so wild and offbeat,” Moodley laughs. “There’s no one else doing stuff like this.”

For star quality, Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes take centre screen in black comedy-drama The Forgiven and Demi Moore is one half of a genderqueer couple in Please Baby Please, set in 1950s Manhattan. There’s also Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary winner The Territory about the struggle of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people in Brazil who are protecting their land from farmers. Plus, groundbreaking documentary We Met in Virtual Reality, filmed entirely inside the world of Vrchat.

The full Sydney Film Festival program will be announced on Wednesday May 11.

Sydney Film Festival runs from June 8 to 19. Flexipasses and subscriptions are on sale now.