“It’s bizarre, wild, dark and twisted,” says festival director Nashen Moodley about Yorgos Lanthimos’s upcoming Kinds of Kindness. The Greek director’s next film – starring Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe – is his fourth in competition at Cannes Film Festival, and it’s one of almost 200 films in this year’s Sydney Film Festival (SFF), which returns from June 5 to 16.

Another film coming direct from Cannes is the less hyped, but just as enticing All We Imagine As Light directed by Payal Kapadia. It’s the first Indian film selected for the Cannes competition in 30 years. “A tremendously big deal,” says Moodley.

“She’s an incredibly talented filmmaker. This is her first fiction film. She made a film a few years ago called A Night of Knowing Nothing, which is a documentary with fictionalised elements. It’s very beautiful, political and romantic, and it has such an incredible visual sensibility – and a lot of that is also true of her first fiction film.”

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It follows two women in Mumbai seeking love – a universal theme Moodley tells Broadsheet recurs across many of the films selected for SFF. “There are a lot of love stories, a lot of romances, so I think that’s quite different. There are filmmakers looking at serious issues in the world today, but there are these quite universal themes of familial love and romance this year.”

He’s also seen a trend in comedies. “There are far more funny films than usual, which I think is great … Some pretty dark comedies, but comedies nonetheless.” One of those is Irish film Kneecap, from director Rich Peppiatt. “I think it’s going to get an amazing reaction. It’s hilarious,” he says. The film follows three real-life rappers from Belfast in a comedy drama with musical elements. It received the Audience Award in the Sundance NEXT strand.

There are films from 69 countries in the festival, including one from Italy that outperformed Barbie and Oppenheimer in its home country. “It seems impossible,” says Moodley. The film, There’s Still Tomorrow, is a melodrama about domestic violence filmed in black and white. “But the film is tremendously good and extremely inspirational. It’s beautifully acted; the director Paola Cortellesi is also the lead in the film. [It] just connected with Italian society.”

Sydney Film Festival is all about presenting the very best of world cinema in the preceding 12 months or so, and that includes our homegrown talent. The only Australian film selected for the official competition is also the opening night film, Midnight Oil: The Hardest Line – one of 28 world premieres.

“Even hardcore fans of the band will discover something new,” says Moodley. It looks at four decades of the band’s career with archival and current footage and in-depth interviews with all of the members. “It’s also beautifully made.”

Then there’s Lee Tamahori’s latest movie, The Convert, which is one of the films selected for the inaugural First Nations Award – with a $35,000 prize going to a First Nations filmmaker. The film stars Guy Pearce as a British preacher caught up in 1830s Māori wars.

“I’m really happy that we have Lee Tamahori at the festival … He’s one of the major filmmakers of our region and has been for such a long time. His Once Were Warriors had a profound impact on me, so to show his new film is a real privilege and honour.”

A highlight each year is seeing movies in the opulent State Theatre – often before they hit cinemas (if they get a theatrical release at all). Some of the special screenings at the State include The Bikeriders – or “the Goodfellas of bikies,” says Moodley. It’s a crime-thriller with “wonderful performances” by Jodie Comer, Tom Hardy and Austin Butler. There’s also Kate Winslet and Alexander Skarsgård in Lee, the true story of war correspondent Lee Miller, and My Old Ass – a comedy with Aubrey Plaza.

There are also heaps of international award winners, such as Berlinale Golden Bear winner Dahomey, by Mati Diop, which looks at the repatriation of cultural treasures; Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner A New Kind of Wilderness about a family’s sustainable life in Norway disrupted by a tragedy; and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Sujo about a child born in a Mexican cartel.

Sydney Film Festival runs from June 5 to 16. Tickets are on sale now.