Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley has announced that two new Australian films (so far) will premiere at the 71st Sydney Film Festival, which returns from June 5 to 16: The Pool, a cinematic love letter to Bondi Icebergs, and In Vitro, a sci-fi mystery thriller set on a cattle farm in the near future starring Ashley Zukerman (who played Nate Sofrelli in Succession).

Resilience is a thread that runs through the 17 first-look films, said the festival director. “[Including] the profound and the peculiar, from remarkable true stories to works of fiction and ingenious hybrid films that land somewhere in between,” Moodley said in a statement.

Two documentaries – COPA ’71 about the 1971 Women’s Soccer World Cup, and The Battle for Laikipia about land tensions in Kenya – are two obvious examples of the recurring theme of resilience. But there’s also offbeat filmmaking, such as The Contestant, which tells the story of a TV contestant left naked in a room, broadcast to millions in Japan, and Sex, about two chimney sweeps – one of which has recurring dreams about David Bowie.

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Also in the mix are a number of prize winners from international festivals. There’s Pepe, which won the Silver Bear at Berlinale 2024, about the hippo who broke free of Pablo Escobar’s private zoo; Hungarian satire Explanation for Everything, which won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival; and refugee thriller Green Border, which took home the Special Jury Prize at Venice.

New Zealand actor Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Heartbreak High) is presenting her first film as a director. The Mountain, which was executive produced by Taika Waititi, is about three children trekking through the landscape who discover the magic of friendship. The Mountain will be eligible for the recently announced First Nations Award.

There’s also The Rye Horn – a story about a midwife who goes on the run after an illegal abortion; La Cocina – a comedy-drama starring Rooney Mara (Carol) during a hectic lunch rush at a New York restaurant; and House of the Seasons – a family saga set in a tofu factory in Korea. Plus, in a special live music event, Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser will be re-scored live alongside a laser show at City Recital Hall.

The full Sydney Film Festival program will be announced on Wednesday May 8.

sff.org.au