Sydney Film Festival has been unearthing daring cinema for the past 63 years. Today SFF announced 26 films (as a first release) from its 2016 program. Nashen Moodley has resumed his role as festival director for the fifth year running.

“We try and find all sorts of films for a range of different interests and different people, and try to create a snapshot of what’s happening in world cinema today,” Moodley says.

The snapshot of 2016 is one of intrigue, brave filmmaking and narrative play. Demolition demonstrates all of these. It’s by Jean-Marc Vallée, director of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. “I think it’s very challenging and surprising because it just never goes in the direction you expect it to,” says Moodley. “It constantly defies expectations … and it’s really a tremendous performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.”

To Moodley, it’s obvious Maggie’s Plan will be a crowd pleaser. “The film is really going to delight people,” he says. “It stars Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig and Julienne Moore, who’s such a fantastic actress, but I don’t think she’s ever been as funny as she is in this film. It’s an incredible performance.” See the trailer for Maggie’s Plan to see Moore’s comic timing (and ridiculous French accent).

Everybody Wants Some!! is the latest film from acclaimed writer-director Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Sunrise and Dazed and Confused). “When the prospect arose to look at the new Linklater film, I was incredibly excited,” Moodley says. “It’s a very different film, but really a very wonderful, heart-warming comedy about friendship, bonding and growing up.”

There’s the dark Desde allá (From Afar), a debut from Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas. This film follows a tortured romance between an old man and a street kid. It picked up the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Fetival – a huge accolade for a filmmaker’s first feature. SFF will also host the Australian premiere of Francofonia, from Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov (acclaimed for his single-shot masterpiece Russian Ark). Moodley describes Francofonia as “a love letter” to The Louvre. He says, “The film makes an argument about how critical art is to humanity, and to civilisation.”

Of course, documentary is a huge component of the SFF program. The most hyped of today’s documentary announcement is Weiner, about the dual-sexting-scandal of former congressman Anthony Weiner. “Weiner comes to the festival with a lot of attention,” Moodley says. “The film won the main prize at Sundance. It’s exhilarating and disappointing to see this very talented politician kind of throw it away. It’s a portrait of him, but in a way it’s a portrait of how politics works today.”

Oscar-winning Pakistani journalist and documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will attend SFF this June. She’s presenting her short A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which won Best Documenatry Short at The Academy Awards in 2015, as well as her new documentary A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers (co-directed with Geeta Gandbhir). There will also be the Australian premiere of Heart of a Dog, an experimental documentary by the prolific Laurie Anderson. “It’s very poetic, and about so many things,” says Moodley. “About love, childhood, loss and about her dog. It’s very charming and an incredibly moving film.”

Alongside this selection of contemporary world cinema, SFF is hosting an epic retrospective of Martin Scorsese. Curated by David Stratton, Essential Scorsese features 10 of the director’s most influential works, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Raging Bull. “His films are a real joy,” says Moodley. “He’s one of the most stylish and exuberant filmmakers of our time, and I think it’s going to be wonderful to see those films on the big screen in 35mm.”

The full SFF program will be released Wednesday May 11. The festival runs from June 8–19.

www.sff.org.au