Sydney Film Festival (SFF) returns for its 66th year this June, screening 307 films from more than 55 countries, including 33 world premieres and 79 documentaries. There will be 112 feature films and two retrospectives of influential female directors: Viva Varda: A Retrospective of Agnès Varda, and Essential Australian Women Directors – 10 Trailblazers Selected by David Stratton.
In April SFF announced 25 films that would be showing. They include a documentary about footballer Adam Goodes; an Aretha Franklin concert by filmmaker Sydney Pollack; and High Life, a sexually charged sci-fi thriller from French director Claire Denis (Chocolat), which stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and Outkast singer André 3000.
The festival will open with the world premiere of Palm Beach, a dramatic comedy by Australian director Rachel Ward starring Bryan Brown, Sam Neill and Richard E Grant with a backdrop of Sydney’s northern beaches.
The film festival’s official competition will award $60,000 in cash for audacious, cutting-edge and courageous cinema. The films in the running include feminist revenge story Judy & Punch; the Hugo Weaving-starring Hearts and Bones; the Oscar-nominated Never Look Away; Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory; and Dirty God, about a woman scarred in an acid attack.
World premieres at the festival include The Final Quarter, which follows the struggles faced by Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes after his public call-out of racism; queer coming-of-age story Sequin in a Blue Room; and Standing Up for Sunny, which stars Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte.
Other films to watch out for include Jim Jarmusch’s (Only Lovers Left Alive, Coffee and Cigarettes) zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die, which stars top talents including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez and Iggy Pop; music documentaries Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, Mystify: Michael Hutchence, and Blinded By the Light, about Bruce Springsteen’s influence on a British-Pakistani teen; and Skin, the story of a white supremacist who transforms for love.
Other documentaries include Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, an exploration of humankind’s devastating impact on the planet; The Hope Six Demolition Project, a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of British musician PJ Harvey’s 2016 album of the same name; and School of Seduction – Three Stories from Russia, which delves into Russian workshops where women learn skills for seducing rich men.
As expected, there’s a solid line-up of Australian films. In She Who Must Be Obeyed Loved, the life of pioneering Indigenous filmmaker Alfreda Glynn is celebrated by her daughter and granddaughter. Animals, from Adelaide director Sophie Hyde, stars Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger from The Borgias as best friends drinking and sleeping their way through Dublin until something unexpectedly tests their bond.
Film guru David Stratton (formerly of At the Movies) has also put together a program of 10 films directed by leading Australian female filmmakers for the Essential Australian Women Directors imitative. Each film signals a milestone in Australian film history, from the silent movie The Cheaters to Bedevil, the only film by Indigenous artist Tracey Moffatt.
The festival will take place at venues across the city including the State Theatre, Dendy Opera Quays and Newtown, Randwick’s Ritz Cinema, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne and Casula Powerhouse.
Sydney Film Festival runs from June 5 to 16, and flexi-passes and subscriptions are now on sale.