SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL
June 5-16 - 2019
This year the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) celebrates its 66th year and, once again, it delivers a program full of promise and bursting at the seams with the best of Australian and international cinema. It’s worth noting that many of the titles already have an Australian distributor, so don’t feel disappointed if you happen to miss out on one of your choices as you may very well have another opportunity to see it later in the year. The venues chosen for the Festival screenings this year include not only the State Theatre in Market Street and Event Cinemas in George Street, but also extend to the Cremorne Orpheum, Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, and now the Ritz Cinema in Randwick and cinemas at the Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, have come on board, too. There will also be screenings at the Casula Powerhouse and the Art Gallery of NSW.
At the helm for his eighth Festival, Director Nashen Moodley pays tribute to the late Agnès Varda, who died earlier this year, with a retrospective of the great French director’s work, Viva Varda, plus screenings of her final documentary, Varda By Agnès. It is a fitting tribute to a filmmaker who was, as Moodley writes in the Festival catalogue, “A pioneer in more ways than one,” a woman “whose ground-breaking work will continue to inspire generations of viewers and filmmakers to come.” If you’re not familiar with Varda’s oeuvre, here is your chance to catch up with it.
Now in its 12th year, the Official Competition (Sydney Film Prize) has a diverse dozen films from around the world vying for the $60,000 prize, including two Australian films. The locally-made entrants are Hearts And Bones, by Ben Lawrence, and Judy & Punch, by first-time feature director Mirrah Foulkes. Others in this category include the Macedonian feminist satire God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya, Oscar-winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away, which covers German history during three different time-frames by examining the life of the artist Gerhard Richter, and Pain And Glory, Pedro Almodóvar’s reflective look at life, love and cinema, which comes to Sydney fresh from competition in Cannes. Incidentally, last year’s winner of the Sydney Film Prize, Marcelo Martinessi’s The Heiresses, is currently showing around the country.
Other competitive sections of the SFF are the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, which features 10 Australian docos up for a $10,000 cash prize, and the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, which also has 10 films in competition and includes cash awards for Best Live Action Short, the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director and the Yoram Gross Award for Best Animation. Furthermore, every short film finalist is eligible for the Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award, which also comes with a cash prize. These important awards have launched the careers of many successful filmmakers over the years.
The Opening Night film is another Australian submission, Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach, starring her husband, Bryan Brown, Greta Scacchi, Sam Neill, Richard E. Grant and a host of top-class Aussie actors. The SFF program notes describe it as, “an exuberant and life-affirming celebration of friendship,” so it is a fitting choice for the launch of such an important social event in the city’s calendar. The Festival closes with Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, the story of a budding musician who wakes up after a mysterious blackout in a world where The Beatles never existed - Imagine! Both events will be held at the fabulous State Theatre, the jewel in the crown of the few remaining Sydney picture palaces.
Among the side-bar categories is the fabulous, not-to-be-missed Sounds On Screen, showing some terrific music documentaries and including the “spine-tingling” 1972 performance of Aretha Franklin’s concert at LA’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Amazing Grace, plus Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool, which shows the artist’s fierce creativity, and Inna Da Yard: The Soul Of Jamaica, which features unplugged roots music - how cool is that gonna be, for reggae fans, at least? Other sections definitely worth exploring are:
· International Documentaries
· Europe! Voices of Women in Film
· Focus on New Zealand
· First Nations (a collection of films by Indigenous filmmakers)
· Flux: Art+Film
· Screenability (showcasing short films from filmmakers with a disability)
· Family Films
· Classics Restored
· All Night Cine-Love In (selected by Head of Programs Jenny Neighbour, celebrating her 30th year at the Festival)
· Essential Australian Women Directors (curated by David Stratton), and
· Freak Me Out (a collection of contemporary horror movies).
There are so many wonderful films to choose from that Sydney film-goers are, as always, faced with some very difficult choices. Still, better to overdo it than regret you missed something you hear about after it’s gone. And what better place to be when it’s cold and windy outside!
For a full listing of what’s on offer, CLICK HERE.
For a list of the SFF Program Awards, CLICK HERE.
For a list of the Audience Awards, CLICK HERE.