The lowdown on Sydney Film Festival 2016


Get out your best bingo markers, put your favourite winter jacket and write up that wish list because Christmas has come early. Running from the 8th – 19th of June, the 63rd Sydney film festival is the winter wonderland many film lovers flock towards. The festival will screen 244 films from 60 countries, with 25 world premiers (12 World Premiere short films), 139 Australian premieres (13 Australian Premiere short films) and 3 international premieres.

Time to get cosy under the dimmed lights and fall under the magical spell of cinema as you are invited to experience new worlds, new perspectives and new ways of being.

Opening night starts off in style with the premiere of Goldstone, an intelligent outback noir from acclaimed Indigenous writer-director Ivan Sen, and starring an Australian cast of Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, and David Gulpilil. Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Australian actor Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry is the festival’s closing night film.

This year’s official competition includes $60,000 cash prize awarded for courageous, audacious and cutting-edge filmmaking. This year’s selection of 12 films includes: Ivan Sen’s Goldstone which opens the fest, Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Brady Corbet’s The Childhood of a Leader, Oliver Hermanus’ The Endless River, Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine, Ivo M. Ferreira’s Letters From War, Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s Notes on Blindness, Anurag Kashyap’s Psycho Raman, and Paddy Breathnach’s Viva.

There might not be time to catch your breath, so be sure to catch a few premieres at SFF including
Abe Forsythe’s provocative black comedy set during the aftermath of the Cronulla riots Down Under, Craig Boreham’s new queer drama Teenage Kicks, the directorial debut of Stephen Sewell’s erotic political thriller Embedded, and Craig Anderson’s thriller Red Christmas.

Even the resident pigeons of Sydney streets will be pecking at the anticipation of film-goers flocking to the many venues packed with screenings including the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, Skyline Drive-In Blacktown, Art Gallery of NSW, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Casula Powerhouse, and Pitt Street Mall’s SFF Outdoor Screen.

As always, the Festival Hub and Apple Store Sydney will host free talks, panel discussions and events including Meet the Filmmaker talks giving filmgoing public the opportunity to met filmmakers and evoke discussion on their films.

Wait… there’s more. For emerging filmmakers the newly announced Lexus Australia Short film Fellowship which provides $200,000 cash to help filmmakers to create a short film will be announced during the festival and premiere at the 64th Sydney Film Festival in 2017. European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch will showcase 10 new films by 10 of Europe’s most promising female storytellers, providing an important and much needed platform for the female voice.

If your youthfulness has lead to you missing out on that film festival goodness don’t fret because this year SFF is welcoming teenagers to screenings. Thanks for changes in Australian Classification rules just over half of the feature films program will be rated 15+ making them accessible to more audiences than ever before. SFF also has a family film program open to all ages which includes Ice Age: Collision Course, The BFG, and new Australian feature Girl Asleep.

Lovers of food can gorge on Gourmet Cinema which is serving up films like Ants on Shrimp: Noma in Tokyo which follows celebrity chef René Redzepi’s move from Noma in Copenhagen to his venture of opening a new restaurant in Tokyo. Gourmet Cinema also offers filmgoers the experience of dining at Sydney’s favourite restaurants in Dining Delights during the course of the festival.

festival hub

The festival Hub also returns in it’s 4th year to Sydney’s Town Hall with this year’s space home to the festival’s virtual reality film collection. From the 9 – 19th of June the Hub will be open and free to the public all nights and selected days hosting an array of parties including a Strike a Pose Silent Disco on 10th and a Cuban-themed Viva Cuba Party on the 17th.

Just like a Sim City expansion pack new festival locations developed to include the University of New South Wales and Carriageworks in support of the Festival Hub’s program of new immersive screen experiences through a curated program Beyond Cinema. The free program provides new ways of experiencing film, art and storytelling through virtual reality, 360-degree cinema, and a four-sided video art installation.

There’s a lot on offer this year and if you’re excited like we are you’ll already be playing timetabling Tetris, trying to decide which films you want to see. Get ready to immerse yourself in some intense film scheduling sudoku because Sydney Film Festival is back and you won’t want to miss it.

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Review by Addy Fong.