What’s on at this year’s Sydney Film Festival

Entertainment

The 70th Sydney Film Festival is underway with a bumper line-up of Australian premiers and international features – with 230 films from over 60 countries, there’s plenty on offer to get excited about. 
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 07: Rita Ora attends the Australia premiere of “The New Boy” at the Sydney Film Festival 2023 opening night at State Theatre on June 07, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley described the Festival program as a ‘testament to its ambitious vision, showcasing a dynamic and expansive line-up of both emerging and established filmmakers from around the world. Through their thought-provoking films, they offer us an invitation to reflect on our shared humanity and contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead,”  

Minister for the Arts John Graham said the Festival is a highlight in Sydney’s cultural calendar, connecting audiences to world-class cinema and celebrating a diverse range of established and emerging filmmakers. 

Sydney Film Festival Awards 

The awards and prize money for filmmakers and their work are sectioned into various categories. The major awards include an Official Competition and Sydney Film Prize worth $60,000, an Australian Documentary Award worth $20,000, and a Sustainable Future Award worth $40,000. 

Sydney Film Prize 

For the 15th the Official Competition’s Sydney Film Prize will be awarded to the film that demonstrates audacious, cutting-edge and courageous cinema. 

Australian films competing are the Opening Night Warwick Thornton’s film The New Boy a captivating and magical story of spirituality and survival set in 1940’s rural Australia; and the World Premiere of The Dark Emu Story a revelatory documentary that explores the ground-breaking work of Bruce Pascoe whose best-selling book challenged Australia’s historical narrative and revolutionised our understanding of traditional Aboriginal life. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 07: Aswan Reid attends the Australia premiere of “The New Boy” at the Sydney Film Festival 2023 opening night at State Theatre on June 07, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Direct from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival Monster, an intense drama from Kore-eda Hirokazu told through multiple perspectives; Finnish Aki Kaurismäki’s compassionate comedy Fallen Leaves; Kim Jee-woon’s Cobweb about a director obsessed with re-shooting the end of his completed film; Moroccan Asmae El Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies that melds fact, fiction and figurines to lay bare a hidden personal and national history. 

Sundance selected gems include the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Scrapper, Charlotte Regan’s joyous debut about a 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone in London until her estranged father turns up; Alice Englert’s dark comedy Bad Behaviour; and Celine Song’s Sundance and Berlinale 2023 selected tender romance, Past Lives.  

Internationally awarded films in competition also include Christian Petzold’s Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winning feature Afire, about four young people trapped in a holiday house as a wild fire draws near. 

Liu Jian’s 2023 Berlinale-selected animation Art College 1994 will also screen alongside Devashish Makhija’s Joram, a thriller about an on the run labourer in Mumbai. 

Australian Documentary Awards 

This year ten documentaries are in competition for the 2023 Australian Documentary Award. 

World Premieres include The Defenders, a headline grabbing story of former Socceroos Captain Craig Foster as he fights to rescue the life of fellow player; Michael Ware’s The Cape, about the mysterious tragedies in Australia’s Cape York; Isabel Darling’s The Carnival, an epic road trip with a sixth-generation carnival family; Climate Changers, follows Australian scientist and conservationist Tim Flannery on his global search for genuine leadership on climate change; Indigenous actor Mark Coles Smith returns home to the Kimberley to interrogate the alarming suicide rates in Keeping Hope, and; Kindred, Gillian Moody and Adrian Russell Wills’ personal journey into the emotional landscape of family, love and loss. 

Australian Premieres include Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winning short Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) about a road trip back to Country for artist Derik Lynch; and Rachel’s Farm, follows Rachel Ward as she revitalises her northern NSW beef farm using sustainable farming practices. 

Also in the running: Australian Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Man on Earth examining society’s approach to death and dying; and The Last Daughter documents Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthews’ search to uncover the truth about her government-ordered abduction as a child. 

Sustainable Future Award 

The film that explores social, political, economic, and environmental consequences of climate change and highlights an urgent need for action will be awarded this year’s prize.  

Australian films competing include Climate Changers Join Australian scientist and conservationist Tim Flannery in his global search for genuine leadership on climate change, as he reflects on his own environmentalist journey. 

And Rachel’s Farm which follows Rachel Ward as she revitalises her northern NSW beef farm using sustainable farming practices. 

International films include Special Jury Award, Sundance 2023 Against the Tide, two fishermen from Mumbai’s Indigenous Koli community confront the impact of the changing environment; and IDFA 2022 award-winning visually rich Paradise about Siberian villagers bravely battling wildfires. 

Your Planet: Climate and Environment: As part of an ABC Factual and Doc Society Initiative, a series of 11 shorts will also compete for the coveted award. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 07: Hugo Weaving attends the Australia premiere of “The New Boy” at the Sydney Film Festival 2023 opening night at State Theatre on June 07, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Special Retrospective Feature 

Jane Campion – Her Way – A retrospective of the visionary filmmaker encompassing screenings of all nine of her feature films, as well as a selection of her short films, and the Australian premiere of a new documentary Jane Campion, The Cinema Woman by filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli about her life and career.  

Events at the Hub 

As part of the Festival, the Hub is offering immersive filmmaker talks, panels, and film-themed parties. Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley invites you to “Grab a drink and enjoy a special archive exhibition, celebrating 70 years of Sydney Film Festival and showcasing the remarkable intersection of world and cinema history”  

Sydney Film Festival Closing Night 

Find out which films take out the top prizes at the Sydney Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony at the State Theatre, followed by the Australian premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

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