On Wednesday morning, the program for the 66th Sydney Film Festival was officially announced at Town Hall in the centre of Sydney. Media and talent were present, as this is bound to be a crowded and impressive program. Sydney Film Festival grows year after year and is one of the biggest film festivals in the Southern Hemisphere to showcase international and national talent.
Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, SFF CEO Leigh Small and SFF Board Chair Deanne Weir gave inspiring speeches before SFF Festival Director Nashen Moodley discussed the 2019 program in attendance of Bryan Brown (Palm Beach – opening film), Hugo Weaving (Hearts and Bones – official competition), Imogen McCluskey (Suburban Wildlife – features) and many more talented individuals and media.
“This year celebrates a resurgent year of Australian cinema, with an exceptional selection of contemporary Australian stories including 23 World Premieres,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. “Great Australian storytellers join globally renowned filmmakers to share crucial perspectives on our world.”
“This year’s program holds a mirror to gigantic shifts culturally and politically, with films that will challenge and excite us. Shining a light on subjects that are often little explored or seen, these films are an invitation for us to collectively reflect on who we are, and what may lay ahead,” he said.
“The Festival also stands with talented women filmmakers, in an industry still struggling with equality. With the Europe! Voices of Women in Film strand, and retrospective programs celebrating pioneering women, the Festival this year has signed the 5050×2020 pledge, committing to working towards gender parity and inclusion in film festivals,” he said.
In 2019 the Festival will present 307 films from over 55 countries including 33 World Premieres, bringing together hundreds of international and local stories. There are 112 feature films, including prize-winners from prestigious festivals around the world; and 79 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues, from established and upcoming documentarians.
The 2019 Festival opens with the World premiere of Palm Beach, an uplifting drama/comedy from Australian director Rachel Ward. Rachel Ward, along with key cast members, will be in attendance to present their film on Opening Night.
Closing the Festival will be the Australian Premiere of a very exciting new title – soon to be announced! Could it be a film about Hollywood? We’ll find out soon…
For the 12th year, the official Competition will award the $60,000 cash Sydney Film Prize for audacious, cutting-edge and courageous cinema.
Among the 12 competing films are three debut feautures. Judy & Punch, starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman; Heart and Bones, starring Hugo Weaving; and New Zealand-film Bellbird. Double Oscar-nominated epic Never Look Away will also compete. And straight from Cannes we’ll see Pain and Glory starring Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz; Bong Joon-ho’s newest Parasite and the political Bacurau. Berline Golden Bear winner Synonymes and from Sundance The Souvenir and Monos. Final two competing for the Sydney Film Prize are Dirty God by Sacha Polak, an intimate portrait of a young mother scarred by an acid attack; and feminist satire God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya, based on the true story of a woman who participates in a men-only contest – and wins, to the ire of the community.
The jury this year comprises: Australian producer John Maynard (Jury President), Australian director Ana Kokkinos, Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, New Zealand director Gaylene Preston and Indian artist Ritu Sarin.
World Premieres at the Festival include several Australian stories, like The Final Quarter, following AFL champion footballer and Indigenous leader Adam Goodes’ public call-out of racism. Also Australian rom-com Standing Up for Sunny and queer coming-of-age tale Sequin in a Blue Room, about a teenage boy with a hook-up app obsession. Formerly mentioned Palm Beach, Hearts and Bones and Bellbird will also have their World Premieres at the Festival.
The State Theatre celebrates its 90th birthday during the Festival (June 7). Straight from screening as Opening Night film at Cannes, and competing for the Palme d’Or, The Dead Don’t Die with an all-star cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.
Skin is the true story of a white supremacist who transforms for love, starring up-and-coming Australian actress Danielle MacDonald alongside Jamie Bell.
International award winners include acclaimed French director Claire Denis’ sci-fi thriller High Life, starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche; and epic Chinese drama So Long, My Son, winner of both Best Actor and Actress at Berlinale.
10 documentaries will contest the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary.
From award-winning hits across the international festival circuit, to exciting new works by emerging filmmaking talent, the Festival will present captivating stories showcasing great cinematic storytellers from both Australia and around the world.
Features by Australian storytellers include: winner of the Special Jury Prize at Venice, The Nightingale by Jennifer Kent (The Babadook); I Am Mother starring Hilary Swank, about a child raised by a robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) in a post-apocalyptic future, and Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, a visceral exploration of a key ANZAC battle in the Vietnam war.
Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Agyness Deyn, Dan Stevens and Amber Heard all star in Her Smell, about a rock star spiralling into self-destruction; and Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks and Aaron Paul star in captivating drama American Woman.
Women are the focus in South African feminist western Flatland by Jenna Bass (Rafiki, SFF 2018); Ladyworld, a stylish update to Lord of the Flies; Sibel, about a mute young woman fighting back against her Turkish village’s conventions; and Cold Sweat, about an Iranian women’s futsal team captain fighting patriarchal laws that prevent them from competing overseas.
Speaking about women, in partnership with European Film Promotion, Sydney Film Festival presents the fourth annual Europe! Voices of Women in Film: a program of 10 new films from vital European women filmmakers.
On the total opposite side of the Festival we have the completely weird Freak Me Out program, returning with seven films from the wild side of contemporary cinema to Event Cinemas George Street and Dendy Newtown.
Elijah Wood stars in Come to Daddy; Dark Place is an Indigenous horror anthology; and psycho-horror Daniel Isn’t Real stars Patrick Schwarzenegger, the son of film legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Wind is a spine-tingling feminist tale of a lonely frontier-woman that reverses traditional Western narratives; Why Don’t You Just Die! combines gallons of gore with super-stylish visuals and a wicked sense of humour; Depraved brings the Frankenstein story to life in 21st century New York; and Here Comes Hell is a comic horror better described as “Downton Abbey meets The Haunting”.
The Family Films program returns with seven family-friendly films screening in daytime sessions at HOYTS Entertainment Quarter.
Internationally renowned comedy stars Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart will attend the Australian premiere of The Secret Life of Pets 2; while director Imogen Thomas presents her film Emu Runner, about an Indigenous girl who forms a special bond with a wild emu. Victoria Stone, director of Elephant Queen, will also visit EQ.
The full Sydney Film Festival 2019 program can be found online at sff.org.au
NovastreamNetwork will attend SFF2019, so make sure you keep an eye out for reviews and interviews with directors and cast.
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