The Sydney Film Festival line up has launched, and it’s as
extensive and exhaustive as you’d ever expect. As is the case with this being
one of the major, most prestigious festivals in Australia, there’s more films
than you can shake a proverbial stick insect at. With a dive into the work of
the late, great Agnes Varda, and an exploration into the work of many of
Australia’s great women directors, there’s a clear nod given to women
filmmakers the world over.
But, as expected with a list of about, oh, 250 films, it’s
hard to know where to even start. Yeah, there’s some major festival high lights
that might get your ears tingling (High
Life, The Dead Don’t Lie, Danger Close, I Am Mother), but these are all films that you’ll be able to see
somewhere, somehow, down the line. So while it’s nice to be able to see major
films before everyone else, it’s also worthwhile reminding that hey, part of
what makes film festivals so darn good is the fact that there is going to be a
wealth of films that will only ever be screened at the festival, and in turn,
are only ever available at the festival.
To try and do my bit, and help provide some kind of guidance
as to what is worthwhile seeking out, here is a list of ten films that you
should definitely try make time for at this years Sydney Film Festival.
As the Australian Financial Review once gloriously stated: ‘World
is Fukt’, and if the
recent UN Report is to go by, it’s more than just ‘fukt’, but it’s well and
truly destroyed. Anthropocene: The Human
Epoch is the work of three directors (Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de
Pencier, Edward Burtynsky), who join together once again to explore the
devastation of mankind on the world. From burning elephant tusks, to mines in
Russia, this is one film you don’t want to miss on the big screen. Sure, it’s
depressing as fuck, but it’s impressively depressing.
If you happened to miss Tracey Moffat’s Bedevil at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year,
then you have another chance to catch this unique, great slice of Indigenous
cinema at the Sydney Film Festival. Now, this one is on my shame pile, and it’s
mostly because it’s been so darn hard to find. But, thanks to David Stratton,
who is working with this years festival to provide a ‘David
Stratton Selects’ program, where he has selected ten films directed by
trailblazing Australian women, Bedevil is
given another chance in the spotlight.
Where Bedevil looks
at an almost forgotten slice of Indigenous cinema, Paulette McDonagh’s The Cheaters provides audiences with a
glimpse of Australian silent cinema. Many people forget that Australia had a
booming silent film industry, one that was inevitably harmed by the unavoidable
reach of Hollywood. Outside of The
Sentimental Bloke, The Story of the
Kelly Gang, and a handful of other films, it’s arguable that many are
simply unaware of Australia’s silent film output, and they’re certainly going
to be unaware of the work of many women directors in the period. Paulette
McDonagh worked with her sisters, Isabel and Phyllis, and The Cheaters is one of their surviving films. This is a rare, great
opportunity to see Australian history in action.
Penny Lane directed one of the most fascinating
documentaries of recent years, Nuts!,
a film about a man who cures impotence with goat-testicles, so the mere
presence of another film by her on a festival line up is enough to put her on
the ‘must watch’ list. Hail Satan? is
a look at the rise of Satanism in America, exploring how this controversial
group intends to shake the grounds of ‘religious freedom’. I’ve heard nothing
but great things about this film, and it’s likely to be another film (just like
the next one on this list) that tells a bigger than life story, one that can
only be true.
I don’t know anything about the story that The Kleptocrats covers, but after
reading a short synopsis, where some $3.5 billion goes missing from a Malaysian
wealth fund, and having everything from real estate to the financing of the
Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street
thrown into the mix, well… holy shit am I interested. Especially given the name
of the scandal is the ‘1MDB scandal’, and my movie focused mind can’t help but
think that IMDb really messed up this time, The
Kleptocrats looks like it’d be a jaw dropping event of a film.
The Lord of the Flies
is one of the most vital, devastating exposes of masculinity. Amanda Kramer’s
film Ladyworld plants eight teenage
girls in a house, trapping these birthday party celebrators in the house after
an earthquake. Deep in survival mode, the girls have to survive the devastation
from the earthquake – and themselves. Transforming the idea of William Golding’s
classic book into the world of teenage girls sounds ripe for thematic vibrancy.
Look, if cinematic endurance tests are you thing, then you
really can’t go past Sátántangó – a seven
and a half hour black and white masterpiece by one of cinemas most celebrated
filmmakers, Béla Tarr. This is a film that’s been on my ‘to watch’ list for a
long while, and given the easily distracted nature of watching epic films at
home, there’s no better opportunity to strap yourself in and pay attention to
this masterwork than at this years Sydney Film Festival. If I was going, this
would be top of the list.
Australian cinema has had a fair few romantic comedies over
the past decade (I Love You Too, Not Suitable for Children, and of
course, Top End Wedding), so it’s
nice to see another one on the pile. This one stars Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte as a down on his luck bloke who – through chance
and circumstance – teams up with stand up comedian Sunny (Philippa Northeast)
to help her deal with hecklers. Standing
Up for Sunny looks to be charming, entertaining, and a nice breath of fresh
air amongst a sea of somewhat less than uplifting films.
There has been no shortage of stories about Sydney-siders
living their lives, with Suburban
Wildlife adding to the ever growing catalogue. This is one is written and
directed by debut filmmaker Imogen McCluskey, and if the response from
Cinequest Film Fest is anything to go by, this is one that’s well worth seeking
out. Sure, it’s another story about suburban people living their lives, but the
familiarity of these stories isn’t any reason to avoid films like this. If
anything, it’s another reason to seek out Suburban
Wildlife, to see how a new voice views the world of suburbia.
The Western genre is– just like the sci-fi and horror genres
– one that is drenched in masculinity. Stories about life on the frontier is so
often about men, directed by men, and written by men, so when a film like The Wind comes along, it should peak
your interest. Written by Teresa Sutherland, and directed by Emma Tammi, this
is a look at what happened to the women of the frontier world who were left to
fend off the homestead while their men were off being cowboys. Again, you don’t
see stories in the Western genre from a woman’s perspective often, so if you’re
a fan of that genre (and it appears this one has a dash of horror in the mix
too), then do not miss this.
So, that’s my list of ten films you should seek out at this
years Sydney Film Festival. There is a wealth more films in the line-up (up to
250 films people), so head on
over to the schedule and get booking now, as some films are already selling
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