The Full Program for the Inaugural SXSW Sydney 2023 Screen Festival is Here


The full program for the inaugural SXSW Sydney 2023 Screen Festival, with Official Major Sponsor Telstra, has been revealed today. Heading to Sydney for the first time outside of Austin, Texas this October, the Screen arm of the famed futurist event includes trailblazing content from all corners of the globe, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific.

The robust program reveals the breadth of the festival and showcases Sydney as a global hub for the creative industries, with over 75 Feature Film and TV screenings. Announced today, a Bush Shorts package co-programmed with Winda Film Festival, joins the previously announced short films to total 40 Shorts20 Music Videos and 13 XR Projects, with more still to come.

Screen creatives from different specialities will present everything from traditional film and TV projects to hyper-real XR experiences and hybrid forms and genres to offer a peek at the next frontier of screen-based entertainment. The Screen Festival offer is supported by an unmissable Conference, profiling some of the leading voices of the global screen community as Sydney shines as a leading city for nurturing creative talent. Announced headline and featured speakers include: Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, filmmakers Leah Purcell, Jub Clerc, Bruna Papandrea, and more.

The first ever SXSW Sydney Screen Festival aims to platform the most exciting new voices, new forms and new ways of creating on screen. We hope to inspire our audiences and industry, by unwrapping the future of Screen innovation as it emerges,” said Head of Screen, Ghita Loebenstein.

Like our Austin counterparts, our Festival presents global programming from leading creators, and our unique offer is this distinctive Asia Pacific lens. We also thematically lean into our sister pillars across Music, Games and Tech, celebrating where our forms and communities converge. Most of all, SXSW Sydney is a Festival which earnestly centres vision, irreverence and fun!

Of the program, Telstra’s Principal of Media, Sponsorship & Awards, Genelle Sharples says: “SXSW is known around the world as the pinnacle festival that celebrates creativity and we look forward to celebrating and showcasing this creativity in film and screen content from Australia, the Asia Pacific, and across the globe. As the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival Sponsor we are excited for everyone to experience the talented storytelling on show.”

Joining previously announced opening night film the Australian Premiere of Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel, with Kitty Green and Hugo Weaving in attendance;and World premiere Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles, with director Sally Aitken and The Wiggles in attendance; the Festival welcomes further headlining Gala events: the Australian Premiere of summery, aristocratic thriller, Saltburn from acclaimed director Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), starring Australian Jacob Elordi; the World Premiere of music documentary ONEFOUR: Against All Odds, about the Western Sydney drill rap band, with director Gabriel Gasparinatos and producers Sarah Noonan, Erin Moy and Jennifer Peedom attending; the Australian Premiere of Ryuichi Sakamoto|Opus, the final recorded concert from the late, lauded Japanese composer; and a Special Presentation of the highly-anticipated 4K re-release of Talking Heads 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme. All films at the Darling Harbour Theatre screen in Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound.

Minister for Jobs and Tourism, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, John Graham says: “SXSW Sydney will be a unique event that celebrates the ability to wander from place to place, a roving festival offering activations to enjoy along with other members of this creative community – it will be an experience that people are going to love. If you’re not on board by now, you’ve got a month to get on board to celebrate the incredible creative people and places we have here in Sydney.”

The announcement of SXSW Sydney’s 2023 Screen Festival Program builds on a stacked line-up of more than 1,000 ground-breaking events across Tech and Innovation, Games, Music, Screen and Culture, as Sydney becomes the global epicentre for the creative industries from 15-22 October.

Galas: Big names, big premieres. Gala film events with major and rising names in new cinema.

  • Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles (AU), directed by Sally Aitken and Fraser Grut
  • ONEFOUR: Against All Odds (AU), directed by Gabriel Gasparinatos
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus (Japan), directed by Neo Sora
  • Saltburn (UK), directed by Emerald Fennell
  • The Royal Hotel (AU), Opening Night Gala, directed by Kitty Green  

For the First Nations spotlight, founder and Artistic Director of Winda Film Festival, programmer Pauline Clague has curated a celebration of Blak and First Nations storytelling from across the world, including both features and shorts.

The program includes: Winner of the Calgary IFF 2022 Audience Choice Award for Music on Screen, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It Onthe true story of incredible kindness, Don’t Bury Me Without Ivanand the nuanced exploration of marginalisation in Fancy Dancestarring Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon).

Pauline Clague said: “The features and shorts in the Winda selection highlights diverse and important storytelling at SXSW Sydney, ensuring First Nations and Indigenous stories are at the forefront. From creatives globally, the selection spans five countries, showcasing the voices of tomorrow.”

First Nations program, co-presented by Winda Film Festival:

  • Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On (US), directed by Madison Thomas
  • Don’t Bury Me Without Ivan (Russia), directed by Lyubov Borisova
  • Fancy Dance (US), directed by Erica Tremblay
  • Rosie (Canada), directed by Gail Maurice
  • Alanngut Killinganni (The Edge of the Shadows) (Greenland), directed by Malik Kleist

Shorts: Short, sharp, bright, bold. The next gen of screen creators. Four Shorts programs, previously announced here are now joined by a program of Bush Shorts co-presented by Winda Film Festival and programmed by Pauline Clague:

  • Bangay Lore (AU), directed by Jahvis Loveday
  • Black Time, White Time (AU), directed by Edoardo Crismani
  • Marlu man (AU), directed by Gary Humanchi
  • Tambo (AU), directed by Travis Akabar
  • The Getaway (AU), directed by Adam Jenkins
  • The Tale of Mr. Kimberly (AU), directed bySam Lovell and Jack Blackburn
  • Wanmari (AU), directed by Jake Duczynski

Visions is the Screen Festival’s main slate. Bold, emerging cinema across narrative, doc and hybrid forms. 

Highlights from the Visions section include: South Korea’s official entry for Best International Feature Film in the 2024 Academy Awards, the disaster epic Concrete Utopia; black comedy horror, Sleep, starring Lee Sun-kyun (Parasite) from first-time South Korean director Jason Yu (previously assistant to Bong Joon-ho); a rousing counter-argument to Barbiemania, Black Barbiea heartwarming coming-of-age documentary about a John Farnham–themed musical, This Is Going to be Big; a playful subversion on traditional narrative from an exciting new voice in Japanese cinema, Yui Kiyohara, with Remembering Every Night; Indian-Australian queer story about cultural shame set in Western Sydney, Sahela;and Lab Rat, a groundbreaking interactive film about a neurological experiment, which invites the audience to participate in real time, as a community-game.

Visions: The Main Slate. Bold, emerging cinema across narrative, doc and hybrid forms.

  • Agra (India), directed by Kanu Behl
  • All Ears (China), directed by Jiayin Liu
  • Andragogy (Indonesia), directed by Wregas Bhanuteja
  • Asog (Canada/Philippines), directed by Seán Devlin
  • Bassendream (AU), directed by Tim Barretto
  • Black Barbie (US), directed by Lagueria Davis
  • Concrete Utopia (South Korea), directed by Um Tae-hwa
  • Deep Rising (US), directed by Matthieu Rytz
  • Deep Sea (China), directed by Xiaopeng Tian
  • Gagaland (China), directed by Yuhan Teng
  • Knit’s Island (France), directed by Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’Helgouac’h
  • Lab Rat (US), directed by Austin Smith, produced by Devo Harris
  • La Lucha (AU/Bolivia), directed by Violeta Ayala
  • Last Stop Larrimah (US/AU), directed by Thomas Tancred
  • Like & Share (Indonesia), directed by Gina S. Noer
  • Mars Express (France), directed by Jéréme Périn
  • New Strains (US), directed by Prashanth Kamalakanthan and Artemis Shaw
  • Nowhere Near (Philippines), directed by Miko Revereza
  • Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story (UK), directed by Bruce Fletcher, Otto Baxter and Peter Beard
  • Paco (AU), directed by Tim Carlier
  • Remembering Every Night (Japan), directed by Yui Kiyohara
  • Residency (US), directed by Winnie Cheung
  • River (Japan), directed Junta Yamaguchi
  • Sahela (AU), directed by Raghuvir Joshi
  • So Unreal (US), directed by Amanda Kramer
  • Space: The Longest Goodbye (Israel), directed by Ido Mazrahy
  • Stolen (India), directed by Karan Tejpal
  • The Fantastic Golem Affairs (Spain), directed by Juan Gozález and Nando Martínez
  • The Feeling That the Time For Doing Something Has Passed (US), directed by Joanna Arnow
  • The Human Surge 3 (Argentina), directed by Eduardo Williams
  • The Last Year of Darkness (US/China), directed by Ben Mullinkosson
  • The New Americans: Gaming A Revolution (US), directed by Ondi Timoner
  • The Rooster (AU), directed by Mark Leonard Winter
  • This Is Going to be Big (AU), directed by Thomas Charles Hyland
  • Time Bomb Y2K (US), directed by Brian Becker and Marley McDonald
  • Tokyo Uber Blues (Japan), directed by Taku Aoyagi
  • Uproar (NZ), directed by Hamish Bennett and Paul Middleditch
  • Voices in Deep (AU), directed by Jason Raftopoulos

SXSW Sydney Midnighters are scary, funny, and culty films, for night owls and the genre-curious. Highlights from Midnighters include: a nostalgic kids-caper shot on 16mm, Riddle of Fire; unforgettable, lo-fi-sci-fi techno-tech thriller Divinity, produced by Steven Soderbergh with music composition by DJ Muggs; a queer, bloody, monster-infested road movie, Satranic Panic, from bold Australian talent-to-watch Alice Maio Mackay; and The People’s Joker, a parodic coming-of-age which emerges from the underground, stretching the limits of digital and queer storytelling.

Midnighters: Scary, funny, and culty films, for night owls and the genre-curious.  

  • Divinity (US), directed by Eddie Alcazar
  • In Flames (Pakistan/Canada), directed by Zarrar Kahn
  • Loop Track (NZ), directed by Tom Sainsbury
  • Monolith (AU), directed by Matt Vesely
  • Riddle of Fire (US), directed by Weston Razooli
  • Satranic Panic (AU), directed by Alice Maio Mackay
  • Sleep (South Korea), directed by Jason Yu
  • The Invisible Fight (Estonia), directed by Rainer Sarnet
  • The People’s Joker (US), directed by Vera Drew
  • You’ll Never Find Me (AU), directed by Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell

With SXSW Sydney’s natural affinity to all things sonic, the Screen Festival’s Music section celebrates the sounds, culture and influence of music and fandom on screen.

Highlights from Music include: a rich archival account of the devastating, infamous undoing of the former superstar pop duo in Milli Vanilli; an intimate documentary on America’s best-selling girl group, TLC Forever; never-before-seen footage chronicling Cyndi Lauper’s trailblazing journey as a musician and activist in Let the Canary Sing; and a career-spanning portrait of Ukrainian immigrant and punk legend Eugene Hütz in Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story.

  • Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg (US), directed by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill
  • Cypher (US), directed by Chris Moukarbel
  • Jamojaya (US/Indonesia), directed by Justin Chon
  • Let the Canary Sing (US), directed by Alison Ellwood
  • Milli Vanilli (US), directed by Luke Korem
  • Peter Doherty: Stranger In My Own Skin (US), directed by Katia deVidas
  • Plastic (Japan), directed by Daisuke Miyazaki
  • Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story (US), directed by Nate Pommer and Eric Weinrib
  • TLC Forever (US), directed by Matt Kay

The Screen Festival will also host several Special Presentations, including:

  • Lake Mungo (AU), Joel Anderson’s feature debut from 2008 about strange events that occur after a girl is found drowned, is heralded by genre-enthusiasts as one of Australia’s best and scariest ghost films. This 4K remastered retrospective screening, presented in collaboration with Umbrella Entertainment, brings a true home-grown classic back from the dead.
  • Stop Making Sense (US), This 4K restoration of the 1984 Talking Heads concert film, directed by Jonathan Demme, coincides with the film’s 40th anniversary. Considered by critics and fans to be the greatest concert film of all time, SXSW Sydney will screen the NSW Premiere in 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound.

TV Premieres feature premieres of prestige episodics and SXSW Sydney’s highlights include: SBS and Screen Australia’s latest Digital Originals series Korean/Australian horror anthology Night Bloomers, Korean romantic comedy Doona!, starring retired K-pop sensation Suzy Bae, Indian/Pakistani love triangle drama The Pink Shirt, and SBS’s Erotic Storiesan anthology of erotic and intimate stories told from fresh perspectives, an anthology of sexy, intimate and diverse stories penned by emerging Australian writers, with cast and crew in attendance. 

TV Premieres: Premieres of prestige episodics:

  • Doona!  (South Korea), directed by Jung Hyo Lee
  • Erotic Stories (AU), directed by Leticia Cáceres and Madeleine Gottlieb
  • Night Bloomers (AU), directed by Andrew Undi Lee
  • The Disposables (AU), directed by Renny Wijeyamohan and Sonia Whiteman
  • The Pink Shirt (India/Pakistan), directed by Kashif Nisar

Music Videos showcase the breakout stars of APAC music video culture, and the SXSW Sydney Screen playlist includes: A world of magical realism in Isyana Sarasvati – “My Mystery;” diasporic Filipinx contemporary fantasy in BVT – “Lalaki;” Korean-Australian hip hop from Sydney with 1300 – “Rocksta;” and the joyously camp story of a “Ghetto Popstar,” Rodney Chrome – “To the Money”.

  • 1300 – “Rocksta” (AU), directed by Raghav Rampal
  • ASHWARYA – “Up In My Head” (AU), directed by Charles Buxton-Leslie
  • BABYMETAL – “METALI!! メタり!!” feat. Tom Morello (Japan)
  • Black Cab – “Superfans!” (AU), directed by Darcy Conlan
  • Bumpy – “Return Home” (AU), directed by Lewis Robert
  • BVT – “Lalaki” (AU), directed by Steph Jowett
  • Chela – “Hard 4 You” (AU), directed by Genevieve Gorman Deane
  • Confidence Man – “Feels Like a Different Thing” (AU), directed by William Bleakley
  • Ema I’u – “Flower of Life” (AU), directed by Francis Baker
  • Genesis Owusu – “Leaving the Light” (AU), directed by Lisa Reihana
  • Golden Features – “Vigil” (AU), directed by William Bleakley
  • Isyana Sarasvati – “My Mystery” (Indonesia), directed by Habille Elgieano
  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Black Hot Soup” (DJ Shadow “My Own Reality” Re-Write) (AU), directed by John Angus Stewart
  • Lastlings – “Noise” (AU), directed by Harrison Friend and Sam Stevenson
  • Maie – “Kosmo” (AU/China), directed by Reggie Ba-Pe III and William Mok
  • Phum Viphurit – “Welcome Change” (Thailand), directed by Kuttiya Kanchanasopawong
  • Rodney Chrome – “To the Money” (US), directed by Zachary Dov Wiesel
  • Sahara Beck – “Nothing Wrong With That” (AU), directed by Jack Rintoul
  • Ta-ku – “SMILE” feat. Xavier Omär, DAISY WORLD & ROMderful (AU), directed by Regan Mathews (aka Ta-ku)
  • The Dinosaur’s Skin 恐龍的皮 – “In My Dreams (You’re Not Extinct)” (Taiwan), directed by 郭佩萱 Pei-Hsuan Guo

The SXSW Sydney XR Showcase:  A spotlight on outstanding immersive projects using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies in narrative and non-fiction storytelling. These experiential works demonstrate new ways of amplifying how we perceive and interact with the world around us. The Showcase features:

  • 444.2 (AU/SA), created by Nirma Madhoo. Australian Premiere.
    Experience a superposition of ancient African cultures of technology with the virtual geography of the Southern African Large Telescope [SALT], as a landmark of modern astrophysics.
  • Antipsychotic (US), created by Matt McCorkle. Australian Premiere.
    This non-linear, interactive docu-music album aims to help destigmatise mental illness by allowing the user to journey through the mind of an individual with bipolar disorder.
  • From the Main Square (Germany), created by Pedro Harres. Australian Premiere.
    A civilization blossoms, with all its contradictions, only to become a danger to itself in this interactive VR experience depicting the disturbingly resonant rise and fall of a divided society.
  • Julaymba (AU), created by Joseph Purdam. World Premiere.
    A groundbreaking Mixed Reality experience that offers an immersive journey through the Daintree Rainforest, and learn about the Traditional Owners’ relationship with nature.
  • Libertas Vanitas (AU), created by Shaun Gladwell. World Premiere.
    A meditation on the concept of ‘Liberty’ within and beyond the charter of liberal democracies, featuring soundtrack ‘Madwoman’s Vision’ (1988) by American composer Meredith Monk.
  • Pedal Rebel VR (AU), created by Jonathan Kovarch. NSW Premiere.
    Pedal Rebel VR is an adrenaline-pumping cyberpunk motorcycle street racing game that transforms an exercise bike and VR headset into an immersive racing experience!
  • Prison X (AU/Bolivia), created by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw. Australian Premiere.
    Step into the surreal world of Prison X, an infamous Bolivian jail inside a Neo-Andean underworld filled with devils, saints, and corruption. Bolivian-Australian director Violeta Ayala’s 2023 documentary La Lucha is also screening at SXSW Sydney.
  • Reimagined Vol II: Mahal (US) created by Michaela Ternasky-Holland. Australian Premiere.
    Inspired by Philippine mythology (lead creator, Michaela is of Filipino descent), the experience focuses four mythic deities whose grief ripples through their universe.
  • Square Circles (AU), Created by William Barton and Stephen King. NSW Premiere.
    An immersive journey through composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Kalkadunga man William Barton’s ancestral song-line. Barton is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading didgeridoo players and composers. Features the Australian String Quartet.
  • Stay Alive My Son (Parts 1 & 2) (Greece, UK) created by Victoria Bousis. Australian Premiere.
    Based on the internationally celebrated memoirs of Pin Yathay, Tu vivras, mon fils, this gamified documentary puts the player into the shoes of a Cambodian genocide survivor and father, transforming joy, grief, guilt, and empowerment in the virtual world to inspire change in the real.
  • Through the Eyes of Our Ancestors (AU), created by Mod. World Premiere.
    A holographic experience featuring First Nations Traditional Owner, Nicholas Thompson-Wymarra, sharing stories from Gudang Yadhaykenu Country in Australia’s remote far north, the northern Cape York Peninsula.
  • TOMO VR (NZ), created by Gabrielle Thomas and Ed Davis. Australian Premiere.
    Adapted from a stage show about the whakapapa of light and darkness, birth, life and death and the dream space. Gabrielle Thomas is a choreographer and dancer of Kāi Tahu and Te Atiawa ki te Tau Ihu descent.

Further SXSW Sydney 2023 XR Showcase projects to be announced.

Plus, a Special Presentation of Australian Artist and Filmmaker, Lynette Wallworth’s Awavena 2.0 (AU). In 2018, the original version of Awavena premiered at Sundance Film Festival exhibited at Venice Film Festival. This is the first time this Emmy award-winning experience has been deployed to mobile VR for untethered stand-alone viewing.

In Competition

Recognising APAC creatives at the leading edge of creativity, imagination and innovation, SXSW Sydney is pleased to announce the following Feature films are in competition at the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival.

  • All Ears (China), directed by Jiayin Liu
  • Andragogy (Indonesia), directed by Wregas Bhanuteja
  • Voices in Deep (AU), directed by Jason Raftopoulos
  • Remembering Every Night (Japan), directed by Yui Kiyohara
  • Gagaland (China), directed by Yuhan Teng
  • Plastic (Japan), directed by Daisuke Miyazaki
  • You’ll Never Find Me (AU), directed by Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell
  • Nowhere Near (Philippines), directed by Miko Revereza
  • The Last Year of Darkness (US/China), directed by Ben Mullinkosson
  • Tokyo Uber Blues (Japan), directed by Taku Aoyagi

Recognising APAC creatives at the leading edge of creativity, imagination and innovation, SXSW Sydney is pleased to announce the following short films are in competition at the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival.

  • Architect A (South Korea), directed by Jonghoon Lee
  • Hyperconnect (AU), directed by Jim Muntisov
  • Basri & Salma in a Never-Ending Comedy (Indonesia), directed by Khozy Rizal
  • On Film (AU), directed by Emma Hough Hobbs
  • Eid Mubarak (Pakistan), directed by Mahnoor Euceph
  • Rival Dealer (AU), directed by John Angus Stewart
  • False as a Beach (AU), directed by Stephanie Jane Day
  • Sugar Rag (US/AU), directed by Jai Love LaPan
  • Sweet Juices (AU), directed by Sejon Im, Will Suen
  • The Tale of Mr. Kimberley (AU), directed by Jake Blackburn and Sam Lovell

Recognising APAC creatives at the leading edge of creativity, imagination and innovation, SXSW Sydney is pleased to announce the following XR projects are in competition at the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival.

  • 444.2 (AU/SA), created by Nirma Madhoo – World Premiere.
  • Julaymba (AU), created by Joseph Purdam – World Premiere.
  • Libertas Vanitas (AU), created by Shaun Gladwell – World Premiere.
  • Pedal Rebel VR (AU), created by Jonathan Kovarch – NSW Premiere.
  • Prison X (AU/Bolivia), created by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw – Australian Premiere.
  • Square Circles (AU), Created by William Barton and Stephen King – NSW Premiere.
  • Through the Eyes of Our Ancestors (AU), created by Mod – World Premiere.
  • TOMO VR (NZ), created by Gabrielle Thomas and Ed Davis – Australian Premiere.

Free Outdoor Screenings at Tumbalong Park
The SXSW Sydney Screen Festival will host free outdoor screenings at Tumbalong Park as part of its public program across the festival week. The program is based on highlights from SXSW (Austin)’s own back-catalogue of crowd favourites, including:

  • Taika Waititi’s endlessly quotable vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows (Premiered in Austin at SXSW 2014)
  • Richard Linklater, the quintessential Austin Filmmaker’s coming age comedy Dazed & Confused (screened in 2003 as a celebration 10 years since the film’s release).
  • The original much-loved anime Ghost in the Shell (1995) follows a cyber-enhanced police officer hunts down a rogue hacker, blurring the lines between humanity and artificial intelligence. (Premiered in Austin at SXSW 1996).

Plus more to be announced.

Adding to the previous announcement of The Royal Hotel as the opening night film, Melbourne producer Harvey Sutherland will DJ on the Tumbalong Stage at the opening night party following the screening. This forms part of the free program offering and is open to all, on Sunday 15 October at Tumbalong Park.

Venues: Darling Harbour Theatre at ICC Sydney and Palace Cinemas Central. The XR Showcase is housed within the Tech & Innovation Expo, Halls 6 & 7 at ICC Sydney. 

Further Galas and Screen programming to be announced soon.

Press Release

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