by Helen Barlow

A number will screen in the Sydney Film Festival (SFF), with others waiting for release later in the year. Here is a selection.


Warwick Thornton’s latest opens SFF. It screened in Un Certain Regard with other more esoteric films. Cate Blanchett plays the head nun at a remote orphanage who takes in a young Aboriginal boy (stunning newcomer Aswan Reid), who seems to have special powers and he becomes particularly fascinated by a large crucifix. The film reflects Thornton’s own experience of attending a Christian boarding school in his youth. Blanchett, together with her husband, Andrew Upton, are among the producers on the film via their company, Dirty Films.


James Mangold has taken over the reins from Steven Spielberg to deliver Indy’s final stand in this fifth instalment of the series. Set in the 1960s, Harrison Ford convinces as always as Indy races against time to retrieve an artefact that can change the course of history. His goddaughter, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is the catalyst who brings him together with a Nazi scientist from his past, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who is now helping NASA win the space race. The fun film closes SFF before its June 28 release.


Martin Scorsese for the first time casts his signature actors Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio together in a feature film as an uncle and nephew who are up to no good. In many ways, the epic western crime drama, where the pair are out to capitalise on the indigenous Osage Nation’s newfound wealth in 1920s Oklahoma, harks back to Scorsese’s gangster films. While the film, which Scorsese freely adapted (together with Eric Roth) from David Grann’s 2017 non-fiction book, is a little old-fashioned, there’s no way of being bored during its three-and-a-half-hour running time. The film releases in October.


For the second time in three years, a French female director, Justine Triet, won the Palme d’Or — and the jury included Julia Ducourau, who won for Titane in 2021. Triet, who directed 2019’s unremarkable Sybil, surprises with this story of a woman (German actress Sandra Huller) who is on trial for murdering her husband. Did he fall from the balcony of their snow-covered chalet in the French Alps? Or was he pushed? The tension keeps you on the edge of your seat.


Wim Wenders has made a resounding comeback with two films, the remarkable 3D documentary Anselm about his friend German artist Anselm Kiefer, and the drama Perfect Days (above) about a Tokyo toilet cleaner (best actor winner Koji Yakusho) who has a lot more going on than we might expect. Wenders doesn’t see a great distinction between documentary and fiction, so elements of both are evident in the films.


After a 10-year hiatus, Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer is back with an unusual take on the Holocaust. SS Officer Rudolph Hoss is in charge of the Auschwitz concentration camp and lives in idyll with his wife and children nearby. As he supervises plans for the smooth running of the gas chambers, his wife (Sandra Huller again) rummages through the silk dresses and fur coats of prison inmates and relaxes in her garden as she hears them screaming in the distance and chimneys belch black smoke. Based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, who passed away during the festival, Vox calls the film “a portrait of hell from the periphery” and “formally brilliant in its evocation of the mental distance the family has put between themselves and the atrocities”. The film won the Grand Prix (or second prize).


Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki is completely unique and remains true to his droll style with this touching romance between two lost souls, which took out the Jury Prize and will surely go over well with SFF audiences. The working-class pair bond over their horrid working conditions and also The Dead Don’t Die, the 2019 film by Jim Jarmush, Kaurismaki’s friend who was also in Cannes. The news of the horrors of the Ukraine War lurks in the background.


If it’s a genre film you’re after, this French film directed by Stephen Castang is a must see. The always lovable everyman actor, Karim Leklou, is superb as an unremarkable man who suddenly finds himself under attack from strangers when they look him in the eye. He must run for his life and manages to find a woman who loves him along the way.


Molly Manning Walker’s story of three UK 16-year-old best friends on a post-exam trip to Crete proved to be a sensitive and engrossing exploration of sexual anxiety without the usual coming-of-age cliches. The film emerged as a festival hit and went on to take the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section.


Argentinian director Rodrigo Moreno’s three-hour bank heist drama might be meandering and surreal, but if you want something original, this is it. It follows a bank employee who set out to commit the perfect crime — to steal money from the bank and then hand himself in to the authorities as his co-worker hangs onto it. He is not so much interested in the money as much as achieving a sense of freedom and escaping from the rat race. The film screens at SFF.


Fearless, sexy and never boring, French director Catherine Breillat, 74, presents a remake of the provocative 2019 Danish film, Queen of Hearts, about a middle-aged woman who has an illicit affair with her stepson. If anything, Breillat has toned down both the actions of the protagonist and the sex – though there’s still plenty of the latter, as we might expect.


Japanese director and actor Kateshi Kitano throws everything but the kitchen sink at his most epic film, which may be his last. If so, he clearly wants to go out with a bang. The samurai story – inspired by the real-life 1582 “Honnō-ji Incident”, which saw the attempted assassination of Japan’s would-be one-nation ruler, Oda Nobunaga (Ryo Kase) – has gore, humour and relentless action. There’s even a bloody samurai kiss. It’s nowhere near as good as Kitano’s Zatoichi, though his co-star in that film, Tadanobu Asano, comes along for the ride.