Every year, The Sydney Film Festival stands tall as one of the city’s prime winter events, a literal cinematic smorgasbord of fascinating films from around the globe spread across a number of diverse venues. The festival always acts as a springboard for the latest Australian film releases, but this year looks set to be something of a banner event.
Bolstered by Q&A sessions with the cast and crew, a number of hotly anticipated titles will make their bow at The Sydney Film Festival, including Rachel Ward’s star-studded comedy-drama, Palm Beach (which will open the festival); Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan, which tracks one of this nation’s most infamous military campaigns; Mirrah Foulkes’ Judy & Punch, a live-action reinterpretation of the famous 16th century puppet show Punch & Judy, starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman; Sophie Hyde’s Sundance hit Animals starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat; the Hugo Weaving-starring Hearts And Bones, the feature debut from Ben Lawrence, who directed the powerful doco, Ghosthunter; Standing Up For Sammy, which stars US import, RJ Mitte (who so memorably played Walter White’s son, Walt Jr. on Breaking Bad) and marks the belated sophomore effort of actor/director, Steven Vidler (Blackrock); the gritty and highly contemporary urban drama, Slam; the dystopian sci-fi thriller, I Am Mother, starring double Oscar winner, Hilary Swank, and (the voice of) Rose Byrne, who plays a maternal robot; the unconventional coming-of-ager, Suburban Wildlife; and the controversial The Nightingale, Jennifer Kent’s violent, bloodstained convict-era revenge tale and follow up to her deservedly acclaimed horror film, The Babadook.
There are also local and international docos galore, including portraits of Aussie superstar, Michael Hutchence (Richard Lowenstein’s Mystify); AFL game-changer, Adam Goodes (The Final Quarter); trans whistleblower, Chelsea Manning (XY Manning); Michael Leunig (The Leunig Fragments); and Westfield bigwig, Frank Lowy (What Will Become Of Us). Also explored are American Satanism (Hail Satan?); the birth of emoji culture (Picture Character); ecological/environmental horrors (Sea Of Shadows); the even more terrifying horrors of Harvey Weinstein (Untouchable) and Steve Bannon (The Brink); the wonders of space exploration (Apollo 11); and the cinema paradiso like story of four elderly gentlemen that run the Sudanese Film Club (Talking About Trees). There’s also a special music doco strand featuring the likes of PJ Harvey (A Dog Called Money), Miles Davis (The Birth of Cool), Aretha Franklin (Amazing Grace), David Crosby (Remember My Name) and Leonard Cohen (Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love).
Big name auteurs are also represented, with new titles from Jim Jarmusch (who goes hilariously zombie with The Dead Don’t Die); Thomas Vinterberg (Kursk); Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite); Pedro Almodovar (Pain And Glory); Gurinder Chadha (Blinded By The Light); and Martin Scorsese (Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story), as well as a retrospective programme on recently departed filmmaker, Agnes Varda.
There are also family films (including The Secret Life Of Pets 2, which will be introduced by superstar comic and visiting guests, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish); David Stratton’s retrospective programme celebrating Australian female filmmakers; a strand on European films by female directors and New Zealand and First Nations cinema; and a selection of weird and wonderful delights, both old (it’s time to see Eraserhead on the big screen again, kids) and new (meet Arnie’s son, Patrick Schwarzenegger, in the creepy imaginary friend horror flick, Daniel Isn’t Real).
The Sydney Film Festival runs between June 5 – 16, 2019.