By Travis Johnson

The full program for the Sydney Film Festival dropped this morning, and as expected it boasts an incredible and diverse range of treats for the discerning cineaste, not the least of which is the opening night film, Goldstone. Continuing on from director Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, Goldstone follows the exploits of detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) as he investigates a missing person case in the titular mining town. The outback noir, as it’s been termed, co-stars David Wenham, Alex Russell, Kate Beahan, Jacki Weaver and David Gulpilil.

Goldstone is also in competition for the prestigious Sydney Film Prize, along with Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Aquarius, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Brady Corbert’s The Childhood of a Leader, Oliver Hermanus’ The Endless River, Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine, Ivo. M Ferreira’s Letters From War, Peter Middelton and James Spinney’s Notes on Blindness, Anurag Kashyap’s Psycho Raman, and Paddy Breathnach’s Viva.

Special Presentations this year include Captain Fantastic, which stars Viggo Mortensen as a the patriarch of a large brood of children he has praised off the grid; the darkly comic Demolition from Jean-Marc Vallee, which features Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts; Elvis & Nixon, wherein Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey play the eponymous duo; Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger, which focuses on the ridiculously influential band, The Stooges; and War on Everyone, from The Guard and Calvary director, John Michael McDonagh.

European Cinema: 10 Women to Watch brings together, as the name suggests, a selection of works from some of the top female names in continental film making, including Barbara Eder’s Thank You For Bombing, Chevalier by “Greek weird wave” auteur Athina Rachel Tsangari, Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s Strike a Pose, and Agnieszka Smoczynska’s fantastical The Lure.

Competing for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, which grants a $15,000 prize to the best Australian non-fiction screen work, are 10 impressive homegrown films, including Gillian Leahy’s Baxter and Me; Destination Arnold, Sascha Ettinger Epstein’s look at three indigenous female body builders trying to make it to a renowned amateur bodybuilding competition, and In the Shadow of the Hill, Dan Jackson’s examination of crime and justice in Rio de Janeiro’s biggest slum.

International documentaries this year include Cinema, mon amour, which charts one man’s struggle to run one of the last remaining cinemas in Romania; Pietra Brettkelly’s A Flickering Truth, which looks at the efforts of Afghani cinephiles to save their country’s film history; and Jheronimous Bosch – Touched by the Devil, an investigation into the life and work of the famed Dutch painter.

One the highlights of the festival is surely Essential Scorsese, a season of films from the acknowledged American master of cinema, curated by David Stratton. Films being exhibited include Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Aviator.

Swiss Army Man  – aka the Farting Daniel Radcliffe Movie – is sure to sell out quickly. Also worth buying early are the encore presentations of classic Australian films Bliss and The Boys, and the Tom Hiddleston double down of Ballard adaptation High Rise and Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light. The coveted closing night slot goes to Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, a Jane Austen adaptation featuring Kate Beckinsale and Xavier Samuel.

The 63rd Sydney Film Festival runs from June 8 -19, 2016. For full information, session times and tickets, head to the official site. 


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