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Monday
May072018

10 MUST-SEE MOVIES FROM THE 2018 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL PROGRAM

The 65th Sydney Film Festival has announced its 2018 line-up – a whopping 320ish films, from 60 countries in 160 different languages. The programming team want audiences going in and coming out of the 12 day event with smiles on their faces. Opening night honours go to the New Zealand laffer The Breaker Upperers; closing the event will be Brett Haley’s daddy-daughter feel-good dramedy, Hearts Beat Loud. In between, however, there are emotions of all kind to experience. Here are 10 films that immediately earned ‘must watch’ status at this year’s SFF… 

BEIRUT (Dir: Brad Anderson; U.S.A., 109 mins)
Two of Hollywood’s smartest talents combine to provide Mad Men hunk Jon Hamm (pictured, above) with the meaty role he’s been biding his time for – Mason Skiles, a CIA negotiator sent into the Middle East to secure the release of a colleague. After a couple of hired-hand movies (Stonehearst Asylum, 2014; The Call, 2013), Anderson looks to have returned to the hard-edged drama of his 2004 break-out film, The Machinist; script is by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, 2007; State of Play, 2009; Rogue One A Star Wars Story; 2016).

WEST OF SUNSHINE (Dir: Jason Raftopoulos; Australia, 78 mins)
Inner city Melbourne is the backdrop for this father-stepson drama, the directorial debut of Jason Raftopoulos. Cast is lead by Damian Hill (Pawno, 2015; Spin Out, 2016), whose life is crumbling under family issues and gambling addiction. The actor’s real-life stepson, non-actor Ty Perham, is remarkable in his film debut. Music by Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator; Whale Rider); world premiered at Venice 2017.  

A VIGILANTE (Dir: Sarah Daggar-Nelson; U.S.A., 91 mins)
Australian-born Daggar-Nelson makes her directing debut with this harrowing drama about a domestic-abuse survivor who turns vigilante to help others escape their attackers. Olivia Wilde is past due on the role that will put her on Oscar’s A-list (The Hollywood Reporter calls her performance, “nakedly emotional”); Daggar-Nelson’s willingness to muddy the morality of self-administered payback, makes this potentially one of the toughest yet most rewarding films of the festival.

 

MAYA THE BEE: THE HONEY GAME (Dirs: Noel Cleary, Sergio Delfino and Alexs Stadermann; Australia | Germany, 85 mins)
The first adventure of Maya the Bee was a solid global performer in 2014 before a huge ancillary life. Three of the animation sectors most respected artist/storytellers, with credits like Blinky Bill, The Lego Movie and Legend of The Guardians to their names, combine talents for this high-concept sequel, a riff on the hugely popular Jennifer Lawrence franchise. Voices include Richard Roxburgh, Justine Clarke and, returning as the lead insect, Coco Jack Gillies.

BlacKkKlansman (Dir: Spike Lee; U.S.A., 128 mins)
Ron Stallworth, an African American detective, went deep undercover into the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. His memoirs seem like perfect material for Spike Lee, who has continued making angry, race-based diatribe cinema (even if the audience hasn’t always turned out for his films). Direct to Sydney from Cannes, where it competed for the Palme d’Or; early Oscar buzz for Topher Grace, whose turn as Klan frontman David Duke is set to shock. Other key players are Adam Driver and John David Washington, son of Denzel. 

HOLIDAY (Dir: Isabella Elköf; Denmark | The Netherlands | Sweden, TBC mins)
Do not let the sunny imagery mislead you. Isabella Elköf’s debut feature is a bleak and brutal love triangle / crime thriller; Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) accompanies her crime boss boyfriend on a trip to the Turkish Riviera, only to have things go bad very quickly. Reportedly contains a rape scene like no other; Variety stated, “a steady female gaze behind the camera tilts the film’s politics in unexpected, deliberately discomfiting ways.”

 

THE PURE NECESSITY (Dir: David Claerbout; Belgium, 50 mins)
Deconstructing cinema is part of what film festivals have to do to service the ‘serious cinephile’ audience; in 2013, SFF presented the brilliant cinematic montage essay, Final Cut – Ladies and Gentlemen. In 2018, Disney’s 1967 classic The Jungle Book comes under the knife; director David Claerbout has removed all remnants of a narrative, anthropomorphism, human interaction and music, leaving an idyllic paradise for Walt’s animals to live a life of freedom.

DISOBEDIENCE (Dir: Sebastián Lelio; United Kingdom, 114 mins)
All eyes will be on the Chilean director’s first film since his Foreign Film Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman. Having turned her back on her Jewish faith and orthodox family, Rachel Weisz must return to the place of her upbringing; a gay affair with her childhood friend (Rachel McAdams) stirs prejudice even further. Variety called the directeor’s English-language debut, “yet another triumph in what’s shaping up to be a major career.” 

THE LONG SEASON (Dir: Leonard Retel Helmrich; The Netherlands, 118 mins)
Director Helmrich had a heart attack mid-production, the difficult shoot being completed by artist Ramia Suleiman and producer Pieter van Huystee. And difficult it was; the small crew was embedded in the Majdal Anjar refugee camp, an enormous community of Syrian refugees who have fled their ISIS-ruled homeland. Shot sans narration, the cinema verite stylings of the Dutch crew has been called, “compassionate, camly observed, lyrical” by Screen Daily.

ONE DAY (Dir: Zsófia Szilágyi; Hungary, 99 mins)
The debut film for director Zsófia Szilágyi, who was Ildikó Enyedi’s first assistant on last year’s SFF Official Competition winner, On Body and Soul. Direct from a coveted slot in the Cannes‘ Critics Circle line-up, the tightly-wound domestic drama takes place over the course of a single day and stars Zsófia Szamosi as Anna,a mother of three dealing with a failing marriage in addition to her daily family grind.

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