The production prowess of 15 film territories infuses the 12 features vying for competitive honours at the 63rd Sydney Film Festival (SFF). Opening June 8 with the World Premiere of Ivan Sen’s outback-noir thriller Goldstone (pictured, below), the 2016 Official Competition boasts 8 Australian premieres from such diverse filmmaking cultures as Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, South Africa, India and Brazil, in addition to festival regulars France, the U.K., Germany and the U.S.
Four of the competitive titles will be hitting Harbour City screens directly from the 69th Cannes Film Festival. They are Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, a locally-lensed psychological drama exploring the hot-button issue of capital punishment; Raman Raghav 2.0, a chilling account of India’s worst serial killer, from Gangs of Wasseypur director Anurag Kashyap; Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Aquarius, starring Sonia Braga as the last resident of a historic high rise who refuses to vacate; and, Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan’s latest, It’s Only The End of The World, a bittersweet coming-of-death drama with Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux.
Other titles in the hunt for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize are Martin Zandvliet’s WWII drama Land of Mine, a Danish/German co-production that examines Denmark’s mistreatment of German POWs; Certain Women, a three-tiered study in female empowerment that reteams director Kelly Reichardt with her Wendy and Lucy leading lady, Michelle Williams, alongside Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart; Portuguese filmmaker Ivo Ferreira’s Golden Bear-nominated Letter from War, a monochromatic tale of long-distant love set against Angolan colonial conflict of the 1970s; the UK docu-drama Notes on Blindness, based upon the life of writer John Hull, from co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney; actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s Venice-honored dark fantasy The Childhood of a Leader, with Robert Pattinson and Berenice Bejo (pictured, right); The Endless River, a South African crime drama from Skoonheid director Oliver Hermanus; and, the Cuban-set queer-themed father-son story Viva, from Irish director Paddy Breathnach and executive producer Benicio Del Toro.
Competitive strands across the 12 day festival include the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, offering a $15,000 cash prize to 10 hopefuls, among them the World Premiere of Taryn Brumfitt’s body-image advocacy doc, Embrace; the popular Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films; and, Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Awards.
Non-competitive features are as richly diverse as those in line for official kudos. From the ever-expanding roster of over 250 films, festival goers can see the latest from Steven Spielberg (The BFG, with Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the titular CGI behemoth); Mel Gibson (Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father); Jake Gyllenhaal (Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition); Viggo Mortensen (Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic); director Whit Stillman (Love and Friendship, with Kate Beckinsale; pictured, right); Temuera Morrison (Mahana, for his Once Were Warriors director, Lee Tamahori); Michael Shannon (opposite Kevin Spacey in Elvis & Nixon); director Richard Linklater (Everybody Wants Some!); Russian Ark documentarian Aleksandr Sokurov (Francophonia); Pedro Almodovar (Julieta) and, Daniel Radcliffe (as a corpse, opposite Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man).
There will be double the joy for fans of Ethan Hawke and Tom Hiddleston, each of whom have two pics in the mix - Hawke with Maggie’s Plan, opposite Greta Gerwig, and the Chet Baker bio, Born to Be Blue; Hiddleston with Ben Wheatley’s thriller High Rise and the Hank Aaron bio, I Saw The Light. Fans of animated films will be similarly delighted – in the Documentary strand is Roger Ross William’s Sundance honoree Life, Animated, the story of an autistic teenager and the curative power of his obsession with Disney films; the fifth instalment of the adventures of the acorn-focussed Scrat in Ice Age: Collision Course; and, Remy Chaye’s epic seafaring adventure Long Way North, a French/Danish co-production.
Gender diversity is high on the agenda for SFF 2016, notably in the programming of the sidebar European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch. Amongst the selection are challenging, engaging visions from Austria (Barbara Eder’s Thank You for Bombing), Greece (Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Chevalier), Sweden (Sara Jordeno’s Kiki), Poland (Agnieska Smoczynska’s The Lure; pictured, below), Germany (Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild; Icair Bollan’s The Olive Tree) and Denmark (Frederikke Aspock’s Rosita).
Other strands include focus programming on the territories of Ireland (John Carney’s Sing Street; Conor Horgan’s Queen of Ireland; Ken Wardrop’s Mom and Me) and Korea, particularly the region’s ‘Social Cinema’ movement (Jung Yoon-suk’s NonFiction Diary; Zhang Lu’s Love And…; Ahn Gooc-jin’s Alice in Earnestland). Returning will be the Sounds on Screen line-up, featuring the music of Sharon Jones (Barbara Kopple’s Miss Sharon Jones!), David Byrne (Bill and Turner Ross’ Contemporary Color), James Lavelle (Matthew Jones’ The Man from Mo’Wax) and Janis Ian (Amy Berg’s Little Girl Blue). And the frightening Freak Me Out horror selections take on a broader global perspective than in recent years, with co-productions from Jordan/Qatar (Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow), Serbia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia (Nicholas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother), France/Belgium/Spain (Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution; trailered, below), Canada/US (Tyler McIntyre’s Patchwork), as well Aussie contributors Craig Anderson (the locally-produced Red Christmas, with Dee Wallace) and Sean Byrne (his US debut, The Devil’s Candy).
As is the case with the very best of international festivals, Sydney will offer reverence to past masters as well as embracing and exploring the future of the film. Restorations include the vast, previously-announced Martin Scorsese retrospective; Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 masterpiece, Tokyo Story; Filipino auteur Lino Brocka’s 1976 social drama, Insiang; the late Chantal Akerman’s 1975 droll, atmospheric feminist epic, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; and, the Australian classics Bliss and The Boys. Futurists will flock to Down The Rabbithole: Virtual Reality, a series of panels, presentations and interactive eyewear opportunities exploring the next wave of interactive vis-tech co-presented in association with Jumpgate VR at the festival’s meeting place, The Hub.
The 63rd edition of the Sydney Film Festival runs June 8-19. Venue, session and ticket information can be found at the event's official website.