The Sydney Film Festival Line-Up Has Arrived, And Here Are The Must-See Movies
From a genre-defying Senegalese adventure to an anti-colonial epic and a documentary on '00s indie rock - there's truly something for everyone.
Cinephiles unite: Sydney Film Festival is back for its 69th year from June 8 to 19, with a line-up filled with some of the year’s biggest, boldest and most hyped movies.
With more than 200 films on offer from 64 countries, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything on offer.
Here are thirteen of our picks, ranging from a family drama set in Sydney’s Inner West to a genre-defying Senegalese adventure, an anti-colonial epic and a documentary on ’00s indie rock. Let’s dive in — and be sure to check out the full guide here.
Israeli director and writer Nadav Lapid follows up The Kindergarten Teacher and Synoynms (the former remade into an American film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal) with a drama about the Israeli government’s censorship of pro-Palestinian artworks, which won the Cannes 2021 Jury Prize.
In it, an Israeli filmmaker working on a project about real-life Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi (who became famous as a child for footage where she resisted Israeli forces) encounters a form of censorship during a government-overseen talk.
Emily The Criminal
Aubrey Plaza (Parks And Recreation, Ingrid Goes West) stars as a down-and-out art-school dropout with $70,000 in student debt who turns to credit card fraud to pay it off and get back on track.
Featuring a cameo from Gina Gershon (Bound, Showgirls), a performance from Plaza that critics are calling her best yet, and comparisons to Drive due to its downtown LA setting, Emily The Criminal plays with just how unlikable a protagonist can be — and what pushes someone towards cruelty.
Director Gianluca Matarrese follows three fashion week mainstays — Drag Race star Violet Chachki, artist Casey Spooner and model Michelle Elie — as they attend shows during Paris and Milan’s weeks of weeks. Filmed with reverence and love for fashion while aware of the pomp and vanity it can inspire, the doco looks at the politics behind who sits where and what goes into keeping up appearances.
Beloved British director Peter Strickland once again takes an off-kilter concept, such as the ‘literal killer dress’ of In Fabric or the sapphic lepidopterologist S&M of The Duke Of Burgundy, and runs with it. With his most famous cast yet (Gwendoline Christie, Sex Education‘s Asa Butterfield), Strickland dives into a story around an art troop that records cooking sounds and turns it into disgusting, pretentious, moving performance art — and when a journalist visits (Butterfield), he finds himself wrapped into the work.
Starring Parasite housekeeper Lee Jung-eun in a leading role, Hommage is the latest film from Shin Su-won, one of South Korea’s most prominent female directors. In this drama, Jeong-eun plays a director who is asked to restore a ’60s film by female director Hong Eun Won, and has to piece together the history behind the film when pieces of footage are lost to time and a lack of care around preservation. An obsession to honour Eun Won takes over, in a story that questions how one can leave a legacy.
Set during Russia’s 2014 invasion of Donbas, Ukraine, Klondike focuses on a pregnant woman Irka as war arrives on her doorstep — and commercial flight MH17 is shot down and crashes nearby. As the world watches in horror and confusion, Irka refuses to leave her home.
The Longest Weekend
After a series of award-winning shorts, Australian director Molly Haddon and screenwriter Jorrden Daley tackle their first feature, about three siblings who reunite when visiting home in Sydney’s Inner West during the Easter long weekend. Under the roof without their mother for the weekend, the three clash — especially when their estranged father attempts to reach out.
Meet Me In The Bathroom
Based off Lizzy Goodman’s book of the same name, this doco dives into the world of ’00s New York indie rock, with interviews from Karen O, James Murphy, Interpol’s Paul Banks and Julian Casablancas. Directed by the duo behind LCD Soundsystem’s then-final tour doco Shut Up And Play The Hits, the doco might be a little kinder to Murphy than Goodman was, but the nostalgia trip and reflection elsewhere will be well worthwhile for people wanting to revisit the ‘old days’.
With nods to spaghetti Westerns, Samurai dramas and supernatural horror, this Senegalese crime thriller is an imaginative, funny and exciting 84 minutes set in 2003 during Guinea-Bissau’s coup, from Congolese director Jean Luc Herbulot. We follow mercenaries as they transport a drug lord and bricks of gold and drugs cross-country, but find themselves stranded in the area around the Sine-Saloum, a coastal-river delta home to mythical forces.
Set in Canberra, this acclaimed horror sees Aussie actress Aisha Dee (The Bold Type) return to our shores to play Celia, an influencer who heads to an old school friend’s hen’s party in the bush. When Celia meets school bully Alex, who used to call her Sissy, hell breaks loose. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, arguably our leading horror critic, praised its fun, gutsy gore and distinctly Australian “self-effacing, tongue-in-cheek style of comedy”.
Bra Boys director Macario De Sourza heads in a different direction with 6 Festivals, a coming-of-age around a trio of teens who agree to make it to six music festivals when one of them gets some upsetting medical news. Shot at festivals across Australia and featuring acts like Dune Rats, G Flip, Bliss n Eso and more festival favourites, 6 Festivals is an ode to how important live music can be.
We Are Still Here
Opening Sydney Film Festival, We Are Still Here is an epic made with ten First Nations directors from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Created in wake of 250 years since Captain Cook’s colonial violence began, the film travels across 1000 years and jumps from animation to rom-com and sci-fi to tell stories of endurance and survival.
Set across the Bolivian highlands, this drama uses non-actors to tell the story of Llama farmers Virginio and Sisa, an elderly Quechea couple who face giving up their traditional life due to an ongoing drought. When their grandson arrives, they have to face moving to the city. Filmed across a beautiful backdrop, Utama has been celebrated as a moving love story with stunning cinematography, from first-time director Alejandro Loayza Grisi.
The 69th Sydney Film Festival will screen from June 8 to 19, with more than 190 films from 64 countries. Buy tickets, flexipasses and view the full line-up on their website.
Jared Richards is a critic and writer in Sydney who has been published in NME, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald and more. He’s on the internet as @jrdjms.