Your Guide To Sydney Film Festival’s Hidden Gems


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The stellar film line-up for the 70th Sydney Film Festival has officially been announced.

But if you find the program’s stacked catalogue a little daunting, we’ve got you covered – from messy queer cinema to Australian gothic horror, feminine rage, and tender romance, here’s your guide to some of the festival’s hidden gems. 


This one’s for the friends to lovers and A24 fans, especially if you enjoyed the tender cerebral portrayal of love in Minari. Past Lives is the directorial debut of Korean-Canadian writer Celine Song. The film follows childhood best friends, mutual crushes, and academic rivals, Na Young and Hae Sung, who agree to reunite years after Na emigrated to the states. It promises to be a heartbreaker. 



A unique take on the pandemic flick, A Gaza Weekend is a dark satirical action comedy. From Palestinian-British filmmaker, Basil Khalil, the film follows a journalist and his girlfriend in a series of hijinks and capers as they try to smuggle themselves out of Israeli occupied territory to the Gaza Strip which is now the safest place on Earth. 


Are you an ’80s or ’90s kid who finds yourself yearning for the days of the video store? In this coming-of-age comedy, budding teen cinephile Lawrence Kweller fights for a job at his local video rental store to begin his journey to becoming a filmmaker. Just one problem: he’s a bit of a snob.  


In this multi-POV mystery, young Minato starts believing his brain has been switched out for a pig’s after an incident at school. When Minato’s mum confronts his teachers, it becomes clear that no one is telling the truth. From the award-winning director of Shoplifters, Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Monster promises an edge of your seat mystery about community that will totally shock you. 


Exiled gender-queer Russian artist, Gena Marvin is front and center in this inspiring documentary by queer Russian filmmaker Agniia Galdanova. Watch Gena strut across the snow in heels and otherworldly fits as war between Ukraine and Russia looms.   


Starring beloved It girl and Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney, Reality is a thrilling ride about a veteran turned yoga teacher who becomes embroiled in one of the largest whistleblower cases in recent history. Fusing documentary and drama, fact with fiction, Reality is a tour de force from Sweeney and will leave you questioning everything. 


Sweet Country and Samson and Delilah director, Kaytej artist Warwick Thornton makes a return to the big screen with The New Boy. Set in the 1940s, the film follows a young Aboriginal boy sent to live in a monastery after he fights with police. Cate Blanchett stars as Sister Eileen, the monastery’s head nun, and her religious zealousness reaches new heights when she realises the young boy has mysterious powers. The New Boy is premiering at the festival’s opening night, and it’s not to be missed. 


For lovers of Kill Bill and 2017’s Revenge and feminine rage, Senegalese director Apolline Traoré’s rape-revenge action flick is a visually stunning debut that packs a punch. Starring newcomer Nafissatou Cissé as the title character, Sira is travelling with her nomadic Fulani Muslim family in the Sahel region of Africa to meet her new Christian husband when she is abducted by a militia group. A triumphant story of survival, wit, and love offering an unseen perspective on the political conflict of the region, Sira is unlike any other film in the program.  


Starring Succession’s Sarah Snook, Run Rabbit Run is an Australian gothic horror. Snook stars as a single parent who moves her daughter to the country. Everything seems fine, that is until her daughter starts claiming she’s possessed by her dead sister. This is Emmy-nominated Australian filmmaker Daina Reid’s feature film debut and I just know it’s going to give me nightmares. 


Co-directed by and featuring Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthews, this documentary-drama follows Matthews long journey to finding her family. Adapted and raised by a white family, Matthews has fond memories of her childhood, but when memories of her Aboriginal family surface in her mind, she begins to seek the full story from both her families.  


If you love a bit of horny French melodrama, look no further than Ira Sachs’ Passages, about a bisexual film director torn between two lovers. Starring Paddington’s Ben Whishaw, the comedy is a raunchy affair that devolves into a love triangle that could topple at any moment. 

In 2023, Sydney Film Festival has something for everyone whether your vibe is animation, weird and whacky art films, female rage, or romance. 

The Sydney Film Festival kicks off on June 7. Tickets are available here.