Film

Sydney Film Festival’s First Program Announcement Features David Stratton, Scientology And BDSM

Also, a brand new venue for the inner west!

The first program announcement for Sydney Film Festival just landed, and it’s time to start getting excited.

In huge news for the inner west, the festival will be expanding to Dendy Newtown for the first time ever; in huge news for pretty much everyone, David Stratton — the only 75-year-old you’ve ever taken film advice off — is curating a selection of classic films from Ingmar Bergman; and the festival has also offered a sneak peak of 27 of the 200 films which will be on offer.

But, thankfully, it’s not all about obscure Swedish cinema. While last year’s program was largely dominated by arthouse titles — think Boyhood20,000 Days on Earth, Palo Altothat super-meta film about SXSW which featured Michael Fassbender in a giant papier-mâché mask or the one with surreal animated series of interviews with Noam Chomsky — the first look at this year’s offering suggests its may be shooting for a more diverse audience.

Here’s what you can look forward to so far:

If You’re Into Culty Kiwi Horror

Deathgasm premiered at SXSW last month and was reviewed as both “the party movie of 2015” and “tolerably amusing”. So, it’s basically a must-see.

If You’re Not Already Terrified Of The Outback

Strangerland features Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes trekking into the Australian outback to find their lost teenage children. Naturally, it doesn’t go very well. This is the first film from Australian TV writer and director Kim Farrant, and debuted to a mixed reception at Sundance earlier in the year. At best, it could be a more exciting version of Australia and at worst it could be a melodramatic Wolf Creek.

The fact that Hugo Weaving plays a cop bodes well for the former.

If You Would Like To Explore BDSM Without Aggressively Face-Palming

The Duke Of Burgundy may be about BDSM, but it’s a world away from 50 Shades of Grey. First of all, it’s not big-budget, low-quality soft porn; it’s a decadent UK indie flick. Also, it’s about a relationship between two women, set in a world with basically no men.

And, while this would already be compelling in and of itself, it’s also gained extra interest for the fact BDSM has basically been outlawed in UK pornography. Essentially, what it lacks in weirdly titillated middle-aged mums, it will probably make up for in desperate British fetish seekers.

If You Would Like To Feel Deeply Upset By Everything

The Hunting Ground is a groundbreaking documentary about college sexual assault; an issue which reportedly affects one in five women in the US. This vast rape culture which the creators describe as an “endemic” is deconstructed by director Kirby Dick (The Invisible War) through testimonies, interviews and investigations on campus.

It’s probably not ideal festival viewing if you’re on a first date, but incredibly important nonetheless.

If You Want To Hear More About Indonesian Genocide

Surprisingly, that audience is not as niche as you think. In 2012, Joshua Oppenheimer made an incredible film about the members of Indonesian civilian “death squads” who carried out the genocide of around one million people in the 1960s. In its terrifying portrayal of elderly mass murderers with little to no regret for their actions, The Act of Killing was rightfully nominated for an Oscar.

Now, Oppenheimer is back to tell the story from the victims’ perspective. The Look Of Silence debuted late last year in the US to immense critical acclaim and by all accounts looks like the perfect way to round out this horrific piece of history.

If You Want A Glimpse Into The Madness Of Tom Cruise And John Travolta

Based on the book by Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief claims to expose scientology as a cult — and while that might not be shocking to the average punter, it’s actually a pretty big deal. When it aired the film as a special, HBO hired 160 lawyers and has since been met with a series of attack ads from the church itself. Cruise and Travolta are discussed at length and Vulture have called the doco “a jaw-dropping expose” akin to films like Blackfish and An Inconvenient Truth.

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This may or may not be a still from the film.*

*Sadly, it is not.

Sydney Film Festival will run from June 3-14. The full film program will be announced on May 6.