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Travel the World with the SFF (3–14 Nov) & online (12–21 Nov)


The 68th Sydney Film Festival program was officially launched today by Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. 

In 2021 the Festival will present 233 films from 69 countries, bringing together hundreds of international and local stories. There are 111 feature films, including prize-winners from prestigious festivals around the world; 50 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues from established and upcoming documentarians; and 72 shorts.  Of these films almost half are directed or co-directed by woman filmmakers.

“It is extremely unusual and fantastic to have in a single Festival program the works of so many of the great, distinctive filmmakers of our time: Pedro Almodóvar, Wes Anderson, Jacques Audiard, Jane Campion, Mark Cousins, Ildikó Enyedi, Asghar Farhadi, Miguel Gomes, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Mia Hansen-Løve, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Oliver Hermanus, Heddy Honigman, Avi Mograbi, Jafar Panahi, Rachel Perkins, Christian Petzold, Mohammad Rasoulof, Paul Schrader, Céline Sciamma, Paolo Sorrentino, Denis Villeneuve, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Frederick Wiseman, Jasmila Žbanić, Zhang Yimou and many more.”

“The Festival opens with Here Out West, stories from eight talented Western Sydney writers, directed by five powerhouse women directors, and closes with Wes Anderson’s comedy-drama The French Dispatch.”

“From Venice Best Director prize-winner Jane Campion with The Power of the Dog, to Denis Villeneuve’s star-studded reimagining of Dune, to the incendiary shock of 2021 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, this year’s program has one of the most diverse and exciting line-ups in SFF history.”

The Festival will also present SFF On Demand, a virtual offering of 56 feature-length films and 13 shorts from the wider program available to stream nationally from 12-21 November.

Closing the Festival and direct from competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes is Academy Award-nominated director Wes Anderson’s (Moonrise Kingdom, SFF 2012) ingenious comedy-drama The French Dispatch, a stylish, visually rich tribute to journalism and The New Yorker.

The film boasts a star-studded cast including Oscar nominee Bill Murray (The Dead Don’t Die, SFF 2019), Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Souvenir, SFF 2019), Oscar nominee Owen Wilson (She’s Funny That Way, SFF 2015), Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, SFF 2017) and Primetime Emmy award winner Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale).

Among the 12 competing films is The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, a period Western starring AACTA and Helpmann award winner Leah Purcell as a determined mother protecting her children. Purcell also makes her feature debut as director and writer in this searing reimagining of Henry Lawson’s classic with an Indigenous female gaze.

Cannes 2021 Palme d’Or nominees from international auteurs are: Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s (Wheel Of Fortune and Fantasy, SFF 2021) Drive My Car, an intricate adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story brimming with potent drama; and Memoria, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, SFF 2010) mystical and mysterious new film starring Tilda Swinton as a woman visiting Colombia who is haunted by a loud sound.

Also from Cannes is The Story of My Wife, Ildikó Enyedi’s (2017 Sydney Film Prize, On Body and Soul) twisted romance about a sea captain who makes a bet to marry the first woman who enters a café.

Inspired by true events, Jasmila Žbanić’s (For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, SFF 2013) Oscar-nominated thriller Quo Vadis, Aida? is a gripping look at a UN translator in Srebrenica attempting to save her family as conflict rages around them.

Grand Jury Prize Winner at Venice Film Festival, The Hand of God, is Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino’s (The Great Beautydeeply personal reflection on family, sport, love, desire, tragedy and cinema set against the backdrop of 1980s Naples.

Berlinale Golden Bear winners are: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Radu Jude’s scathing and hilarious critique of Romanian society; and There Is No Evil, banned Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s powerful take on the death penalty and its impact on Iranian society.

Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Flee is a thrilling documentary fusing animation and archival material to tell the story of a gay Afghan refugee in Denmark who kept his painful past a secret for two decades.

Undine, starring Paula Beer (Never Look Away, SFF 2019) and Franz Rogowski (Victoria, SFF 2015), combines romance and the supernatural in a European fable about a water nymph who must kill her lover if he betrays her.

Also in Competition are hilarious and poignant BAFTA nominee Limbo, about a promising young Syrian musician who is one of a group of refugees stuck on a remote Scottish island; and Petite Maman, Céline Sciamma’s (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, SFF 2019) evocative and magical tale of mothers and daughters.

Pedro Almodóvar returns with Parallel Mothers, following his triumphant Pain and Glory (SFF 2019).  The dramatic tale of motherhood and historical trauma stars Penélope Cruz who won the Best Actress prize at Venice 2021 for her performance.

Australian stories include: Wash My Soul In the River’s Flow, an enthralling musical journey through love and country based around a fertile 2004 collaboration between First Nation artists Archie Roach, the late Ruby Hunter, and Paul Grabowsky and the Australian Art Orchestra; and actor Tyler Atkins’ debut feature Bosch & Rockit, a magical father-and-son story, imbued with the salt and sun of Australia’s east coast, starring Luke Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas (That’s Not Me, SFF 2017).

Palme d’Or nominated works from acclaimed filmmakers include: multi-award-winning director Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island, set on legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s island home and starring Tim Roth (600 Mine, SFF 2015), Mia Wasikowska (Judy and Punch, SFF 2019), Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread); and Palme d’Or winner Jacques Audiard’s (A Prophet, Rust and Bone, DheepanParis, 13th District, a vibrant adaptation of Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel Killing and Dying exploring a tale of Parisian young love.

Also, Palme d’Or nominated, a film from the revered Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Lingui, The Sacred Bonds, who tells the story of a single mother whose world collapses when she discovers her teenage daughter is pregnant.

Cannes Un Certain Regard selected films include:  Blue Bayou, a moving and timely story about a family man suddenly facing deportation starring director Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, A Royal Affair, SFF 2012); and era-spanning epic Great Freedom which follows Hans, played by Franz Rogowski (Undine, SFF 2021), in his quest for love and freedom as he is repeatedly imprisoned for being gay.

Zola, nominated for a Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2020, is a girl gaze stripper saga chronicling the infamous 148-tweet thread from A’Ziah “Zola” King, which broke the internet in 2015.

12 documentaries will contest the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary.

Powerful First Nations stories include: Incarceration Nation, in which Dean Gibson (Wik vs Queensland, SFF 2018) lays bare Australia’s appalling history of Indigenous incarceration; alongside The Bowraville Murders, chronicling the epic battle for justice fought by the families of three Aboriginal children murdered 30 years ago in the rural NSW town.

Strong Female Lead, a shocking exposé of the media, public and political treatment of Julia Gillard; and Ithaka, director Ben Lawrence’s (Ghosthunter, DAF Award winner SFF 2018) powerhouse look into John Shipton’s determined public advocacy for his son, Julian Assange, are both commanding documentaries with a political focus.

A Fire Inside, a reflection on Australia’s 2019-20 bushfires and the selfless acts of everyday Aussies that inspired the nation.

Audiences can look forward to a number of hotly anticipated Hollywood titles including a Special Screening of Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s (Blade Runner 2049) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel featuring a stellar cast including Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya (Euphoria).

Dear Evan Hansen, Stephen Chbosky’s (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) adaptation of the Broadway phenomenon is a tender musical about the need for human connection, with Ben Platt (Pitch Perfect), Amy Adams (Arrival) and Julianne Moore (Maggie’s Plan, SFF 2016).

The astonishing rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker is chronicled in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, featuring barnstorming performances from Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her, SFF 2014) and Andrew Garfield (99 Homes, SFF 2015).i.

Selected for Cannes Un Certain Regard, comes a visually mesmerising film from award-winning director Tatiana Huezo with Prayers for the Stolen, a portrait of a girl growing up in a mountainous Mexican town living in fear of a shadowy cartel.

Winner of the Best Israeli First Feature, Jerusalem, Orit Fouks Rotem’s brings a striking debut featuring professional and non-professional actresses, and scripted and improvised dialogue, in Cinema Sabaya for a fascinating portrait of Arab and Jewish women connecting through cinema.

Australian features include The Justice of Bunny King, starring Australian actress Essie Davis (The Babadook, SFF 2019) in this powerful social drama about a single mother battling the system and her troubled past; and When Pomegranates Howl, Iranian-Australian filmmaker Granaz Moussavi’s (My Tehran for Sale) tale about a street-smart boy working to support his family in Kabul

Impactful features from women directors include: Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s Queer Palme and Golden Camera nominated Anaïs in Love, a delightful French romantic comedy about a young woman who begins an affair with a much older man but then falls for his wife, and Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers, who tackles the definition of motherhood through the eyes of two different women.


New to SFF, the inaugural Sustainable Future Award is a $10,000 cash prize presented to a narrative or documentary film of any length that deepens our knowledge and awareness of the impact of the global climate emergency.  The Award is philanthropically motivated and funded by a syndicate of climate activists who believe deeply in the power of film to heighten community awareness of the need for action.

Eight documentaries from around the world have been shortlisted including: Australian documentaries, A Fire Inside and Burning, both exploring the 2019-20 bushfires in very different ways, inspiring life story of an eco-warrior in The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, tales from the frontlines of climate change in The Magnitude of All Things, Jen Peedom and the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s latest collaboration River narrated by Willem Dafoe, stunningly beautiful yet shocking Georgian documentary Taming the Garden, and two from Scandinavia – Berlinale-selected From the Wild Sea and CPH:DOX-selected How to Kill a Cloud.

The Festival together with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department and in partnership with Deutsche Bank, continues its support of First Nation storytelling in 2021, showcasing important films by First Nation filmmakers from across Australia and around the world.

In Araatika: Rise Up! Australian First Nations filmmaker Larissa Behrendt (Under Skin, In Blood, SFF 2015) follows a group of NRL stars led by Dean Widders as they create a pre-game performance to meet the famous haka.

First Nation stories from around the world include: Canada-New Zealand production Night Raiders, executive produced by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, SFF 2014); a tale of Indigenous resistance set in a dystopian future where children have become the property of the state; and Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee Wild Indian, a slow-burn thriller exploring the haunting consequences of a decades old murder committed by two cousins.

Other films from First Nations filmmakers in the line-up include The Bowraville MurdersHere Out West, Incarceration Nation, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, Fist of Fury Noongar DaaRadiance, Wash My Soul in the River’s FlowDendy Awards short film finalist The Moogai and more.

In partnership with European Film Promotion, Sydney Film Festival presents the sixth annual Europe! Voices of Women in Film; a program of 10 new films from vital European women filmmakers.

Impactful debut features that come from the Cannes selection include: Pleasure, a bold drama about a young Swedish woman striving for success in LA’s ruthless porn industry; Slalom, an unflinching portrait of the abuse experienced by a teenage competitive skier at the hands of her domineering coach; and Last Days of Spring, a poignant blend of fiction and documentary exploring the plight of a family facing eviction from a Madrid shantytown.

The Family Films program returns with four family-friendly films screening in daytime sessions at the Festival.

Even Mice Belong in Heaven, brings to life the surprising friendship between a mouse and a fox through joyful animation.

Kids, tweens and teens alike will adore French comedy-mystery The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite, a time-travelling odyssey following two 12-year-old girls transported to different eras via a mysterious chest hidden in an attic.


Official Festival venues for 2021: The State TheatreEvent Cinemas George StreetDendy Cinemas Newtown, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace CremorneRitz Cinema Randwick, and Casula Powerhouse. Plus new to SFF in 2021: Palace Central BroadwayPalace Chauvel Cinema Paddington and Palace Norton Street Leichhardt.

The Festival’s outdoor screen, SFFTV @ Pitt St returns to Pitt St Mall during the Festival. Audiences can catch short films and trailers for must-see Festival films on the giant, double-sided screen.


From 12-21 November, SFF On Demand presents a selection of titles available to stream online nationally from this year’s program. 56 feature-length films and 13 shorts will be available from the Festival’s many popular film strands.  SFF Demand program and tickets available at ondemand.sff.org.au

The full Sydney Film Festival 2021 program can be found online at sff.org.au.

Sydney Film Festival runs in cinema 3–14 November 2021. SFF On Demand’s online program runs 12-21 November.  Tickets to Sydney Film Festival 2021 are on sale now. Call 1300 733 733 or visit sff.org.au for more information.

SOURCE: www.sff.org.au

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