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:: Spotlight :: 2015 Sydney Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The 62nd Sydney Film Festival (SFF) program was recently launched by the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant. "The NSW Government is once again proud to support this amazing festival, an event that has cemented itself in Sydney’s winter entertainment calendar,” said Mr Grant. “I’m also extremely proud that these films will be seen by more and more people in regional NSW, as the Festival goes on its regional tour later this year.” The SFF runs from June 3-14, 2015.

Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley stated, “Sydney Film Festival has gone from strength to strength over recent years, with attendances increasing over 42% since 2011 to 156,000. As well as adding two new screening venues in Newtown and Liverpool, the numbers of titles to be screened have jumped from 183 last year to 251 this year. They come from 68 countries, up from 47 last year and we are pleased to present 33 World Premieres, up from 15 in 2014. Through the Festival, audiences, critics, creators and curators alike experience new countries, cultures, and perspectives, together. In so many ways, we are made of movies; we’ve grown up through cinema, come to know ourselves, our community and other communities; and the Festival celebrates these contributions to our collective culture.”

OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHTS
The 2015 Festival reflects a strong year for Australian cinema, leading with the World Premieres of Ruben Guthrie, Brendan Cowell’s adaptation of his hit play starring Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimitriades, Abbey Lee, Jack Thompson and Robyn Nevin; and Neil Armfield’s Holding the Man, staring Ryan Corr, Anthony LaPaglia, Guy Pearce, and Sarah Snook. These two highly anticipated Australian feature films will open (Opening Night Gala is presented by Distinguished Partner Lexus Australia) and close the Festival; only the fourth time in the Festival’s 62-year history Australian films have done so.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION
Of the 12 titles in the internationally recognised SFF Official Competition, three are Australian; repeating last year’s record for Australian entries. Two Australian feature debuts have been selected; the World Premiere of The Daughter, starring Geoffrey Rush, Mirando Otto, Ewen Leslie and Sam Neill, directed by leading Australian theatre director Simon Stone; and Strangerland, an outback-set thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving directed by Kim Farrant; as well as the World Premiere of Sherpa, a documentary directed by Jennifer Peedom exploring the cultural relationship between Sherpas and Mount Everest in the face of disaster.

Now in its eighth year, the Official Competition awards the Sydney Film Prize and $60,000 in cash in recognition of courageous, audacious and cutting-edge cinema, presented at the Closing Night Gala. Previous Prize winners include: Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011), which went on to win an Academy Award; Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).

PREMIERES
World Premieres will screen for Australian films Women He’s Undressed, Gillian Armstrong’s documentary about Academy Award-winning Australian Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly; Jeremy Sims’ feature film Last Cab to Darwin starring Michael Caton and Jacki Weaver; and three documentaries in the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary: The Cambodian Space Project – Not Easy Rock ’n’ Roll, Freedom Stories and Wide Open Sky.

The 62nd Sydney Film Festival will screen 251 films from 68 countries, with 33 World Premieres (including 22 World Premiere short films), 135 Australian Premieres (including 18 Australian Premiere short films) and 4 International Premieres.

FESTIVAL VENUES
The Festival’s footprint has grown, with more venues than ever this year. The State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Cinemas Opera Quays, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Art Gallery of NSW, and Skyline Drive-In Blacktown return; with new venues Dendy Cinemas Newtown and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre added to the program.

Free public Meet the Filmmaker talks return to the Apple Store Sydney, where writers, directors, producers and actors discuss their latest projects and answer questions. Australian filmmakers Jeremy Sims and Michael Caton (Last Cab to Darwin), Brendan Cowell and Kath Shelper (Ruben Guthrie), Kim Farrant (Strangerland) and Simon Stone (The Daughter) are among the line-up.

The Festival’s Outdoor Screen at Martin Place Amphitheatre returns for the fifth year, with animated shorts selected by guest programmer Malcolm Turner. The big screen at Martin Place will be an integral part of Vivid Sydney again, with spectacular light installations and other attractions illuminating the night.

FILMS FROM CANNES
The Festival will screen eight films direct from Cannes. Japanese director Hirozaku Kore-ada’s Our Little Sister screens in Cannes’ Official Selection. Both Arabian Nights, director Miguel Gomes’ epic follow-up to Tabu, and American indie comedy Dope screen in Directors’ Fortnight. Amy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary about Amy Winehouse, will have a midnight screening at Cannes; and Sembene!, a documentary about the great African filmmaker, screens in Cannes Classics. The Guests and Ave Maria are part of Cannes’ shorts competition; and Share is selected for Cannes’ Cin√©fondation selection of student works.

OTHER FILM PROGRAMMING
The Festival’s diverse film programs promise cinematic treasures every day of the event, from the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, showcasing 10 outstanding Australian documentary premieres; to 15 big-ticket films in Special Presentations at The State, presented by Princess Cruises. There are also 46 feature films from prize-winners of the world’s most prestigious festivals; and 35 international documentaries tacking the essential topics of our day, from some of the world’s most renowned documentarians.

An all-new Animation Showcase, curated by specialist Malcolm Turner, features animated gems from all over the world. The newly expanded Family Films program brings four festival-quality feature-length films and a program of animated shorts. Sounds on Screen again celebrates and tells the stories of inspiring music and musicians through a selection of seven films. The Box Set is a two-part premiere of The Secret River, an important Australian story based on the multi-award winning book.

The Festival together with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department again presents Screen: Black, a Festival platform to tell significant indigenous stories. This year, the program includes Pitch Black Shorts, a program of seven new shorts from an array of important Indigenous filmmakers; and Songlines on Screen, in conjunction with NITV, presenting six shorts displaying the full spectrum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling, including dance, song, art, body painting and sites of significance.

The Sydney Film Festival’s retrospective program is spearheaded this year by Essential Bergman: Selected by David Stratton, offering audiences a chance to see 10 of the Swedish great Ingmar Bergman’s films on the big screen. Four great classic Restorations of international cinema, and a focus on Destruction Cinema, five films from the ’60s and ’70s embracing the art of social demolition, complete the retrospective experience for 2015.

South African cinema, 21 years after the advent of democracy, is presented for this year’s country focus. Festival Director Nashen Moodley shares five important films showing a snapshot of his home country’s most vibrant offerings.

The Freak Me Out program returns with seven shocking films to Event Cinemas George Street as well as a new home, Dendy Newtown; plus a double feature of ’50s horror classics Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Them!, screening at both Skyline Drive-In Blacktown and Dendy Newtown.

28 exquisite short films will also be screened before feature-length films throughout the Festival. Ten finalists in the Dendy Awards, Australia’s longest running short film competition, now in its 46th year, will also screen over two sessions on 13 and 14 June. Three prize winners will be announced at the Festival’s Closing Night, together with the Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award.

THE HUB
The nucleus of the Festival, the Hub returns to Sydney’s Town Hall for a fourth year. Open to the public all nights, and select days, from June 4-13, The Hub is a lounge, gallery, bar and festival party space. Featuring music, design and film-related entertainment, highlights of the Hub include: the Sydney Contemporary video-art exhibition, showcasing unique works by Australian and internationally celebrated artists; Foxtel Movies Blue Screen; the Herman Miller Collection Lounge; and Program Gurus to consult on the Festival films and activities. Parties include: the Studio 54 Disco Party, following a screening of 54: The Director’s Cut; the Beach Boys-themed Mercy Me! party, following the premiere of Love and Mercy; and the National Film and Sound Archive’s The Vinyl Lounge, sharing rare and fascinating records from the archive.

Talks and panels in the Treasury Room at the Hub tackle topics as diverse as The Return of Can Documentaries Change the World? and Why Do We Need to Engage with Difficult Films? to The History of Animation and a Horror Tragic Talkfest. They are led by specialist Festival guests, from filmmakers to programmers, industry, critics, and media, including film critic Margaret Pomeranz.

Upstairs at Town Hall, the Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture returns with David Stratton and producer Jan Chapman in conversation, Monday June 8 at 4.00pm; and Margaret and David presenting The Films We Love: The Neglected and the Unexpected, Sunday June 7 at 3.30pm.

Vivid Ideas and Sydney Film Festival will co-present a special talk, Alex Gibney: In Conversation with the internationally acclaimed documentarian at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday June 7 at 11.00am. The discussion will explore the nature of telling complex, real-world stories, and delve into how Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, premiering in Australia at the Festival, became the one of the most-watched HBO documentaries in years. Gibney is one of the world’s most prolific and controversial filmmakers (We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, SFF 2014). His film Mr Dynamite: The Story of James Brown, will also premiere at the Festival in 2015.

For more information, visit

www.sff.org.au