Sydney Film Festival announces first films for 2017

SFF SpookersThe 64th Sydney Film Festival has announced 28 prominent new films to be featured in this year’s June event, and the first of over 150 Festival guests: award-winning British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, director of the hotly anticipated Whitney Houston documentary Whitney ‘Can I Be Me’.

Also revealed in advance of the full program launch of 200+ films on Wednesday 10 May is a new Festival location: Randwick’s iconic Ritz Cinema.

“These films bring together thousands of talents and perspectives from across the globe, to create a lens – a way of looking at and experiencing aspects of the world and ourselves,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. “And it’s as entertaining as it is enlightening.”

“From the view backstage with Whitney Houston to the view from the top in Mountain or An American Werewolf in London viewed through the windscreen of your car, the 2017 Festival is a collection of film from every angle, from everywhere, for every kind of film lover.”

Leading the titles announced today in the Festival’s sneak peek is high-profile documentary Whitney ‘Can I Be Me’, Nick Broomfield’s never-before-seen backstage look at the height of six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston’s stardom. Also topping the list are non-traditional horror A Ghost Story, starring Oscar winner Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Filipino independent filmmaker Lav Diaz’s haunting drama The Woman Who Left, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The first of many Festival guests to be announced is award-winning filmmaker Nick Broomfield (Whitney ‘Can I Be Me’) who is renowned for his iconoclastic documentaries Kurt & Courtney, Biggie and Tupac, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Soldier Girls and the dramas Battle for Haditha and Ghosts. He will also be presenting an industry masterclass at the Festival.

Highly anticipated true stories include Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro – a timely perspective on race in America using the words of James Baldwin narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Controversial post-apartheid South African first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela gets an extensive portrait in Winnie, and Rumble: Indians Who Rocked the World is a celebratory examination of Native American musicians and their role in the development of American popular music. Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, SFF 2008) star in Maudie, based on the life story of Canada’s best known folk artist Maud Lewis.

Closer to home, the Festival will premiere the new Australian feature That’s Not Me – a hilarious local indie with a strong Australian cast including Isabel Lucas and actor-writer-producer Alice Foulcher. Mountain is a new documentary from acclaimed Australian director Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, SFF 2015) with a score created by Richard Tognetti and performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Controversial documentary The Opposition is finally screening at Sydney Film Festival after being suppressed by a court order last year, as well as Spookers – a look into the inner workings of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest horror theme park and the tight-knit New Zealand family who run it.

In 2017 the Festival will continue to bring films from the world’s top film festivals to venues across Sydney including for the first time at Randwick’s Ritz Cinema – celebrating its 80th birthday this year. The State Theatre, Dendy Opera Quays, the Art Gallery of NSW, Event Cinemas George Street, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Dendy Newtown, Casula Powerhouse, and the Skyline Drive In Blacktown return as official festival screening venues. An expanded virtual reality program will also pop up at the Festival Hub at Sydney Town Hall premiering cutting edge films.

Of the 28 films announced in the preview, 14 are new features and 13 are new documentaries, including 16 Australian Premieres and one retrospective.  The retrospective being cult classic Oscar-winning horror comedy An American Werewolf in London, directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers), screening under the full moon at the Skyline Drive In on Friday 16 June.

Prestigious new features included in the preview are Amat Escalante’s imaginative drama The Untamed, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Best Direction. Cristian Mungiu’s tale of moral compromise, Graduation won the filmmaker the Best Director Prize at Cannes 2016, and Afghanistan’s first female director Shahrbanoo Sadat’s debut feature Wolf and Sheep won the Art Cinema Award at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.

Documentary prize-winners include Nowhere to Hide (main award-winner at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), and three winners from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; Winnie, Motherland, and Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.

Other feature highlights include delightful family animation, the Oscar-nominated My Life as a Zucchini, voiced by Ellen Page (Juno), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Will Forte (Saturday Night Live), and Malaysia’s answer to Kill Bill, Mrs K, with an all-star cast including Hong Kong’s leading lady Kara Wai, Taiwanese rockstar Wu Bai, and martial arts film legend Lau Wing.

Outstanding documentaries remain essential to the Festival, and this year’s program has many award-winners and enthralling themes from factual filmmakers around the world. Untitled is the final film of the late Michael Glawogger (Whores’ Glory, SFF 2012), created after his death by collaborator Monika Willi.

Slovenian metal band Laibach and their Latvian-Norwegian film crew get unprecedented access into North Korea in Liberation Day, and Hoop Dreams director Steve James’s David vs Goliath tale Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a story about America’s financial crisis that actually manages to paint a bank as the small guys.

The 2017 Sydney Film Festival runs 7 – 18 June. The full program will be announced on Wednesday 10 May. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Spookers (supplied)