Sydney Film Festival announces first films for 2024

SFF The PoolThe 71st Sydney Film Festival has announced a sneak peek of 17 new films and events to be featured in this year’s Festival. The announcement is in advance of the full program launch on Wednesday 8 May 2024.

“This first look at the 2024 program delves into the profound and the peculiar, from remarkable true stories to works of fiction and ingenious hybrid films that land somewhere in between,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley.

“This selection, though diverse in setting and scope, reveals some common themes: resilience foremost amongst them. These films offer a taste of a Festival program rich with discovery and insight, poised to captivate and inspire.”

Two new Australian films having their world premiere feature in the Festival’s first drop. In Vitro is the highly anticipated feature from directors Will Howarth and Tom McKeith (Beast, SFF 2016) and stars Ashley Zukerman (Succession) in an Australian sci-fi mystery thriller set on a remote cattle farm in the near future.

In The Pool, director Ian Darling (The Final Quarter, SFF 2019) paints a cinematic portrait of a year in the life of the iconic Bondi Icebergs, the pool and the people who cherish it. Will Howarth, Tom McKeith and Ian Darling will attend the Festival to present their films.

From New Zealand comes the directorial debut of actor Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), The Mountain. Executive produced by Taika Waititi, the film centres on three children discovering friendship’s healing power through the spirit of adventure as they trek through spectacular New Zealand landscapes. The film will be eligible for the recently announced First Nations Award, offering the largest cash prize for First Nations filmmaking in the world.

International festival prize-winners in the first release of films include winner of the Golden Shell for Best Film at San Sebastián, The Rye Horn, a story of a rural Galician midwife who flees after an illegal abortion goes awry.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Venice, legendary filmmaker Agnieszka Holland’s (Europa, Europa, SFF 1991; Spoor, SFF 2017) refugee thriller Green Border raised the ire of some Polish politicians and inspired protests before setting a box office record.

Winner of the Silver Bear at Berlinale 2024, Pepe tells the true-ish story of Pepe the hippo who broke free of Pablo Escobar’s private zoo, featuring narration from the multilingual hippo himself.

Explanation for Everything is a Hungarian satire about the culture wars where a student accidentally becomes a figurehead for the right when he is embroiled in a national scandal. The film won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival.

Explanation for Everything director Gábor Reisz and Pepe director Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias will attend the Festival to present their films.

One of the hits of Berlinale 2024, Sex follows two married and ostensibly heterosexual chimneysweeps who are unmoored when one of them sleeps with a man and the other begins to question the recurring dreams he’s been having about David Bowie.

Another offbeat tale in the Festival line-up is the documentary, The Contestant – an incredible true story of a TV contestant left naked in a room, unaware his months-long challenge was being broadcast to millions via a Japanese television show. The film’s director Clair Titley and the contestant himself Tomoaki Hamatsu (aka Nasubi) will attend the Festival as guests.

Gastronomes and enthusiasts of kitchen-centric storytelling will find their appetites whetted by the Festival’s initial film offerings. Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros sees Festival favourite Frederick Wiseman (City Hall, SFF 2021) return with a mouth-watering epic set in a three-Michelin-star French restaurant.

From Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios (A Cop Movie, SFF 2021), La Cocina stars Rooney Mara and Raúl Briones in a comedic drama set during the hectic lunch rush at a New York restaurant.

House of the Seasons is an intergenerational family saga set in a tofu factory in Daegu, Korea. The film was an award-winning highlight of the Busan International Film Festival.

Stories of resilience feature with two documentaries. COPA ’71 presents the untold story of the 1971 Women’s Soccer World Cup and exposes systemic sexism with governing bodies determined to undermine women’s soccer.

The Battle for Laikipia explores the tensions in Kenya’s Laikipia region among herders, landholders, and conservationists against a backdrop of drought, politics, and colonial history.

A special film and live music event not to be missed, Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser will give audiences the opportunity to experience Clive Barker’s 1987 extra-dimensional horror classic, re-scored live by EBM explorers Hieroglyphic Being and Robin Fox, and a synched laser-art show at City Recital Hall.

Other highlights announced include Olivier Assayas’ (Irma Vep, SFF 1997; Personal Shopper SFF 2016) most personal film yet, Suspended Time, about art, memory, and love in the time of COVID; and Oscar-nominated Pawo Choyning Dorji’s The Monk and The Gun, which takes place in rural Bhutan during the lead-up to his country’s first-ever election.

The 71st Sydney Film Festival runs 5 – 16 June 2024. Full program will be announced on Wednesday 8 May. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: The Pool (supplied)