Sydney Film Festival announces full program for 70th anniversary festival

SFF23-The-New-BoyFeaturing 239 films from 67 countries including 37 World premieres and 123 Australian premieres, the momentous 70th Sydney Film Festival program has been officially launched by Festival Director Nashen Moodley.

“A film festival is a gathering of diverse perspectives that offers a collective snapshot of the global zeitgeist, allowing us to delve deeper into our present reality,” said Festival Director Nashen Moodley.

“For 70 years, Sydney Film Festival has been privileged to capture and embody these moments, presenting a rich tapestry of stories that reflect our shared desire to understand the world we live in.”

“The 2023 Festival program stands as a testament to its ambitious vision, showcasing a dynamic and expansive line-up of both emerging and established filmmakers from around the world.”

“Through their thought-provoking films, they offer us an invitation to reflect on our shared humanity and contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead.”

“As we celebrate our 70th milestone, we extend our gratitude to the city and people of Sydney, whose unwavering curiosity and passion for cinema have made this festival into an inclusive and welcoming platform for filmmakers and film enthusiasts alike.”

“Join us once again at The Hub, offering immersive filmmaker talks, panels, and film-themed parties. Grab a drink and enjoy a special archive exhibition, celebrating 70 years of Sydney Film Festival and showcasing the remarkable intersection of world and cinema history,” said Moodley.

In 2023, the Festival brings together hundreds of new international and local stories, with more to still be announced. The program is made up of 90 narrative feature films, including prestigious international festival prize-winners and 54 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues, from established and upcoming documentarians.

On offer is a bumper line-up featuring the Australian premieres of new films including Warwick Thornton’s latest masterpiece The New Boy, starring Cate Blanchett; Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City; Celine Song’s highly anticipated Past Lives; films direct from the Cannes Competition by masters Aki Kaurismäki, Wim Wenders, and Kore-eda Hirokazu; actor Alice Englert’s directorial feature debut Bad Behaviour; and many more.

The 2023 Festival opens with the Australian Premiere of The New Boy – a captivating new film by Cannes Caméra d’Or winning Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton, and produced by Dirty Films and Scarlett Pictures.

The Cannes-selected feature tells a story of spirituality and survival set in 1940s Australia, starring Cate Blanchett, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair and newcomer Aswan Reid. Director Warwick Thornton and producer Kath Shelper will attend opening night to present their film.

For the 15th year, the Official Competition will award the $60,000 cash Sydney Film Prize to a film that demonstrates audacious, cutting-edge and courageous cinema. The competition is endorsed by FIAPF, the regulating body for international film festivals, and is judged by a jury of international and Australian filmmakers and industry professionals.

Australian films competing are the Opening Night film The New Boy and the World Premiere of The Dark Emu Story. This revelatory documentary explores the ground-breaking work of Bruce Pascoe, whose best-selling book challenged Australia’s historical narrative and revolutionised our understanding of traditional Aboriginal life.

Directed by Allan Clarke and produced by Blackfella Films, The Dark Emu Story dives deep into the controversy surrounding Pascoe’s claims, offering a platform for First Nations peoples to share their untold stories.

Internationally awarded films in competition at SFF include Christian Petzold’s (Undine, SFF 2021; Barbara, SFF 2012) Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winning feature Afire, about four young people trapped in a holiday house as a wild fire draws near; and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Scrapper, Charlotte Regan’s joyous debut about a 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone in London until her estranged father (Harris Dickinson, Triangle of Sadness, SFF 2022) turns up.

Direct from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival competition will be: Monster, an intense drama from Kore-eda Hirokazu (Shoplifters, SFF 2018; Broker, SFF 2022), told through multiple perspectives; and Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki’s compassionate comedy Fallen Leaves.

Also screening straight from Cannes is Cobweb, Kim Jee-woon’s (A Tale of Two SistersThe Age of Shadows) film about a director obsessed with re-shooting the end of his completed film; and Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies, that melds fact, fiction and figurines to lay bare a hidden personal and national history.

Sundance-selected gems include Alice Englert’s directorial debut feature Bad Behaviour, a dark New Zealand-produced comedy starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw, Dasha Nekrasova and Englert herself; and Celine Song’s Sundance and Berlinale 2023 selected tender romance, Past Lives.

Liu Jian’s 2023 Berlinale-selected animation Art College 1994 will also screen in competition alongside Devashish Makhija’s Joram, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about an on the run labourer in Mumbai.

The winner of the Sydney Film Prize is announced at the Festival’s Closing Night Gala on Sunday 18 June. Previous winners include Close (2022), There Is No Evil (2021), Parasite (2019), The Heiresses (2018), On Body and Soul (2017), Aquarius (2016), Arabian Nights (2015); Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011); Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).

10 documentaries (including three World Premieres and three Australian Premieres) will contest the 2023 Documentary Australia Award. World Premieres include The Defenders, a headline grabbing story of former Socceroos Captain Craig Foster as he fights to rescue the life of fellow player Hakeem al-Araibi; The Cape, about the mysterious tragedies in Australia’s Cape York from Emmy and previous SFF award winner Michael Ware (Only The Dead, SFF 2015); and  Isabel Darling’s The Carnival, an epic road trip with a sixth-generation carnival family.

Climate Changers documents Australian scientist and conservationist Tim Flannery on his global search for genuine leadership on climate change; Indigenous actor Mark Coles Smith returns home to the Kimberley to interrogate the alarming suicide rates there in Keeping Hope; and Kindred, filmmakers Gillian Moody and Adrian Russell Wills’ personal journey into the emotional landscape of family, love and loss.

Australian Premieres include Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winning short Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) about a road trip back to Country for Yankunytjatjara artist Derik Lynch; and Rachel’s Farm which follows actor-director Rachel Ward (Palm Beach, SFF 2019) as she revitalises her northern NSW beef farm using sustainable farming practices.

Also in the running: Australian filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Chasing Buddha, SFF 2000, Dendy Award winner; Hail, SFF 2011; Ruin, SFF 2014) examines society’s approach to death and dying in Man on Earth; and The Last Daughter documents Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthews’ search to uncover the truth about her government-ordered abduction as a child.

Minister for the Arts John Graham said the Sydney Film Festival is a highlight in Sydney’s cultural calendar, connecting audiences to world-class cinema and celebrating a diverse range of established and emerging filmmakers.

“The NSW Government is proud to support the Sydney Film Festival as it celebrates its 70th season. As one of the world’s longest running festivals it continues to present courageous, audacious and cutting-edge films and provides a launch pad for countless filmmakers,” he said.

“The highly-regarded Screenability program continues to profile the immense talents of filmmakers identifying with disability, while the Travelling Film Festival brings audiences together throughout NSW to enjoy the festival experience.”

“I invite everyone to immerse themselves in cinema and celebrate everything our premier Film Festival has to offer,” said Mr Graham.

The 70th Sydney Film Festival runs 7 – 18 June 2023. For more information, full program and to book tickets, visit: for details.

Image: The New Boy – courtesy of Sydney Film Festival