Sydney Film Festival offers first glimpse of 70th Anniversary program

SFF23 Rachel Ward in Rachels FarmCelebrating a momentous 70 years in 2023, Sydney Film Festival has released a special preview of 12 films to be featured in this year’s June event. The announcement is in advance of the full program launch on Wednesday 10 May.

“Sydney Film Festival is thrilled to continue a 70-year strong tradition of presenting exceptional cinema from across Australia and around the world to Sydney audiences,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley.

Today the Festival announces 12 cinematic treasures for a peek of what’s in store, when over 200 feature films, documentaries and shorts are announced with the full program in May.”

“Since 1954, Sydney Film Festival has brought more than 10,000 films to Australian audiences. Year after year, the Festival continues to be a pioneer in the world of cinema, screening bold and inspiring works that provoke thought and push boundaries.”

“The 2023 program will expand on this legacy, promising to ignite stimulating dialogues and present powerful ideas that will broaden audience perspectives,” said Moodley.

Included in the Festival’s sneak peek are two new Australian documentaries and a feature film from New Zealand. Rachel’s Farm follows actor-director Rachel Ward (Palm Beach, SFF 2019) as she revitalises her northern NSW beef farm using sustainable farming practices.

In The Last Daughter Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthews documents her search to uncover the truth about her government-ordered abduction as a child, and find her white foster family. Both Brenda Matthews and Rachel Ward will attend the Festival to present their documentaries.

New Zealand comedy Red, White & Brass, directed by Damon Fepulea’i and executive produced by Taika Waititi, is based on the true story of Tongan rugby superfans who trick their way to the Rugby World Cup by volunteering to be the marching band, despite having never played.

International award-winning films in this first drop include No Bears by director Jafar Panahi (Tehran Taxi, SFF 2015; Three Faces, SFF 2018), who is banned from making films in his home country of Iran. The film won the Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize.

Another notable addition to the line-up is 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.

Celebrated names of the silver screen include Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers, SFF 2021) starring in L’immensità as a mother with marital troubles, alongside her child embracing his gender identity in 1970s Rome. The film is a deeply autobiographical work from director Emanuele Crialese.

While legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman (City Hall, SFF 2021) delivers a rare narrative work about the turbulent relationship between literary giants Leo and Sophia Tolstoy in A Couple.

Highly anticipated documentary Subject explores the impact of documentaries on their onscreen participants – and including those involved in high profile documentaries The StaircaseThe WolfpackCapturing the FriedmansHoop Dreams and The Square.  The film also raises important questions about the responsibility documentarians have towards their participants.

The Festival line-up includes powerful stories that chronicle resistance against government systems. Bobi Wine: The People’s President is a documentary that follows the journey of the Ugandan musician turned politician campaigning to end the country’s dictatorship.

And in While We Watched, director Vinay Shukla (An Insignificant Man, SFF 2017) documents the struggle of award-winning Indian journalist Ravish Kumar against misinformation and political power as he fights to uphold independent reporting. Shukla will be attending the Festival to present his documentary to Sydney audiences.

Lav Diaz (Season of the Devil, SFF 2018) explores another power system in the drama When the Waves Are Gone, about two policemen on a collision course in the Philippines.

Finally, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a debut film by director Pierre Földes, is an animated adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story collection of the same name.

The 70th Sydney Film Festival runs 7 – 16 June 2023. Full program will be announced on Wednesday 10 May. Flexipasses and subscriptions are now on sale. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Rachel Ward in Rachel’s Farm – courtesy of Sydney Film Festival