Sydney Film Festival reveals 2018 program

SFF The Breaker UpperersFeaturing 326 films from 65 countries including 21 World Premieres, the 65th Sydney Film Festival program has been officially announced by Festival Director Nashen Moodley, bringing together hundreds of international and local stories this June.

“Since 1954, the Sydney Film Festival has brought over 9,000 of the best films from around the globe to Australian audiences; a canon we are proud to expand on 65 years later,” said Sydney Film Festival Director, Nashen Moodley.

“Over the years, much has changed in cinema, and indeed the world. What remains constant is the need for understanding. In an increasingly fragmented society, the Festival continues to unite friends and strangers, creating new experiences and ways to interpret the wider world.”

“In a year that has highlighted the inequalities facing women across society and in the film industry, the Festival is also pleased to announce that six out of 12 Official Competition films this year are directed by women filmmakers.”

The 2018 Festival opens with the Australian premiere of The Breaker Upperers – a side-splittingly funny New Zealand film from writers-directors-stars Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami. The comedy follows two cynical misfits earning a living breaking up unhappy couples for cash by faking deaths, impersonating cops and strippers, and feigning pregnancies.

Closing the Festival is heartwarming indie comedy Hearts Beat Loud – starring Golden Globe winning Australian actress Toni Collette and Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, about an ageing hipster dad forming an unlikely band with his reluctant, talented daughter played by Kiersey Clemons.

The Festival’s diverse film program promises cinematic treasures to be discovered every day. From the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, showcasing 10 exceptional Australian documentaries; to 15 big-ticket films in Special Presentations at The State.

There are also 120 feature films, including prize-winners from prestigious festivals around the world; and 57 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues, from the world’s most renowned documentarians. For the 11th year, the Official Competition will award the $60,000 cash Sydney Film Prize for audacious, cutting-edge and courageous cinema.

Among the 12 films selected to compete are Australian feature Jirga – shot entirely in war-torn Afghanistan, from Australian Benjamin Gilmour, and straight from the Cannes Competition BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee’s latest feature based on the remarkable true story of an African-American cop who successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

Also screening in Competition are exciting new films from acclaimed directors Milko Lazarov (Ága), Laura Bispuri (Daughter of Mine), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), Kamila Andini (The Seen and Unseen), Christian Petzold (Transit), and Annemarie Jacir (Wajib).

The competition also carries debut films from breaking talents Paraguayan director Marcelo Martinessi (The Heiresses), Hungarian female filmmaker Zsófia Szilágyi (One Day), and a debut documentary about Sri Lankan-born pop star and activist M.I.A., by London-based digital artist Stephen Loveridge (Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.).

Ten documentaries (including seven world premieres) will contest the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, from I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story – a film about four obsessive fangirls whose lives were changed forever by their love of boybands, to China Love – a fascinating exploration of contemporary China through the billion-dollar fantasy world of pre-wedding photography.

Other Australian stories competing include: Backtrack Boys, Dying to Live, Finke: There & Back, Ghosthunter, In the Land of Wolves, Oyster, RocKabul and Teach a Man to Fish.

Returning to the Festival is Screenability – an exciting platform for screen practitioners with disability in partnership with Create NSW and the Department of Family and Community Services. Curated by Guest Programmer Sofya Gollan, six cutting edge works will be showcased: features The Sign for Love and Stuttering – My Constant Companion, and short films Broken, Intimate Encounters 20 Years On, Tip of My Tongue, and To Know Him – all by filmmakers with disability.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, together with the Festival, presents First Nations: A Celebration. The program will showcase new documentaries and short films by First Nation filmmakers from across Australia and around the world, alongside From Little Things Big Things Grow – a retrospective of short films funded by Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department.

Sydney Film Festival’s terrifying Freak Me Out program will visit The Randwick Ritz for the first time for a special sneak peek of cyberpunk-horror action thriller Upgrade from Australian genre maestro Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious). The program of seven weird and whacked-out films, curated by Richard Kuipers, also includes The Field Guide to Evil – a foray into global folklore’s darkest corners by the creators of The ABCs of Death; zingy punk rock slasher The Ranger; and Brazilian arthouse werewolf drama Good Manners.

Artist Shaun Gladwell and producer Leo Faber from collective BADFAITH have curated a VR program of 17 highly immersive, world-class VR films across seven packages. With incredible Australian works alongside selections from prominent film festivals around the world, the films will expand imaginations with music-making robots, ceremonial bush-punk performances in the Outback, and an astral journey through space alongside NASA astronauts.

New to the Festival is FLUX: Art+Film – eight titles from artists who challenge and transform the cinema experience, selected by guest curator Bridget Ikin. Two innovative Australian films will push the boundaries between art and film: the world premiere of [CENSORED] – a provocative world premiere Australian documentary stitched together entirely from footage previously cut by Australian censors, and blistering cinema mash-up Terror Nullius, from political art collective Soda_Jerk.

The Sydney Film Festival’s retrospective program Essential Kaurismäki: Selected by David Stratton gives audiences a chance to see 10 films by the great, off-beat Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki, from Crime and Punishment (1983) to Le Havre (2011).

The heart and soul of the Festival are the filmmakers and guests, whose wide range of knowledge, skills, talents and points of view come together to create films that open a window into other worlds and experiences. The FREE Festival Talks create a space for audiences, filmmakers and industry professionals to progress a dialogue about the important topics and issues of the year, addressed in Festival films.

The 2018 Sydney Film Festival runs 6 – 17 June. For more information and to view complete program, visit: for details.

Image: The Breaker Upperers (film still) – courtesy of Sydney Film Festival