The Sydney Film Festival programme can be an intimidating beast. There is an amazing array of films from around the world on offer, and it can be tough knowing where to start. Hopefully this post can be of some assistance.
Chris Elena and I have picked 10 films that we think you might want to consider seeing. We haven’t picked any of the official competition films, because we think it goes without saying that all of those films are worth seeing. They’re playing in competition for a reason after all. We’ve picked films we think look interesting because of the people involved, the topic/story, or the reception they have received overseas.
Check out our 10 picks after the jump.
I Am Divine (Jeffrey Schwarz, 2013)
Considering the very large and diverse number of documentaries being shown at this year’s festival, it’d be criminal to not mention at least one that’s worth checking out. My pick is I Am Divine, focused on performer, Divine, a humble and exuberant gentleman who occasionally dressed in drag and proved to be a muse for acclaimed film-maker John Waters. Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead headlined Walter’s first film, Pink Flamingo’s. Being a huge John Waters fan, this humble looking account of the renowned performer looks unmissable. Screens: Sat 15 June, 9.30pm @ Event George St & Sun 16 June, 9.15pm @ Event George St.
Outrage Beyond (Takeshi Kitano, 2012)
Written, directed, edited AND starring famed film-maker and star Takeshi Kitano, Outrage Beyond is about a nationwide war on the streets ignited by a police crackdown on the yakuza. How could one not be excited beyond? Any doubters needn’t look any further than Kitano’s other work. Outrage Beyond played at the Venice Film Festival last year to great acclaim. Screens: Weds 5 June, 8pm @ Dendy Opera Quay & Fri 7 June, 8.30pm @ Dendy Opera Quays.
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, 2013)
Upstream Color is Writer/Director Shane Caruth’s first feature film effort in almost nine years since his début, Primer. The trailer, story and clear ambition of this film make it more than worthy for a recommendation for Sydney Film Festival. In a time when the multiplexes are flooded with predictable film-making, something ambitious and strange needs to be acknowledged and seen. Screens: Sat 15 June, 2.15pm @ State Theatre & Sun 16 June, 9.45pm @ Event George St.
The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, 2013)
What just might be the best ensemble of actors seen in any film being released this year, with the likes of Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Maya Rudolph; The Way, Way Back is the directorial début from Nat Faxton and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants. It looks sweet, funny and above all genuine. A tale about growing up and recognising who you are through your mentors and inspirations. How could one resist? Screens: Thurs 6 June, 9.30pm @ State Theatre & Mon 10 June, 4.15pm @ Event George St.
You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011)
Being an aficionado of intelligent and original horror films, I feel there is something about You’re Next that says it might just fall into that small group of amazing horror films that are scary, entertaining and in some way ahead of their time. This has been recommended to me from many who have referred to it as “This generation’s Scream“. Considering the state of horror films in this day and age, You’re Next could prove to be the horror film we need! Screens: Fri 7 June, 8.30pm @ Event George St & Thur 13 June @ Event George St.
Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, 2012)
A re-imagining of Snow White that is beautiful ode to European silent films of the 1920s? Well colour me intrigued. Blancanieves sees Snow White transported to Spain where bullfighting, flamenco dancing are mixed in with traditional story elements such as the all important evil step mother and of course, the dwarves. If you’re going to re-tell a classic, then you do something different or don’t bother. This looks different. Screens: Tues 11 June, 8.30pm @ State Theatre & Fri 14 June, 8pm @ Hayden Orpheum & Sat 15 June, 4.15pm @ Event George St.
Dirty Wars ( Richard Rowley, 2013)
Winner of the cinematography award for U.S Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Dirty Wars explores the increasing use of covert operations and night-time raids in places such as Afghanistan. Rowley sheds light on horrific truths hiding in plan site, in particular focusing on the Joint Special Operations Command. A film which seems like it will cause you to question who the bad guys really are. I expect this to be a hard-hitting and tense watch. Screens: Weds 5 June, 6pm @ Dendy Opera Quays & Sat 8 June, 12pm @ Events George St.
Muscle Shoals (Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier, 2013)
I do love me a good music documentary. There is nothing quite like hearing music you love pumped out of the cinema speakers, while you learn secrets and histories about it. If the walls in the Muscle Shoals sound studios in Alabama could talk, boy they would have some stories. Thankfully artists, locals and employees at the recording studio are doing the talking for us. Wilson Pickett’s ‘Mustang Sally’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Never Loved a Man’, The Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ are only a few of the incredible songs recorded there. The film won the audience award at the recent Hot Docs documentary film festival in Canada. Screens: Weds 5 June, 6.30pm @ Event George St & Sun 9 June, 4.30pm @ Event George St.
The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013)
In his follow-up to the Oscar-winning A Separation, Farhadi has again created a thoughtful, intimate and powerful drama about family, relationships, obligation and love. The Past has just screened at Cannes where it has received very warm praise. I have no doubt that this will be a beautiful film that stirs many emotions. Screens: Sat 15 June, 9pm @ State Theatre & Sun 16 June, 12pm @ Event George St.
Pluto (Shin Su-won, 2012)
No one does mind-games quite like the Koreans. Whether it’s something weird or something seriously creepy, they are masters of suspense and surprise. In Pluto dive into the inner going ons of an élite Korean high school where the students will do anything to get into the top-tier universities. Throw in a whole lots of secrets and a murder, and you have the recipe for a suspenseful thriller. Screens: Fri 14 Jun, 8.30pm @ Dendy Opera Quays & Sat 15 June, 4Pm @ Dendy Opera Quays.