With 244 films screening, picking which films to see at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival can be an overwhelming experience. We’ve combed through the impressive programme and have selected 12 films we think are must-sees at this year’s festival. The films we have picked included Afghani cinefiles, a vampire-mermaid, an escape into virtual reality, and Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse.
Being 17 (André Téchiné – France)
Veteran writer-director André Téchiné (Wild Reeds) has teamed up with Girlhood‘s Céline Sciamma (who is co-screenwriter here) to bring a tale of two teenage boys who are forced to face up to their obvious attraction to each other. These two filmmakers are incredibly interesting, and we am keen in particular for any work from Sciamma, seems to really ‘get’ French youth culture.
Wild (Nicolette Krebitz – Germany)
We picked this film on its premise alone (bravo whoever wrote the programme blurb for this film). Here a German woman living a mundane life meets a wolf, who she decides to adopt and bring back to her apartment. The two form a very unique relationship. This sounds weird and wonderful – exactly the type of thing we enjoy seeing at the festival.
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert – USA)
Known as ‘the farting corpse film’, Swiss Army Man has about the most bizarre trailer we have ever seen. At the festival programme launch, festival director Nasheen Moodley said that this film was in the “not for everyone basket”. Oh boy, we cannot wait – we’ve actually picked it as out last film for the festival. Going out with a blow out.
A Flickering Truth (Pietra Brettkelly – New Zealand)
A tribute to the dedicated Afghani cinefiles who are fighting to keep a slice of film culture (after the Taliban destroyed most of it), the documentary focuses on the men who are trying to restore the Afghan Film archives. Film is such an important cultural legacy – anyone who works to preserve it is a hero.
Contemporary Color (Bill and Turner Ross – USA)
David Byrne – this name alone was reason enough for us to buy a ticket. Byrne is an artist in several mediums, and this project brings together dance, colour, and music. The concert is a performance from 10 élite color guard (fancy flag spinning) teams, who perform to songs specifically written for their routines. Musicians involved include: St. Vincent, David Byrne, How to Dress Well, and Devonté Hynes. Also features interviews conducted by Ira Glass (This American Life).
Down the Rabbit Hole: Virtual Reality at the Hub (Various – curated by Mathieu Ravier)
Nine virtual reality films, from four Australian and five international films as viewed on the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headsets. This is a free event and an amazing opportunity to experience film through what is arguable its newest medium, virtual reality. We’re super keen to take the technology for a spin and be transported from the streets of Cuba, to a rodeo, and down the rabbit hole.
It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan – Canada)
The prodigiously talented Xavier Dolan adds to his distinctive body of work, which includes previous SFF Prize winner Heartbeats, Tom and the Farm and Mommy (both SFF2014), with this emotional and immersive family drama. Premiering in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this week, we are so privileged to be the next audience in the world to experience it. Check out that cast – Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel included.
Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt – USA)
The new film from the inimitable Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) had its world première at the Sundance Film Festival, and screens as part of the Official Competition in Sydney. Based on short stories from Maile Meloy’s collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, this is described as an evocative and poetic character study of three Montana women, and stars Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart.
The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska – Poland)
This unique, and very strange-sounding Polish romance-horror-mermaid-musical defies classification and won the Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design at Sundance 2016. With its blend of elaborate musical numbers, romance, and vampiric-mermaid mayhem, The Lure makes for one wild project. Filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska, whose film is selected in the ’10 Women Filmmakers to Watch’ section of the program, will be a festival guest. We want to be in this audience.
Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari – Greece)
In the latest film from Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg, SFF2011), a group of men duke it out at sea for the title of ‘the best’, in this hilarious satire of male competitiveness and insecurity. It won Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival and in milking its premise for maximum absurdity, homoeroticism and hilarity, it offers up a savage deconstruction of masculinity by a female filmmaker.
Desde allá (Lorenzo Vigas – Venezeula)
This début feature from writer-director Lorenzo Vigas won the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. It details the story of a middle-aged man’s affair with a young street thug and is a tense study of class conflict and desire in Venezuela’s capital. The Venice Film Festival winners are always worth checking out, and we can’t recall having ever seen a film from Venezuela.
Psycho Raman (Anurag Kashyap – India)
A leading figure in Indian independent cinema, Anurag Kashyap (crime epic Gangs of Wasseypur, which screened in Competition at SFF2012), returns with a thriller about a serial killer and the violent cop in hot pursuit. Set in contemporary Mumbai, it follows Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a deranged psychopath inspired by Raman Raghav, a real-life 1960s serial killer who terrorised the city. Sounds intense.