Twelve Days of Captivating and Life-changing Cinema: Zalehah Turner Previews the 63rd Sydney Film Festival

SFFPL2016_212 Aaron Pedersen as Jay Swan in Goldstone trailer at SFF launch
Sydney Film Festival Program Launch 2016, Customs House, Sydney, 11 May 2016 photographer: Belinda Rolland © 2016

Showcasing a diverse range of perspectives and experiences, the 63rd Sydney Film Festival celebrates film’s ability to inspire new ideas and its potential to engage audiences at a truly life changing level. While it may well change the way you perceive and experience your world by opening your eyes to the lives of others, it also is sure to delight, intrigue and entertain audiences across the greater Sydney area from the not to be missed, opening night on Wednesday, 8 June to the closing night gala on Saturday, 19 June.

“From big stars and big ideas to small but perfectly formed stories,” this year’s festival is “a compelling selection of the best in features and documentaries,” according to Festival Director, Nashen Moodley. Launched yesterday, by NSW Deputy Premier and Minster for the Arts, Troy Grant, the 2016 SFF program offers cinema lovers an impressive and diverse range of world cinema, as well as, a significant selection of Australian releases, including, the opening night film, Goldstone, Ivan Sen’s sequel to Mystery Road.

Nashen Moodley, Sydney Film Festival Program Launch 2016, Customs House, Sydney, 11 May 2016, photographer: Belinda Rolland © 2016

This year’s program showcases 244 films from 60 different countries, with 25 world premieres and 139 Australian premieres. Nine films will be coming direct from the Cannes Film Festival, three of which are in the running for the prestigious Palme d’Or including, Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta. Aquarius by Brazilian director, Kleber Mendonca Filho and It’s Only the End of the World by the talented and accomplished, 27-year-old, Xavier Dolan are also among the twelve films competing for the Sydney Film Prize and $63 000 cash prize which will be announced on 19 June at the closing night gala.

Nashen Moodley claimed that the 63rd SFF comprised of the best of international cinema alongside, a strong line up of the Australian releases all of which were potentially life changing and would be sure to change your frame of reference. Elaborating on this year’s SFF slogan ‘change your view, change your world’, Moodley explained, “the Festival allows audiences to explore new worlds, new perspectives, and new ways of being.” He maintained that “film’s ability to inspire new ideas and encourage new experiences”, not only sparks “a change in our view but in our whole world.”

Nashen Moodley announced that the “Sydney Film Festival has gone from strength to strength…with attendances increasing over 59% to 176,000, since 2011.” Of the continuing growth in attendance and the festival as a whole, Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant, claimed that he was in awe, adding that the work was phenomenal, a credit to all who had participated. A change in the classification system this year means that over half of the feature films which would have been previously rated 18+ automatically, could be rated 15+ by the festival, allowing audiences under 18 years to attend many of the festival’s films and ensuring the SFF has the potential to engage more of the community.

Director, Nashen Moodley confirmed that, the festival was incredibly proud to open with the world premiere of multi-talented Ivan Sen’s outstanding, Australian film, Goldstone, at the historic State Theatre. He added that, Goldstone was one of the twelve films in the Official Competition and “is a complex and layered work that comes together brilliantly in Ivan Sen’s signature outback noir style.”

Goldstone 2
Alex Russell and Aaron Pedersen in Goldstone (2016)

Goldstone sees the return of the Indigenous detective, Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), whom audiences will remember from Mystery Road, which opened the 60th SFF in 2013. Once again caught between two worlds but feeling as if he belongs in neither, Swan finds more than he bargained for as he searches for a missing girl in the striking, yet, harsh and unforgiving land of outback Queensland. For Ivan Sen, the mythic town of Goldstone, filmed in Middleton, is place where worlds collide and Jay Sawn, who has one foot in each, has the power to connect those worlds. Multi-talented, Ivan Sen who wrote, directed, filmed, edited, and composed the score for Goldstone, stated that it is a “drama charged thriller which moves to beat of the scared land it’s played on.”

The festival is sure to captivate audiences with a diverse range of features, documentaries and shorts from The Commune by co-founder of Dogma 95, Thomas Vinterberg to A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers co-directed by award winning, festival attendees, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Greeta Gandbhir. This year’s thought-provoking program definitely has something for everyone with films that engage, in-depth discussions, and prestigious awards, including, the Official Competition’s Sydney Film Prize.

Other programs include, European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch which, as the name suggests, showcases ten new films by ten of Europe’s most impressive, emerging, female filmmakers. Family Films, include Steven Speilberg’s BFG, an adaption of the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl starring Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant and Ruby Barnhill as the orphan, Sophie. Animation Showcase curated by Malcolm Turner returns to the festival this year as does Sounds on Screen with two features and four documentaries of inspiring music and musicians. Music lovers will also appreciate, The Box Set, a four-part documentary series that delves into the roots of American pop music. Restorations gives audiences the chance to see 35mm films in the digital age as they were meant to be seen and include, Ray Lawrence’s multi-award-winning, Bliss based on the novel by Peter Carey.

In another festival highlight, past director (1966- 83) and well-known film critic, David Stratton (At the Movies), will be hosting a tribute to influential director, Martin Scorsese at the Art Gallery of NSW. With Essential Scorsese: selected by David Stratton, Australian audiences will able to enjoy ten of the director’s most recognised and award winning films in 35mm from Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and The Age of Innocence. However, the retrospective is not just intended for Sydney audiences and is to be screened at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne from 27 May to 12 June and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra from 1 to 23 July. According to Festival Director, Nashen Moodley, Scorsese’s “ground-breaking films and gritty, meticulous filmmaking style are essential viewing for all film fans.”

Deluge interactive experimental film (2016)

The most interesting addition to the program is Beyond Cinema, which engages audiences in more ways and directions, than one, with cutting-edge technologies, virtual reality, a 360-degree 3D cinema, and a four-sided video art installation. Immersive experiences that really are sure to change your perspective and world include, Down the Rabbit Hole- Virtual Reality at the Hub with nine virtual reality films programmed by Mathieu Ravier screening from 9-19 June at the Lower Town Hall Festival Hub. Festival goers who are looking to alter their perspective through immersive, interactive, experimental films should catch Deluge and Nebula in the 360-degree 3D iCinema at the University of New South Wales from 8-18 June. For a four-sided video installation, HOSSEIN VALAMANESH: CHAR SOO, look no further than Carriageworks for the exhibition that will place you at the intersection of an Iranian Bazaar from 9 June to 17 July.

An adaption of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship will screen at the closing night gala on 19 June. An amusing period piece, Love & Friendship premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and stars Kate Beckinsdale, Chole Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry. Lady Susan Veron (Beckinsale), ‘the most accomplished flirt in all of England’ and recent widow, arrives at in her in-law’s estate seeking refuge from the growing gossip surrounding her affairs. With a fiendishly ‘uncanny sense of all men’s natures’, she sets about arranging marriages for herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

Although, it is unclear how the romantic comedy, Lady Susan, is set to change audience’s view and world, it is sure to entertain after the much anticipated festival announcement of the winners of the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, the Official Competition, and other awards on the closing night gala. This is cinema at its best. May it expand your world and alter your perceptions of it in a way that may contribute to a better future.

The official trailer for Goldstone, which will open the 63rd Sydney Film Festival

 -Zalehah Turner


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from 8 to 19 June at The State Theatre, Dendy Opera Quays, the Art Gallery of NSW, Event Cinemas George Street, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Dendy Newtown, Casula Powerhouse, the Festival Hub at Sydney Town Hall, the SFF Outdoor Screen, and the Skyline Drive In Blacktown. To book tickets visit the Sydney Film Festival website:

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