aAfter a few years saturated with the Sydney Film Festival – delayed in 2021 then online only Installment in 2020 – Things seem to be getting back to normal somewhat, as the event runs from June 8-19, presenting its first full program since 2019.
As usual, programmers leave no cinematic stone unturned, scouring the world in search of cinematic delights. Here are 10 films to look at at this year’s festival.
Director: miscellaneous / Country: Australia / New Zealand
For the second year in a row, Opening Night is an anthology-produced anthology divided into eight chapters. Last year was the drama set in Sydney, Here Out West; This year’s is a co-production between Australian and Maori First Nations principals, and it reflects the colonization of the indigenous population. Coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival, the chapters vary in tone and genre, from animation set in antiquity to a dystopian story set in Auckland’s underground tunnels.
Director: Timo Nikki / Country: Finland
First, I love this title! Second, the premise: an action-thriller film from the perspective of a blind person. This highly ambitious concept was reportedly implemented through extensive use of close-ups, to the point where there are no still shots, and a soundtrack full of narrative detail. The story involves a wheelchair user Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen) who sets out to meet his long-distance love interest (Marjaana Maijala), whom he has never met in person before.
Director: Alexander or Philip / Country: we
The Wizard of Oz is an extraordinary fantasy film with a cultural impact that is impossible to measure. However, measuring its impact on a particular director is a bit more manageable, so Alexander O.P. (whose previous cinematic investigations have included Memory: The Origins of Alien) begin tracing how the film informed David Lynch’s work. The great fan author, went so far as to say, “There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of The Wizard of Oz.”
Director: Dylan River / Country: Australia
With his Acura hat, cowboy boots and no BS demeanor, Jay Swan — played by Aaron Pedersen in two Mystery Road films and two separate TV shows — belongs to the group of Australia’s greatest screen detectives. A new six-part series that expands the character’s legend by focusing on his early years, as a young policeman (now played by Mark Coles Smith) working in a town called Jardine. Mysterious Road: Original directed by Dylan River, son of famous film director Warwick Thornton.
Director: Kevin Kobaca / Country: Germany
Who wouldn’t want to, in the words of this year’s festival program, “a psychedelic, zealous, time-struck dream”? Kevin Kobaka’s German creepy horror film – known as Hinter den Augen die Dämmerung in his native language – follows a couple who inherit an old, dilapidated castle where, of course, all sorts of strange supernatural things happen.
One character notes that “renovating this place will cost us a fortune,” which got me thinking: Why not take inspiration from this and other similar films, where shows like The Block put the contestants inside haunted houses that they must remodel while fending off evil spirits from Hell?
Director: Alejandro Luisa Grisi / Country: Bolivia / France / Uruguay
What semi-respected film festival program would not be complete without a drama about an elderly pair of llama farmers living in the dry shadow of the Bolivian highlands? Utama, who won a major prize at this year’s Sundance Festival, has amassed rave reviews — ScreenDaily, for example, calling it “a stunningly beautiful work that uses stunning widescreen cinematography” and The Hollywood Reporter as “a powerful and cautionary survival story.” in a dying world.”
Director: Ari Follman / Country: France / Belgium / Luxembourg / Netherlands / Israel
The latest film from Ari Follman, who made the semi-autobiographical animated film Waltz with Bashir, reinterprets the story of Anne Frank from a contemporary perspective. The narrative recalls the life of an imaginary friend of Frank, Kitty, who slips out of the pages of her diary and goes in search of her creator, believing that she is still alive. In a four-star review, Peter Bradshaw described the film as “a kind of novelty or fantasy reboot, reading the story again through a contemporary lens and giving it a kind of YA identity.”
Director: David Estelle / Country: Australia
Any movie set in the back of a car should evoke memories of David Cronenberg’s weird and wonderful commentary on GFC Cosmopolis, an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s book starring R-Patz as a young billionaire using a limousine as a mobile office. The Australian film David Easteal takes place mostly in the back seat of a car transporting a real-life Melbourne lawyer, whose story materializes during his daily commute.
Director: Joe Hunting / Country: United kingdom
VRChat is known among VR enthusiasts as a social platform where users wearing avatars gather to make friends and visit different worlds, with an amazingly different aesthetic. The Joe Hunting documentary focuses on the people who fall in love with VRChat during the pandemic. The key novelty is that the entire document was a movie/recorded from inside VR – making it a very strange example of how the content reflects.
Director: Dale Catherine Barton / Country: Australia
After a 12-year-old girl (Julia Savage) witnesses sexual assault on her way home from school, help deal with the subsequent trauma she received from an unexpected place: a dragon! This dragon is supposed to be from the group of imaginary friends and not the kind of mighty monster portrayed in Game of Thrones. Blaze is the premiere of director Catherine Barton Dale, a two-time Archibald Prize-winning artist known for her stunning and evocative surrealist works. Barton will also give a talk at the Sydney Film Festival Center on June 18.