SXSW Sydney's Screen Festival Will Open with the Julia Garner-Starring Aussie Thriller 'The Royal Hotel'

Australian filmmaker Kitty Green reteams with the 'Inventing Anna' and 'Ozark' star after 'The Assistant' to launch the event's first screen fest Down Under.
Sarah Ward
Published on August 24, 2023

Film festival opening nights aren't just about red carpets, a jam-packed guest list, plenty of photo opportunities and oh-so-much buzz. They're also about launching a cinema celebration as the event means to go on. So, with SXSW heading Down Under for the first time in 2023, hosting SXSW Sydney from Sunday, October 15–Sunday, October 22, exactly which flick gets pride of place at the fest's Screen Festival is a particularly massive deal. The pick: The Royal Hotel, the latest film from Australian director Kitty Green.

Green will bring her second fictional feature and fourth full-length effort to the Harbour City's first-ever SXSW, with the movie enjoying its Australian debut fresh from world-premiering at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. The Royal Hotel also marks the second collaboration in a row between Green and star Julia Garner, who was as stunning in the filmmaker's The Assistant as she was in Ozark and Inventing Anna.

This time, the Casting JonBenet helmer and her current go-to star are teaming up on a tale about US backpackers who get jobs at an outback Australian pub — and also stay there. Amid the heat, the lack of wifi and drinking wine out of a cask, Hanna (Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery) also cross paths with the town's male residents, including Hugo Weaving (Love Me) as the watering hole's owner, plus Toby Wallace (Babyteeth) playing charming and Daniel Henshall (Mystery Road: Origin) getting chilling.

"Kitty Green's The Royal Hotel is a deft reworking of the Aussie outback thriller, reoriented with a female gaze, and we could not be more thrilled to open the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival with Kitty in attendance," said SXSW Sydney's Head of Screen Ghita Loebenstein, announcing the opening-night selection.

"The film takes deliberate stabs at the more toxic shadows of the genre, and our culture, in sophisticated but ever entertaining ways. Kitty is a local luminary gaining international acclaim as a writer-director with a fearless vision for nuanced storytelling and this film is the perfect opener to the Screen Festival, which seeks to amplify and celebrate bold voices in film."

The Royal Hotel joins ten previously announced titles on the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival lineup from Sunday, October 15–Saturday, October 21, with more to come. Also a big local title on the bill: documentary Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles, which will enjoy its world premiere at the fest.

And, among nine flicks revealed in July, everything from flicks starring Indonesian rappers and documentaries about Tokyo Uber Eats rider to movies featuring viral Chinese dance crazes will pop up.

Can't wait to watch your way through the fest? SXSW Sydney Screen Festival wristbands go on sale on Friday, August 25, starting at an early-bird price of $240 and getting people wearing one into unlimited screenings.


The SXSW 2023 Sydney Screen Festival also features an array of speakers, with Queer Eye star Tan France set to hit Australia to get chatting. Indigenous filmmakers Leah Purcell (The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson), Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road: Origin) and Jub Clerc (Sweet As) will also take to the stage; Osher Günsberg is on the SXSW Sydney bill recording an episode of his podcast Better Than Yesterday with a yet-to-be-announced special guest; and Gone Girl, The Nightingale, The Dry, Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers producer Bruna Papandrea and Binge's Executive Director Alison Hurbert-Burns will also appear.

As well as showering viewers with movies and TV shows, with more titles to come — including First Nations Screen Festival programming by Winda Film Festival founder Pauline Clague — SXSW Sydney's film- and TV-focused strand will feature red-carpet premieres; digital and social content; an XR showcase; Q&As and panel discussions; parties and mentoring; and a screen market for industry deals.

Free outdoor screenings are also slated, alongside indoor sessions at The ICC's Darling Theatre, Palace Cinemas Central and other yet-to-be-advised venues.

SXSW Sydney will run from Sunday, October 15–Sunday, October 22 at various Sydney venues, with the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival running from Sunday, October 15–Saturday, October 21 at The ICC's Darling Theatre, Palace Cinemas Central and more venues to be announced. Head to the SXSW Sydney website for further details.


Published on August 24, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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