Sydney Film Festival's First 2024 Movies Include a Bondi Icebergs Documentary and 'Hellraiser' with a New Live Score

Sydney's annual cinema celebration has announced 17 titles that you'll be able to see this winter, with the full lineup dropping in May.
Sarah Ward
April 03, 2024

Where else but Sydney Film Festival could host the world premiere of The Pool? The documentary hails from Ian Darling, the Australian director behind The Final Quarter, and sports another supremely Sydney-centric focus: Bondi Icebergs. Think of a pool in the Harbour City, and this frequently photographed place for a dip likely springs to mind. So, Darling has spent a year charting its ins and outs to create this cinematic portrait, which will debut at SFF in 2024.

The Pool is one of 17 titles that've been announced by the festival team ahead of dropping the event's full 71st-annual program in early May. Movie lovers will be watching the hundreds of flicks that make the final cut to kick off winter, from Wednesday, June 5–Sunday, June 16 — and including The Pool on its lineup likely marks the first time that anyone wished that the film fest took place in summer instead.

When you're not exploring a Sydney icon at a Sydney icon — because both Bondi Icebergs and SFF are that pivotal to the New South Wales capital — you can watch your way through a carefully curated roster of flicks overseen by long-running Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. As announced back in January, 2024's event will also boast the world's largest cash prize for Indigenous filmmaking, aka the new $35,000 First Nations Award. One title that'll be competing for the gong in its inaugural year is The Mountain, the directorial debut of New Zealand actor Rachel House, with the Heartbreak High and Hunt for the Wilderpeople star following three kids who set off on an adventure (yes, their destination is right there in the title).

Also on the bill so far: horror classic Hellraiser, but not as audiences know it. The movie remains unchanged, but this is a Hear My Eyes screening, which means that it comes with a brand-new live score. Hieroglyphic Being aka Jamal Moss is doing all-new tunes, while visual artist Robin Fox will add a live laser performance — and the event hits Sydney after also being a part of Melbourne's RISING Festival.

Suspended Time, the latest from French director Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep), is another big highlight. The drama is about a filmmaker and his brother in COVID-19 lockdown in their childhood home, is drawn from Assayas' own experiences and, although actors play the characters, features the director reading narration that's based on his own diary. Or, there's documentary The Contestant, about an IRL person on a Japanese television show who wasn't aware that his months spent naked in a room were being broadcast.

From there, cinephiles can also start looking forward to Frederick Wiseman's (City Hall) Menus-Plaisirs — Les Troisgros, which brings his observational gaze to three-Michelin-star French restaurant; COPA '71, about the 1971 Women's World Cup; Green Border, with Mr Jones' Agnieszka Holland honing in on the refugee experience on the Belarus–Poland border; and In Vitro, an Aussie sci-fi thriller about a couple doing biotech experiments.

Keen to see a restaurant-set dramedy starring Rooney Mara (Women Talking) and directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios (A Cop Movie). La Cocina has you covered. Interested in the newest film out of Bhutan by Pawo Choyning Dorji, whose Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom was nominated for an Oscar? That's where The Monk and the Gun comes in. If you're eager for a movie from Norway that features conversations about getting intimate — and dreams about David Bowie — then Sex is the answer. And, for those who've ever wondered about the hippos in Pablo Escobar's illegally imported private zoo, check out Pepe.

For now, the list wraps up with Hungarian culture-war satire Explanation for Everything, Korean family drama House of the Seasons and the Kenya-set The Battle for Laikipia — plus The Rye Horn, which is about a midwife and won Best Film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

"This first look at the 2024 program delves into the profound and the peculiar, from remarkable true stories to works of fiction and ingenious hybrid films that land somewhere in between," said Moodley.

"This selection, though diverse in setting and scope, reveals some common themes: resilience foremost amongst them. These films offer a taste of a Festival program rich with discovery and insight, poised to captivate and inspire."

Sydney Film Festival 2024 takes place from Wednesday, June 5–Sunday, June 16 at various cinemas and venues around Sydney. For more information, head to the festival's website — and check back here on Wednesday, May 8 for the full 2024 lineup.

Published on April 03, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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