SXSW Sydney Screen Festival 2023

An outback thriller, Jacob Elordi's new film and a TLC doco are all on the lineup at Australia's first-ever SXSW screen festival.
Sarah Ward
September 21, 2023

Overview

Welcome to the joys of major film festivals in spring, Sydney. Getting holed up in a cinema for a week or so is usually a winter activity in the Harbour City, because that's when Sydney Film Festival takes place; however, the first-ever SXSW Down Under is arriving in 2023 with its very own celebration of peering at screens. So, for eight October days, movie lovers can wander in and out of darkened rooms while the weather is pleasant outside, not frosty — and see everything from Saltburn, the new Jacob Elordi (Euphoria)-starring thriller from Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell, to the freshly remastered 4K version of iconic Talking Heads concert flick Stop Making Sense.

SXSW Sydney's debut Screen Festival will boast 75-plus sessions that'll get projectors a-flickering from Sunday, October 15–Sunday, October 22. It all starts with opening night's Australian thriller The Royal Hotel from Casting JonBenet and The Assistant director Kitty Green (and starring the latter's Julia Garner), then features the world premiere of documentary Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles and everything from features starring Indonesian rappers and docos about Tokyo Uber Eats riders.

Saltburn will enjoy its Australian premiere at SXSW Sydney, while Stop Making Sense will get The ICC's Darling Harbour Theatre echoing in glorious 7.1 surround sound. The venue will be home to the fest's biggest titles, which also includes opening night and The Wiggles doco; ONEFOUR: Against All Odds about the eponymous drill rap band; and Ryuichi Sakamoto|Opus, which covers the recorded concert by the late, great The Revenant composer, who passed away in March 2023.

Also on the bill: supervillain parody The People's Joker, which gives the caped-crusader realm a queer coming-of-age spin; TLC documentary TLC Forever; Sleep, a Korean horror-comedy by Bong Joon-ho's former assistant; the Hugo Weaving (Love Me)-starring The Rooster, which follows a hermit and a cop who form a bond during a crisis; and a retro session of Aussie classic Lake Mungo. Or, SXSW Sydney's film fans can see Black Barbie, a Barbie flick that isn't filled affection; the Indian Australian Sahela, which tells a queer tale set in Western Sydney; Satranic Panic, a homegrown road movie and a creature feature; Milli Vanilli, another of the event's music docos; and Uproar, as starring Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison, Our Flag Means Death's Rhys Darby and Starstruck's Minnie Driver.

Among a feast of screen content that also encompasses 40 shorts, plus 20 music videos and 13 XR projects, TV will get some love — that's why the event is called a Screen Festival, not a film fest. Standouts span Night Bloomers, a horror anthology from both Korea and Australia; Erotic Stories, another anthology that'll deliver exactly what it sounds like; and Doona!, a Korean rom-com led by Suzy Bae.

Alongside indoor sessions at Darling Harbour Theatre and Palace Cinemas Central, free outdoor screenings are also on the bill at the SXSW Sydney 2023 hub in Tumbalong Park. The complete lineup there is still to come, but the program will survey the OG fest's best and brightest, starting with Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's What We Do in the Shadows — the movie, not the also-ace TV show — as well as classic anime masterpiece Ghost in the Shell and Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused.

As well as viewing movies and TV shows aplenty, the 2023 SXSW Sydney Screen Festival also features an array of speakers. Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker is one of the headliners — not just of the screen component, but of SXSW Sydney overall.

Similarly getting chatting: Indigenous filmmakers Leah Purcell (The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson), Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road: Origin) and Jub Clerc (Sweet As); Osher Günsberg 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.

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