SXSW Sydney Has Announced the First Nine Films for Its Debut Screen Festival Down Under

Movie lovers, get excited — you've got films starring Indonesian rappers, about Tokyo Uber Eats riders and featuring viral Chinese dance crazes to watch.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 28, 2023

By their very nature, festivals are a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Event organisers carefully curate their top picks, audiences head along to whatever suits them best and few folks follow the exact same fest path. South by Southwest embraces the concept a little heartier than most, however. When you're putting on not just one festival, but several within that broader festival, audiences can hop between them, mix and match here and there, or choose the one that aligns with their favourite interests.

Making its debut in October, SXSW Sydney is keeping the format that's served the event so well in its OG Austin home, where it has always been held — and only been held — until now. That's been clear from the lineup announcements so far, including in its first batch of speakers and musicians back in February, more music highlights and must-attend parties in May, details of its gaming strand in June, then two more rounds of speakers in July. Up now: the first nine movies that'll be playing at SXSW Sydney's Screen Festival.

Jane Greer

Among its recent news, SXSW's Down Under premiere revealed that Queer Eye star Tan France would be among its speakers, plus Indigenous filmmakers Leah Purcell (The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson), Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road: Origin) and Jub Clerc (Sweet As). They fall into under Screen Festival, too. Also included: Osher Günsberg, who'll be on the SXSW Sydney bill recording an episode of his podcast Better Than Yesterday with a yet-to-be-announced special guest; Gone Girl, The Nightingale, The Dry, Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers producer Bruna Papandrea; and Binge's Executive Director Alison Hurbert-Burns.

Film lovers love watching films, though. The SXSW Sydney Screen Festival isn't just about big-screen fare, covering both movies and TV — but its first round of titles are all features. In a varied bunch, one stars an Indonesian rapper, another is about Tokyo Uber Eats rider and yet another features viral Chinese dance crazes.

American film Jamojaya is the flick led by Indonesian rap star Brian Imanuel, aka Rich Brian, enlisting him as an up-and-coming musician — and with Blue Bayou's Justin Chon directing. It's obvious what Tokyo Uber Blues is about, with the Japanese documentary's riding being done by a graduate film student with debts to pay. And Gagaland is responsible for that dancing in the street, and on social media feeds, which backdrops a boy-meets-girl tale.

Also on the list: doco Anita, focusing on German Italian actor Anita Pallenberg, who was also a muse to The Rolling Stones; Cypher, a pseudo-documentary about rapper Tierra Whack; and The Last Year of Darkness, which dives into China's underground party scene with ample bass and neon.

Rounding out the list so far: Japan's Plastic, which sees two teens go in search of psychedelic rock band Exne Kedy; France's Knit's Island, which is shot entirely in the DayZ video game (and from 963 hours spent in it); and Australia's You'll Never Find Me, about a caravan resident, a surprise visitor and a thunderstorm.

Most of SXSW Sydney Screen Festival's announced titles have the tick of approval from other fests around the world, whether by screening at Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, Sheffield DocFest in the UK, International Film Festival Rotterdam in The Netherlands, CPH:DOX in Denmark, Visions du Réel in Switzerland or elsewhere.

As well as getting viewers watching movies and TV shows, with more titles to come — including First Nations Screen Festival programming by Winda Film Festival founder Pauline Clague — the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival 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-revealed 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 July 28, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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