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Sydney Film Festival Reveals First Part of Its Huge 2017 Program

Coming to Sydney cinemas: a Rooney Mara-starring ghost story, a race relations doco narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, a follow-up to Jennifer Peedom's Sherpa.
By Sarah Ward
April 05, 2017
By Sarah Ward
April 05, 2017

If you're a Sydney-based cinephile, the end of daylight savings and the beginning of cooler weather means one thing: the Sydney Film Festival. Yes, the city's annual celebration of movies, movies and even more movies is fast approaching, with the 64th iteration of the festival taking place from June 7 to 18. Given that's just 63 sleeps away — and counting — it's time for a sneak peek of just what filmic delights will be on offer.

While the full festival program won't be revealed until May 10, SFF has unveiled 28 titles that'll grace Sydney's screens in June as a teaser. They've also announced another screen, adding the Randwick Ritz to their slate of venues alongside the CBD's State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the SFF Hub at Lower Town Hall, plus Dendy Newtown, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne and Blacktown's Skyline Drive-In.

So, that's where you'll be watching great flicks for 12 days, but here's what you'll be watching. Leading the pack is the Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck-starring A Ghost Story, which sees the duo re-team with their Ain't Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery — it sparked quite a buzz at Sundance earlier in the year. In the high-profile camp, it'll be joined by sweet and sensitive artist biopic Maudie featuring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, as well as gorgeous Swiss animated effort My Life as a Zucchini, which was a very deserving nominee for Best Animated Feature at this year's Oscars. The absolutely riveting Samuel L. Jackson-narrated race relations documentary I Am Not Your Negro is also on the bill, as is the Whitney Houston doco Whitney: Can I Be Me with director Nick Broomfield in attendance, as well as an extensive look at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's life and impact in Winnie.

The list goes on. Coming to Sydney straight from the Berlinale is genre-shifting Polish mystery Spoor, and the raw and resonant queer romance God's Own Country. Trust us when we tell you to add both to your must-see pile. SFF-goers can also look forward to female-focused martial arts flick Mrs K, Mexican sci-fi drama The Untamed, an on-screen friendship between an architect and an elephant in Thailand's Pop Aye, Afghanistan's first female feature directing making her debut with Wolf and Sheep, plus the unscripted, shot-in-one-night Indian road movie Sexy Durga. And, we know that we always say this, but it wouldn't be a major film festival without an epic Lav Diaz-directed effort. This time, it's his Venice Gold Lion winner The Woman Who Left — and it's only 226-minutes long. Hey, less than four hours is short when it comes to the Filipino filmmaker.

On the local front, prepare to scale great heights with Sherpa's Jennifer Peedom once again thanks to her similarly lofty follow-up, Mountain. In fact, if you're eager to catch the documentary as early as you can, it's screening at the Sydney Opera House before the fest, with a live orchestra providing the score. Or, check out indie comedy That's Not Me by Melbourne husband and wife duo Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher, with both writing, the former directing and the latter starring. Those keen on scary attractions won't want to miss Australia-New Zealand co-production Spookers, the latest film by Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets' director Florian Habicht, which looks behind the scenes at the Southern Hemisphere's largest horror theme park in Auckland.

If that's not enough, docos about the first rock band to play in North Korea, the only zoo in the world located in an occupied territory, and the influence of Native Americans upon American blues music are also all on offer as well. So is a stint of outdoor movie-watching courtesy of a drive-in session of classic comedy-horror An American Werewolf in London. Already feeling spoiled for choice? That's okay. That's what film festivals are all about. Just remember that there's much, much more to come when the complete SFF lineup drops. If you haven't already, you'd best cancel all your other June plans right now.

The 2017 Sydney Film Festival will run from June 7 to 18. Check out their currently announced titles by heading to the festival website. The full program will be released on May 10.

Published on April 05, 2017 by Sarah Ward
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