What starts with a slice of New Zealand comedy, ends with one of this year's Sundance hits, and will screen no fewer than 326 films from 65 countries across its 12-day 65th-anniversary run? That'd be this year's Sydney Film Festival, which takes place from June 6 to 17 across the city — and, 28 days before the big event (yes, we're counting), has just revealed its huge 2018 lineup.
SFF had already announced that The Breaker Upperers would kick off this year's program, getting the event into gear with plenty of laughs. It'll also finish up proceedings with humour thanks to closing night film Hearts Beat Loud, which stars Nick Offerman as a record store-owning dad spending time with his budding musician daughter (Kiersey Clemons) before she heads off to college.
Apart from the glitzy bookend events, SFF's biggest news this year stems from its annual competition, which is now in its 11th year. Twelve films will compete for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize, with six of them boasting female directors. At a time when women's roles in the film industry have finally become a significant topic of conversation, that's a welcome statistic.
With that in mind, highlights range from Sundance grand jury prize winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Berlinale hit Daughter of Mine, to Leave No Trace from Winter's Bone director Debra Granik and bewitching Bali-shot effort The Seen and Unseen. Other notable competition entries include world premiering Australian drama Jirga, about an Aussie solider returning to Afghanistan; Berlinale standouts such as Aga, Transit and The Heiresses; documentary Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. about, well, M.I.A; and Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, the true tale of an African-American cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, which comes to Sydney straight from Cannes.
While SFF usually adds a number of straight-from-Cannes flicks to the lineup in the days before opening night, the existing program already includes a few films that are making their debuts in France. 3 Faces, the latest feature from iconic Iranian director Jafar Panahi (Tehran Taxi) is one of them, as is as Japanese animation Mirai, from me Wolf Children filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda. Also jumping from the Croisette to Sydney is the 188-minute-long The Wild Pear Tree, the follow-up to 2014 Palme d'Or winner Winter Sleep by Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. And, then there's Rafiki, the first-ever Kenyan film screened at Cannes — and a movie that's been banned in its homeland due to its lesbian love story.
Elsewhere, You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix in his 2017 Cannes best actor-winning role, as directed by We Need to Talk About Kevin's Lynne Ramsay — and Phoenix also puts in a vastly different but equally excellent performance in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, where he plays real-life cartoonist John Callahan. Or, catch the Jon Hamm-starring espionage flick Beirut, new doco Whitney about the ill-fated pop queen, online thriller Searching, Lav Diaz's four-hour rock-opera Season of the Devil, or what's certain to be the dottiest and brightest film in the whole lineup: Kusama — Infinity, the documentary about Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
Plus, Aussie talent will shine in the likes of Juliet, Naked, the Nick Hornby adaptation featuring Rose Byrne opposite Ethan Hawke and Chris O'Dowd; Upgrade, the John Wick-esque effort from Recovery star turned Saw writer and Insidious filmmaker Leigh Whannell (who'll also be in town to chat about the film); and murder thriller Piercing with Mia Wasikowska.
Still on the local front, SFF will screen Australian biker effort 1%, featuring Ryan Corr and Matt Nable; the Melbourne-shot father-son drama West of Sunshine; and the Shane Jacobson-starring black comedy Brothers' Nest. Soda Jerk's Aussie movie mashup Terror Nullius is an absolute must-see, while the festival's documentary competition once again boasts a range of local factual efforts — such as the previously announced ode to boy band fans everywhere, I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story.
Throw in SFF's Aki Kaurismäki retrospective, a spotlight on Italian films, two episodes of the Mark Strong-starring TV series Deep State, and an exploration of the intersection of art and cinema, and the 2018 Sydney Film Festival is shaping up to be a jam-packed affair. Also part of the program are returning strands like the horror-focused Freak Me Out, Sounds on Screen which highlights movies about music, a virtual reality showcase at the festival hub, Screenability's platform for screen practitioners with a disability, and a ten-movie exploration of female filmmakers from Europe. And, of course, the fest already dropped a huge bunch of titles last month.
The 2018 Sydney Film Festival will run from June 6 to 17. To peruse the full program and to buy tickets, head to the festival website.