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Sydney Film Festival 2023

How is Sydney's annual cinema showcase marking its 70th birthday? With Warwick Thornton, Wes Anderson, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Sydney Sweeney, Sarah Snook, Paul Mescal, Pixar and more.
By Sarah Ward
May 10, 2023
By Sarah Ward
May 10, 2023

Fans of pastels and symmetry, brand-new Australian cinema, one of Japan's greatest filmmakers, a buzzy Euphoria and The White Lotus star, Succession, the internet's boyfriend and heartfelt animation, rejoice. Devotees of acclaimed Iranian directors, kaiju flicks, NBA superstar Stephen Curry, John Wick-style revenge tales, and wild commentaries on America's recent political landscape using clips from Wayne's World and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, too. Sydney Film Festival is back for 2023, and all of the above is on the lineup to help the cinema celebration hit 70 years old.

Festival Director Nashen Moodley's carefully curated 2023 bill will screen from Wednesday, June 7–Sunday, June 18, featuring 239 films from 67 countries 18 — with 90 narrative feature films and 54 documentaries, and also notching up 37 world premieres and 123 Australian premieres.

As for where you'll be heading to get your festival fix this year, SFF is back at The State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Newtown, Palace Central, Palace Norton Street, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Ritz Cinemas Randwick, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Australian Museum and Art Gallery of NSW.

When SFF 2023 opens, it'll do so with Warwick Thornton's The New Boy. The Cannes-selected title is his first film since 2017's stunning Sweet Country, and sees him team up with none other than 2023 Tár Oscar-nominee Cate Blanchett. It's also vying for the festival's annual prize alongside 11 others, in what marks the official competition's 15th year.

Other contenders span Aussie documentary The Dark Emu, about Bruce Pascoe's book; Bad Behaviour, the feature directorial debut of actor-turned-filmmaker Alice Englert (You Won't Be Alone) starring Jennifer Connelly (Top Gun: Maverick); Hirokazu Kore-eda's Monster, the prolific helmer's latest after fellow recent SFF titles Shoplifters and Broker; and Celine Song's first effort Past Lives, telling a bittersweet romance about two childhood friends (Russian Doll's Greta Lee and Decision to Leave's Teo Yoo) who briefly reunite after decades apart.

Yes, Wes Anderson's Asteroid City is on the 2023 SFF program, bringing the filmmaker's now-trademark sensibilities and aliens together at last — and a characteristically massive cast filled with every famous actor ever or thereabouts. Also set to flicker across Sydney's screens is the Sydney Sweeney-starring whistleblower docudrama Reality, Sarah Snook in Sundance-bowing Australian psychological thriller Run Rabbit Run, the Paul Mescal-led (and Aussie-shot and opera-inspired) Carmen and Pixar's what-if-elements-had-feelings newbie Elemental.

Jafar Panahi's (Tehran Taxi) Venice Special Jury Prize-winner No Bears was announced earlier as well, but remains a SFF must-see — and the kaijus come via Shin Ultraman, which springs from the creators of Shin Godzilla and Neon Genesis Evangelion. NBA fans will want to see Stephen Curry: Underrated, and the vengeance arrives via SXSW hit The Wrath of Becky (well, one of SFF's 2023 flicks about vengeance). And Soda Jerk return to the fest after Terror Nullius screened in 2018, this time with Hello Dankness and its chaotic yet cutting survey of US politics from 2016 onwards.

Movie lovers should already be eagerly anticipating SFF's already-revealed Jane Campion retrospective, with the filmmaker herself in attendance — and Indian screen icon Amitabh Bachchan also earns his own program strand. But the new features keep coming, too, including in the fest's returning strands. Seasoned attendees should already be well-acquainted with SFF's ten-film focus on female directors from Europe, selection of movies about music, weird and wonderful horror and genre flicks, family-friendly fare, celebration of filmmaking talent with disability and titles from First Nations creatives, all back in 2023.

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