Ten picks for Sydney Film Festival 2016

May 16th 2016

Down Under

The marathon that is the Sydney Film Festival is about to begin! From documentaries to feature films, old classics and new local talent, the 2016 program is an eclectic mix with something for everyone. There are award winners from the global festival circuit (like Sundance and Berlinale), a bunch of great music features, and even a collection of Scorsese films for the films buffs to see on the silver screen.

Before you spend hours trawling through trailers to find your favourites from the extensive program, here are ten picks of the festival we reckon are must-see.

The Commune

Free love comes with a price in the latest from Thomas Vinterberg. When Erik inherits a gigantic family home, he and his wife Anna undertake a grand experiment, inviting friends and acquaintances to live together and decide things democratically. Powered by the magnificent Trine Dyrholm, who won Best Actress for the role at the Berlin Film Festival, ‘The Commune’ looks to be another emotionally gripping narrative, informed by Vinterberg’s keen eye for drama.

Tickets & session info

Swiss Army Man

‘Swiss Army Man’ sounds like the plot of ‘Castaway’, if Wilson was played by Daniel Radcliffe, and was a corpse. Paired with the brilliant Paul Dano, who might just be the greatest actor of his generation, the two explore the deserted island they’re on while forming an unlikely friendship. The buzz from this surreal buddy-film suggests that it’s too weird not to see.

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The Lure

Agnieszka Smoczynska’s debut is so interesting that when she sent it to Sundance they immediately got back to her and told her not to send it to any other festivals. Fortunately Sundance is over and we get to witness the spectacle of her horror-romance-musical about vampire-mermaids. When Silver and Gold (the mermaids) are lured back to a strip club by a bass-player, Silver falls for the musician but Gold can only contain her vampiric urges for so long.

Twilight references aside, this one should be really good.

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Democrat Anthony Weiner was a star Congressman until he got embroiled in a sexting scandal. And then he did it again. This doco trails his political campaign as he runs for mayor of New York, chronicling his inability to keep his foot out of his mouth. It should be as funny as it is outrageous, and has been hailed as “the best documentary of a political campaign ever”, which isn’t the backhand compliment it sounds like.

Come to watch a political campaign implode, stay to see Weiner realise he let a documentary film it.

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Death in Sarajevo

‘Death In Sarajevo’ looks like a SBS late-night movie, with a dry humour and its tragic premise. As Hotel Europe prepares for an all important European Union dinner to keep the doors open, the staff downstairs plan a strike. Bosnian director Danis Tanovic’s debut won the Oscar for best foreign film, and this latest offering seems to be a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek satire of modern Europe.

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Miss Sharon Jones!

Sharon Jones only got her big break when she arrived at a recording session and the other back-up singers hadn’t showed up. Since then she has worked tirelessly to establish herself as one of the great voices of soul. When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, director Barbara Kopple documented Jones as she struggled to keep her band together and reclaim her place on the stage.

The doco is a powerful tribute to Jones’s tremendous ability and courage.

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Sharon Jones


Being 17

As Damien and his bully Tom are forced to live together by Damien’s mother they grapple with their feelings towards one another. Director André Téchiné and screenwriter Céline Sciamma collaborate in this delicate story about two young men coming to terms with their sexuality, and is a fine demonstration of their craft. Téchiné is a master of French cinema, and Schiamma’s previous work (Tomboy, Girlhood) has proven that she is adept at writing poignant narratives that don’t sell their young characters short.

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Under The Shadow

In Tehran a mum and her daughter must face the haunting of their home by a lingering evil. Set against the backdrop of the 1979 Iranian revolution, unnerving camerawork and a minimalist setting help to develop the tension in this deeply disturbing horror film.

It’s already slated for a Hollywood remake, so be sure to catch it before ‘Under the Shadow’ gets a reboot starring Scarlett Johannson.

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Fire At Sea

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, ‘Fire At Sea’ is a unique take on the European migrant crisis. Gianfranco Rossi points his lens at the town of Lampedusa, a Sicilian island that has become a thoroughfare for the exodus. In the margins of the story of Lampedusa, Rossi develops a humane but shocking picture of the refugees’ plight.

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Down Under

At one point during the filming of ‘Down Under’, a Middle Eastern cast member was faced with a group chanting “Aussie Aussie Aussie” in his face. It suggests that even 11 years on, it’s still hard to find the funny in the Cronulla riots. Unless you’re Abe Forsythe, apparently, who pits two groups of young men against each other in this comedy set in the aftermath of the days events.

Don’t expect a ‘Fat Pizza’ style clash of cultures though, the production quality is slicker than the comedy is black.

Tickets & session details

Down Under

Win tickets

For your chance to win a double pass to a film of your choosing, email fbipresents@fbiradio.com with SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL in the subject. Must include FBi supporter number and contact details. Films subject to availability.

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