Ten Picks For Sydney Film Festival 2017

May 28th 2017

We’ve said it before; picking the best films at the Sydney Film Festival can be hard. With 288 films across 12 days, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

Fortunately there’s a little of something for everyone: international features, Australian Premieres, a Kurosawa retrospective and a showcase of talent from filmmakers with disabilities. And that’s just a slice of the program! To take some of the guesswork out of buying your tickets, here are our picks for the best ten to go see.

Happy End

Michael Haneke stands poised to win his third Palme D’Or for Happy End this year, which would make him the only director to achieve that honour. Weirdly, his film The Piano Teacher is also one of Louis C.K’s favourite movies, but that’s neither here nor there. In Happy End, he sets an ensemble cast against the backdrop of the European refugee crisis to tell a story that is as much about generational attitudes as it is about privilege.

We don’t know much about how the final film will look, but it’s a safe bet that Haneke will have people talking as they leave the cinema.

Tickets & session info

We Don’t Need A Map

Is the Southern Cross a racist symbol? Warwick Thornton seems to think so. After letting loose about it at a press conference in 2010, the director of Samson & Delilah decided to put his money where his mouth is and make a film about it. Exploring patriotism, racism and Aboriginal knowledge systems, it sounds like Thornton has hit the mark once again.

Even if you think you’ve got all the answers, We Don’t Need a Map promises to be a thought-provoking ride.

Tickets & session info


Bong Joon-ho (Memories of a Murder, Snowpiercer) is back with his signature blend of genre tropes and social issues. When Mija’s “super-pig” is stolen by shady government forces, she’ll do anything she can to rescue it. With a stellar cast including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, there is a lot to love here.

Netflix has made a deal to release the film, so to guarantee the full cinematic experience of Okja make sure you check it out at the Festival first.

Tickets & session info

On Body & Soul

It might be boring to hear about other people’s dreams, but in On Body & Soul it’s the basis for a relationship. Abattoir workers Endre and Maria discover they are both having the same ethereal dream of two deer in the woods, and decide it’s a sign to pursue a romance. Naturally love isn’t that easy, but their mysterious connection acts as a stark reminder of how hard it can be to connect with each other.

A word of warning: apparently there is a grisly opening scene, so this conflicted love story is not for the faint of heart.

Tickets & session info

I Am Not Your Negro

Samuel L. Jackson narrates James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House, which is also a history of racism in America. Part documentary, part manifesto, I Am Not Your Negro is a powerful reminder of how little race relations in America have changed, and how far they have to go. It’s a must see.

Tickets & session info

The Other Side of Hope

Directors agree, comedies are hard to make. Good comedies are anyway. So Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki has done well to pull off a heart-warming, albeit melancholic comedy about a Syrian refugee and a grumpy restauranteur. A modern odd-couple, their flowering friendship sounds like it ring true enough to not be hokey.

Tickets & session info

Wolf & Sheep

Set in the foothills of Afghanistan, this intimate slice-of-life drama tells the story of a small rural town. Debut director Shahrbanoo Sadat focuses her camera on the children of the village to reflect the broader cultural issues at play, and uses untrained actors for added levels of authenticity. With a threadbare plot, and a touch of magical realism thrown in, it’s been referred to as a “docu-drama”, which might throw some people off. What it lacks in pacing though, will be made up for in tenderness and charm.

Tickets & session info

Defiant Lives

Sarah Barton has spent the past 25 years making films about people with disabilities. Her latest film compiles rare footage from across the globe to chronicle the history of the disability rights movement. A proud statement of intent, Defiant Lives challenges us to recognise those who have fought to allow disabled people to be heard.

Tickets & session info

The Nile Hilton Incident

Set before the Egyptian revolution in 2011, The Nile Hilton Incident has all the trappings of a great film noir. Think The Night Manager without the impossibly attractive Englishman and more street-level corruption. It’s cynical, it’s slick, and when a beautiful singer is murdered it’s up to a jaded cop to solve the crime. Great for crime and international politics buffs alike.

Tickets & session info

Brigsby Bear

Each year there seems to be a film that is so weird it splits audiences down the middle. This year that film is Brigsby Bear – a vehicle for SNL actor Kyle Mooney, and Luke friggin’ Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to show their offbeat comedy chops.

Mooney plays James, a young man who is rescued from the bunker he has unwittingly been held captive in. When he discovers his favourite TV show was nothing more than a fabrication by his kidnapper (Hamill), he sets out to shoot his own final episode and finish the story. An ode to fandom, Brigsby Bear should be a good one for anyone who has ever let a show become their whole world.

Tickets & session info

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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Sydney Film Festival runs from June 7-18.
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