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What’s On? The Sydney Film Festival

Dom Ellis looks forward.

Dom Ellis looks forward.

This week is a momentous occasion for movies. Not only does Entourage: The Movie finally grace the silver screen, but the 61st Sydney Film Festival starts its 11-day run.

As far as local content goes, this year’s festival is all about adaptations. The pick of the bunch is probably Neil Armfield’s Holding the Man. Adapted from Tim Conigrave’s seminal memoir, it was actually incomplete at the time of SFF’s program launch, but with Armfield’s track record on stage and screen (plus the success of the novel and play on which the film is based) the bar has been set high. Playing in the Official Competition, The Daughter, Simon Stone’s film adaptation of The Wild Duck, is also worth a look, especially considering the quality Australian cast (Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto, Sam Neil, and Ewen Leslie).

As for the rest of the Official Competition, it’s hard to look past Arabian Nights. At 6 hours long, it’s undoubtedly ambitious, but it’s been divvied up into three parts to ease digestion. Director Miguel Gomes’ last film Tabu was loved at SFF a few years back, but given Arabian Nights’ reception at Cannes, this looks to be Gomes’ opus. Victoria, a one-take heist film shot across 22 locations, is another bold cinematic experiment (like a good version of Birdman) that seems like it’d be well worth the $15.

The State Theatre will also play host to a bunch of other big names this year. Alex Gibney, the main festival guest this year, will introduce his Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which takes shots at the controversial religion and the A-listers who support it (which is particularly interesting given how many of those A-listers are littered throughout SFF films). Favourites on the festival circuit The Duke of Burgundy, Phoenix, and Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes continue their runs, but each will likely see wider cinematic releases later in the year, so they can sit comfortably lower on your shortlist.

As for the dark horses, These Are the Rules, a gorgeously minimalistic domestic drama from Croatia is an insider pick. Patho San-Gupta, an Indian filmmaker now based in Newtown has built up buzz for his Lynchian noir Sunrise. Sunrise is one of twenty films showing at Dendy Newtown this year—a coup for exam-ridden students looking to burn a few hours between take-home exams. From the festival’s Freak Me Out section, both the aptly-titled Deathgasm and the timely Mad Max throwback Turbo Kid play Newtown early on in the fest.

Beyond that, there’s also a whole heap of docos (this reporter-cum-festival-intern endorses Sherpa, The Wolfpack and The Look of Silence); a few retrospectives (see ANYTHING Bergman); and a Focus on South Africa series (check out the amazing 70s Bond-Blaxploitation flick Joe Bullet).