The 60th Sydney Film Festival today announced a selection of films in advance of the full program launch on Wednesday, 8 May.
“These are some of the best productions from all over the world that we have in store for you; the films Australia will be hearing about, talking about and arguing about over the next year," said festival director Nashen Moodley. "You'll see them here first. Between them, they capture the mood of the times that make us who and what we are today.”
This first announcement comprises 27 titles including 24 Australian premieres, 16 features and 11 documentaries.
Today's announcement also includes the Australian premiere of Park Chan-wook's first English language film, neo-Gothic thriller Stoker, which starring three Australian actresses: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Jacki Weaver.
Award winning films include The Act of Killing, the winner of the Audience Award at the 2013 Berlinale; Prince Avalanche, winner of a Silver Bear for best direction at the 2013 Berlinale; Blancanieves, the winner of Best Film at Spain's prestigious 2013 Goya Awards; Stories We Tell, one of 'Canada's Top Ten' films at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
The full list of early highlights is as follows (in Alphabetical order, with synopsis provided by festival organisers):
The Act of Killing (Australian Premiere)
Directors: Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous
Denmark, Norway, UK
After the Indonesian government was overthrown in 1965, Anwar Congo, a sharp-dressing small-time gangster, abetted the military regime in the mass slaughter of alleged communists. Movie-obsessed Anwar and his collaborators re-enact their murderous past in the style of the films they love. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2013Berlinale.
Blackfish (Australian Premiere)
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Blackfish, orca, killer whale: for decades these beasts have been captured, transferred to sea parks and trained to perform. In 2010, a five-tonne male named Tilikum killed one of his trainers at Florida's SeaWorld. This documentary follows his tragic story and that of his fellow captives through interviews with the misled and misinformed workers.
Blancanieves (Australian Premiere)
Director: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ángela Molina
This unique tribute to European silent films transposes the fairy tale of Snow White into the world of bullfighting in 1920s Spain. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2013 Berlinale.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying (Australian Premiere)
Director: Kim Gwang-hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans
Cast: Han Jong-sim, Pak Chung-guk, Ri Yong-ho
Belgium, UK, North Korea
The first North Korean movie ever to screen at SFF (and the Hermit Kingdom's first co-production in 30 years) is a romantic comedy about a female coal miner who dreams of becoming a trapeze artist with the Pyongyang Circus.
Exposed (Australian Premiere)
Director: Beth B. USA
New York underground artist Beth B. continues her focus on transgressive topics with this exploration of the city's radical burlesque performers. Artists in the spotlight including Dirty Martini, Mat Fraser, Julie Atlas Muz, World Famous *BOB*, Bunny Love, Bambi the Mermaid and Rose Wood embrace vulgarity and camp, challenging notions of gender and body image as they shed their glittering G-strings.
Fallen City (Australian Premiere)
Director: Zhao Qi China
An earthquake destroyed the city of Beichuan in Sichuan's mountainous north in 2008, leaving thousands dead and millions homeless. The Chinese government decided to rebuild a new, improved city just down the road. As the spacious modern apartments take shape, director Zhao Qi follows three families, quake survivors who struggle with the day-to-day, as well as their country's relentless pursuit of progress.
A Few Hours of Spring (Australian Premiere)
Director: Stephane Brize
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Hélène Vincent, Emmanuelle Seigner
Featuring Vincent Lindon (Welcome) and HeÌleÌ€ne Vincent (Life Is a Long Quiet River), this drama delves into the difficulties of a mother-and-son relationship. At the age of 48, Alain is compelled to move in with his mother, Yvette. Unpleasant enough for both, the forced cohabitation is then compounded by an unexpected discovery.
Frances Ha (Australian Premiere)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Summer, Adam Driver
Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, To Rome with Love) stars in and co-wrote this breezy modern fable by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming). She plays Frances, a trainee in a dance company who has yet to find a clear direction in her life.
Frankenstein's Army (Australian Premiere)
Director: Richard Raaphorst
Cast: Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym
This cleverly assembled mockumentary is a gruesome and comic entry in the long line of movies about crazed Nazi scientists. A descendant of Victor Frankenstein works to create an unstoppable army stitched together from body parts of dead soldiers and machinery.
The Human Scale (Australian Premiere)
Director: Andreas Møl Dalsgaard
Danish architect Jan Gehl is on a mission to reclaim our public spaces, throwing out car-driven urban design and building cities for humans. From Copenhagen to New York, Melbourne and Christchurch, his vision is impacting our cityscapes. The director of this documentary, Andreas Dalsgaard, and Gehl Architects partner David Sim will be in Sydney for SFF and for a keynote presentation at Vivid Live.
The Look of Love (Australian Premiere)
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Imogen Poots
Steve Coogan's passion project reunites him with longtime collaborator Michael Winterbottom (The Trip, 24 Hour Party People) for the true story of the 'King of Soho', Paul Raymond, who made a fortune ruling a huge nightclub, real-estate and porn empire. Coogan delivers a remarkably complex performance, alongside Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton and Imogen Poots, in this story of titillation, nihilism, heartbreak and tragedy.
La Maison de la Radio (Australian Premiere)
Director: Nicolas Philibert
France, JapanNicolas Philibert, the award-winning director of To Be and to Have, has turned his gaze on France's national broadcaster. This documentary, shot in Radio France's bagel-shaped home on the Seine, follows a dawn-to-dusk schedule and is dotted with delightfully quirky characters, including a playful news editor, a charmingly dedicated producer and an archetypal archivist.
Midnight's Children (Australian Premiere)
Director: Deepa Mehta
Cast: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor
CanadaSalman Rushdie's acclaimed novel is finally brought to the screen by Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth) and the result is an epic that spans several decades of Indian history. Written and narrated by Rushdie himself, Midnight's Children is the story of two children born at the moment of India's independence and swapped at birth, following their lives through a tumultuous era.
Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls (Australian Premiere)
Director: Juliet Lamont
Australia Winner of SFF's FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize in 2010 with The Snowman, director Juliet Lamont returns with the story of Burma's first girl band. The five young girls, led by their Australian mentor Miss Nikki, face all the challenges of a music career, channelling girl power to break with age-old cultural traditions and face the massive changes sweeping their homeland.
Oh Boy (Australian Premiere)
Director: Jan Ole Gerster | Cast: Tom Schilling, Friederike Kempter, Marc Hosemann
German hit Oh Boy is part slacker comedy, part chronicle of Berlin's transition to hipster cool. College dropout Niko has been dumped by his girlfriend, is in trouble with the law, has just been cut off by his father and can no longer buy a cup of 'normal coffee'. Soon a series of chance encounters will have a profound influence on his future.
Outrage Beyond (Australian Premiere)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Beat Takeshi, Toshiyuki Nishida, Tomokazu Miura
Japanese director Takeshi Kitano (Hana-bi, Kikujiro, Zatoichi) returns with a gangster film in which an ambitious cop ignites a power struggle between the two major yakuza families, exploiting the growing chasm between organised crime's young guns and the old guard.
Prince Avalanche (Australian Premiere)
Director: David Gordon Green | Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch
Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch star in this absurd comedy about an unlikely pair, one straightlaced and the other irresponsible, who spend a summer repainting traffic lines down the centre of a country highway ravaged by wildfire. Director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Pineapple Express) has crafted a tender film about an unlikely friendship. Silver Bear for Best Direction at the 2013 Berlinale.
Rear Window (Australian Premiere)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr
Catch Jeff Desom's intensely cool timelapse video installation, a dissection of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic, at the Festival Hub, then watch the original on the big screen. James Stewart stars as a voyeuristic invalid and Grace Kelly as his dutiful blonde girlfriend in a thriller considered by many to be the maestro's best. “Watching it, you feel titillated, horrified, and, ultimately, purged.” – New Yorker
Red Obsession (Australian Premiere)
Directors: David Roach and Warwick Ross
Too valuable to drink? The vintage wines of France's Bordeaux region are now a global commodity, attracting voracious interest from China's new wealthy elite. This fascinating new Australian documentary, selected for both the Berlinale and Tribeca Film Festival, and narrated by Russell Crowe, explores the impact of our changing international economy and Shanghai's obsession with these illustrious French vineyards
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's (Australian Premiere)
Director: Matthew Miele
Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman is frequently described as the epitome of luxury, a posh palace, an emporium attracting the most discerning clientele in the world. Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Joan Rivers and the Olsen sisters are just some of the designers and celebrities who contribute stories to this department-store 'biopic' – not to mention the top-notch staff, including an unnerving personal shopper.
Stoker (Australian Premiere)
Director: Park Chan-Wook | Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver
For his first English-language film, Korean master Park Chan-Wook (Old Boy, Joint Security Area) has made a haunting neo-Gothic thriller filled with unforgettable images. When India Stoker (Jane Eyre's Mia Wasikowska) loses her father in a car accident, her idyllic life is shattered. After long-lost uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives and moves in with India and her unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), things begin to spiral violently out of control.
Stories We Tell (Australian Premiere)
Director: Sarah Polley
This unusually intimate yet universal real-life story from actor-director Sarah Polley (Away from Her, Take This Waltz) takes as its subject her extended family, including her actor mother and playwright father. As she journeys through her family's secrets – skilfully mixing past and present, the real and the imagined – Polley exposes the complex ways in which each family member shapes their own narrative. One of Canada's Top Ten' films at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
Wadjda (Australian Premiere)
Director: Haifaa Al Mansour | Cast: Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Al Gohani | Saudi Arabia, Germany
The first feature film shot entirely in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are not permitted, and by that country's first woman filmmaker, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wadjda is about a 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own a bicycle. In her conservative society, Wadjda has little chance of attaining her dream, but she soon comes up with a scheme to do just that. Winner of the Best Arab Feature Film at the Dubai International Film Festival 2013.
What Maisie Knew (Australian Premiere)
Directors: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Cast: Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata April
Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård and Steve Coogan star in a darkly comic and emotionally compelling film about a six-year-old girl living through a bitter divorce between her rock icon mother and distracted father. As Maisie is shuttled back and forth between them, she comes to rely more and more on her parents' new partners, who are themselves falling in love.
What Richard Did (Australian Premiere)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Jack Reynor, Róisín Murphy, Sam Keeley
From director Lenny Abrahamson (Garage), What Richard Did follows Richard Karlsen, a golden-boy athlete and the undisputed alpha male of a privileged set of South Dublin teenagers, through the summer between the end of school and the beginning of university. Then one night Richard does something that shatters the lives of the people closest to him.
William Yang: My Generation (World Premiere)
Director: Martin Fox
In the '70s and '80s, photographer William Yang captured Sydney's emerging artistic, literary, theatrical and queer circles; as well as his friendships with artists, writers and fashion designers such as Brett Whiteley, Patrick White, Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee. With myriad images and his trademark candid narration, Yang leads us though this beguilingly decadent and creative era.
Wrong Side of the Road (Australian Premiere)
Director: Ned Lander
Cast: Ronnie Ansell, Peter Butler, Les Graham | Australia It's a welcome return to the big screen for an iconic Australian feature Wrong Side of the Road, digitally restored to its glory by the National Film and Sound Archive. A heady mix of fact and fiction, the film follows two Aboriginal bands, Us Mob and No Fixed Address, as they travel from one South Australian gig to another. This game-changing 1980s production still packs a punch, and is as relevant now as the year it was made.