First Films Announced for 2015 Sydney Film Festival

The first 37 films for the 2015 Sydney Film Festival have been announced.
The film festival will take place from June 3rd to June 14th and will feature an Ingmar Bergman retrospective curated by Australian critic, and former co-host of ABC’s At the Movies, David Stratton.
Titles released in the announcement include the anticipated Strangerland, starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Finnes; Slow West, the winner of the 2015 World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at this years Sundance Film Festival, starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee; Mr Holmes, starring Ian McKellen and directed by Bill Condon.
The controversial Scientology documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief will also be screening at the festival.

See below for the full list of announced titles.

DOCUMENTARIES

BEATS OF THE ANTONOV
Director: hajooj kuka | Sudan, South Africa | 68 mins | In Arabic with English subtitles
Winner of the People’s Choice Award at Toronto, this eloquent documentary celebrates the resilience of the inhabitants of war-torn Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain communities.
Through traditional music and dance, they cope with this conflict with an exuberance that may seem at odds with the terrain in which they survive.

BEST OF ENEMIES
Directors: Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon | USA | 88 mins | In English
The infamous 1968 televised clash between left-leaning novelist Gore Vidal and conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr. is the subject of this entertaining documentary. Directors Robert Gordon and Oscar-winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, SFF 2013) skilfully blend vintage footage and contemporary interviews with humorous and fascinating results.

BIKES VS. CARS
Director: Fredrik Gertten | Sweden | 91 mins | In English, Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles
The joy and potential of two-wheeled transport, in an era when the design of our cities is determined by the automobile, is explored in this timely, globetrotting documentary. Activists and thinkers from São Paulo, Toronto, Stockholm and Los Angeles fight for better cities, refusing to stop riding despite the increasing number of traffic-related fatalities.

THE CHINESE MAYOR
Director: Zhou Hao | China | 86 mins | In Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles
A Special Jury Award winner at Sundance, this revealing look at today’s China is from the team behind festival favourites Last Train Home (SFF 2010) and Fallen City (SFF 2013). With extraordinary access, they document non-conformist Mayor Geng Yanbo of Datong and his controversial efforts to revive the glory of the former capital of Imperial China.

DREAMCATCHER
Director: Kim Longinotto | UK | 104 mins | In English
Fiercely compassionate, honest and moving, Dreamcatcher is the latest from renowned documentarian Kim Longinotto (Sisters in Law, SFF 2005). This compelling portrait of former sex worker Brenda Myers-Powell, who mentors Chicago’s streetwalkers through her Dreamcatcher Foundation, earned Longinotto the Documentary Directing Award at this year’s Sundance.

GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF
Director: Alex Gibney | USA | 120 mins | In English
One of the hottest films at Sundance, this eye-opening look at the Church of Scientology is the latest offering from Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. Expect a candid portrait of the eccentric founder L. Ron Hubbard and his church’s rise to power and fortune, with the help of tax breaks and Hollywood A-listers like John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Director: Jerry Rothwell | UK, Canada | 110 mins | In English
This gripping chronicle from documentarian Jerry Rothwell charts the birth of Greenpeace from 1970s Vancouver to international status. Revealing interviews, excerpts from eco-warrior Bob Hunter’s eloquent writings, and compelling archival footage expose the internal squabbling and power plays that endangered the group’s ecological purpose.

THE HUNTING GROUND
Director: Kirby Dick | USA | 102 mins | In English
Following his Oscar-nominated exposé of sexual abuse in the army (The Invisible War), director Kirby Dick tackles the tough issue of rape on American college campuses, from Harvard to Berkeley. The facts are staggering: of the one in five women sexually assaulted, only a handful of cases are reported. Two young women decide to fight back using a little-known case law.

THE LOOK OF SILENCE
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer | Indonesia, Denmark, Norway, Finland, UK | 102 mins | In Indonesian and Javanese with English Subtitles
The Look of Silence is a companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing (SFF 2013), but a very different journey. While the earlier film concentrated on the killers’ accounts of the 1960s Indonesian communist purge, the second focuses on the victims, their families and community. Their story, however, is no less harrowing.

MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER
Director: Jin Mo-Young | South Korea | 86 mins | In Korean with English subtitles
This exquisitely crafted, award-winning portrait of a South Korean couple married for 76 years was a box office sensation in its homeland. The couple’s love seems immutable and you can well imagine these lovebirds in the bloom of youth. But time stands stills for no one, and Jo Byeong-man, the older of the duo at 98, is becoming increasingly frail.
FEATURES

54: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT
Director: Mark Christopher | USA | 106 Mins | In English
A new cut of this 1998 cult-classic ode to hedonism at legendary New York disco Studio 54 celebrates director Mark Christopher’s homoerotic original vision. The naïve Shane (Ryan Phillippe) uses his undeniable sex appeal to climb the club’s hierarchy. Mike Myers is scintillating as dissolute club owner Steve Rubell; Salma Hayek and Neve Campbell co-star.

99 HOMES
Director: Ramin Bahrani | USA | 112 mins | In English
Set during America’s 2008 housing crisis, this intelligent, adrenaline-charged thriller from Ramin Bahrani generated tremendous buzz at Venice, Toronto and Sundance. A desperate construction worker (Andrew Garfield) is seduced into accepting a job with a ruthless real estate broker played by Michael Shannon, the very man who evicted him from his family home.

THE CROW’S EGG
Director: M. Manikandan | India | 99 mins | In Tamil with English subtitles
Dubbed the next Slumdog Millionaire, this funny and charming film from South India is for both adults and older kids. Two mischievous and resourceful brothers living in poverty in a Chennai slum see an ad for pizza and become determined to taste this magical food for the very first time, setting off on an adventure full of both triumphs and setbacks.

DEATHGASM
Director: Jason Lei Howden | New Zealand | 90 mins | In English
This fabulously funny and gory Kiwi horror flick was the talk of this year’s SXSW Film Festival. When metal-thrashing teenage misfits Brodie and Zakk find a strange piece of sheet music, they accidentally summon a hideous supernatural entity. With nothing less than the annihilation of human existence on the beast’s malevolent mind, carnage and hilarity ensue.

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
Director: Peter Strickland | UK | 105 mins | In English
This sensual melodrama is a chronicle of a lesbian S&M relationship between Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Borgen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) who engage in an erotic game of increasing strain and intensity. The Duke of Burgundy is both a heart-warming romance and an homage to European erotica: kinky, funny and a pleasure from beginning to end.

EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO
Director: Peter Greenaway | Netherlands, Mexico, Finland, Belgium | 105 mins | In English
Daring, sexually explicit and wildly funny, Peter Greenaway’s latest film depicts Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s visit to Mexico in 1931 to shoot a film. Politically and financially vulnerable, Eisenstein – together with his Mexican guide, Palomino – experiences the ties between sex and death through 10 days that would shape his life and career.

KABUICHI LOVE HOTEL
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki | Japan | 135 mins | In Japanese and Korean with English subtitles
In this sweet, sexy ensemble drama from former ‘pink film’ director Ryuichi Hiroki, a love hotel in Tokyo’s red-light district plays host to its occupants’ illicit goings-on. J-pop band AKB48’s Atsuko Maeda (Tamako in Moratorium, SFF 2014) stars in this bittersweet portrait of disaffected urbanites that combines graphic sex and sentimentality.

LOVE & MERCY
Director: Bill Pohlad | USA | 120 mins | In English
Musical genius Brian Wilson is portrayed brilliantly by both Paul Dano and John Cusack in this beautifully moving portrait. Love & Mercy looks at the seminal moments of Wilson’s life, from the period in which the Beach Boys were churning out chart-topping hits to the recording of the magnificent “Pet Sounds” and his battle with mental illness.

MR. HOLMES
Director: Bill Condon | UK, USA | 103 mins | In English
Aged 93 and long-retired, the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes (beautifully acted by the great Ian McKellen) lives in a farmhouse and tends to his bees. Struggling with his fading memory, Holmes is determined to solve a mystery that has tormented him for decades. Inspired by his housekeeper’s son, he sets about cracking one final case.

NECKTIE YOUTH
Director: Sibs Shongwe-La Mer | Netherlands, South Africa | 86 mins | In Afrikaans, English and Zulu with English Subtitles
Shot in striking black and white, Necktie Youth is a visually stunning tale of disaffected youth in contemporary Johannesburg. A year after the live-streamed suicide of their friend Emily, Jabz and September take a drug-fuelled trip through the affluent suburbs of their city, discussing bizarre sex, politics and race, and finding themselves in increasingly strange scenarios.

PHOENIX
Director: Christian Petzold | Germany | 98 mins | In German with English subtitles
This complex mystery of deceit is director Christian Petzold’s sixth collaboration with Nina Hoss (including Barbara, SFF 2012). A concentration camp survivor returns to Berlin and attempts to reclaim the life she was stripped of. With nods to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and a brilliant final scene, the power of Phoenix lasts long after the credits roll.

A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE
Director: Roy Andersson | Sweden | 100 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Swedish cinematic visionary Roy Andersson (You, the Living, SFF 2008) brings his trademark absurdist humour and singular vision to this winner of the Venice Golden Lion. Zipping back and forth through time, and peopled with a bizarre, yet strangely familiar cast of characters, the film is a meticulous series of tragi-comic vignettes.

SLOW WEST
Director: John MacLean | UK, New Zealand | 84 mins | In English
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance, this darkly funny, unconventional western is both thrilling and romantic. A bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) conceals his motives from a lovelorn and naïve Scottish teenager (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who embarks on a perilous quest to find his beloved in 1800s Colorado. Ben Mendelsohn is brilliant as a fur-clad outlaw.

SONG OF THE SEA
Director: Tomm Moore | Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Denmark | 90 mins | In English
This enchanting treat for families is inspired by Ireland’s rich Celtic folklore. Ben and his fairy-like
sister, Saoirse, live on a rocky island, where seals bob up to inspect their every activity. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars, this legend-inspired tale is chock-full of glorious imagery, captivating critters and lilting Gaelic music.

STRANGERLAND
Director: Kim Farrant | Australia, Ireland | 111 mins | In English
Nicole Kidman makes a welcome return to Australian independent cinema in this striking film. The teenage children of Catherine (Kidman) and Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) mysteriously disappear from the outback town the family has recently settled in. When local cop Rae (Hugo Weaving) tries to solve the case, he uncovers a dark history that has repercussions for him too.

SUNRISE
Director: Partha Sen-Gupta | India, France | 85 mins | In Marathi with English subtitles
This emotionally gripping noir is Partho Sen-Gupta’s first dramatic feature in a decade. Shifting between dream and reality, a grief-stricken Mumbai police inspector – played almost wordlessly by Adil Hussain (Life of Pi) – searches for his kidnapped six-year-old daughter, haunted by visions of an elusive spectre and the seedy Paradise nightclub.

VILLA TOUMA
Director: Suha Arraf | 87 mins | In Arabic with English subtitles
Set in Ramallah, the directorial debut from award-winning screenwriter Suha Arraf (The Syrian Bride, Lemon Tree) offers a rare glimpse into aristocratic Palestinian Christian society. Shut away in their villa, three unmarried sisters cling desperately to their former glory until their orphaned niece arrives to turn their world turns upside down.

ESSENTIAL BERGMAN: SELECTED BY DAVID STRATTON

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (1955)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 108 mins | In Swedish with English Subtitles
In this, Bergman’s 16th film as director, he demonstrated a lighter than usual touch, evoking the world of Oscar Wilde and Arthur Schnitzler. The turn-of-the-century romantic comedy-drama with an all-star ensemble cast establishes its characters in Stockholm before removing them to a country estate for a long summer night of intrigue and passion.

THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 96 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
The Seventh Seal, the first of two films released by Bergman in 1957, has been much studied, imitated, even parodied, but never outdone. With stunning imagery and a unique mood that have proved unforgettable, this portrait of a disillusioned knight returning home after a decade of battling in the Crusades is a captivating allegory of man’s search for meaning.

WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 91 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Released in 1957, a few months after The Seventh Seal, the superbly shot Wild Strawberries established Bergman as one of cinema’s greatest artists. Bergman’s mentor, Victor Sjöström, stars as an elderly professor troubled by strange dreams. On his way to receiving an honorary degree, he reflects on his past, opportunities missed and love unrequited.

THE FACE (1958)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 100 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Awarded a special jury prize at Venice in 1959, this powerful, creepy melodrama is an engaging, brilliantly conceived tale of deceit from one of cinema’s premier illusionists. Shot in rich, Gothic black and white, Bergman’s diabolically clever battle of wits about a travelling mesmerist (Max von Sydow) is both frightening and funny.

THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 89 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Bergman returned to the Middle Ages for this extremely controversial, bleakly beautiful and disturbing story of violation and vengeance. Max von Sydow plays a landowner who sends his spoilt, beautiful daughter, Karin (Birgitta Pettersson), to a nearby church to light candles for the Virgin. Along the way Karin is accosted by herdsmen who rape and murder her.

THE SILENCE (1963)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 95 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
The Silence created a scandal at the time of its 1963 release for its so-called erotic scenes, which, while staged in a deliberately unglamorous and unerotic way, were still savagely attacked by the Australian censors. Many of Bergman’s themes – the failure to communicate, isolation and an obsession with sex – are to be found in this film.

PERSONA (1966)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 82 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Censored at the time of its release in Australia, this critical darling is a portrait of a famed stage actress who dries up during a performance of Electra, and her subsequent recuperation. Persona is a summation of some of Bergman’s favourite themes – the validity of art, the duality of the face and the mask, and the inadequacy of language.

CRIES AND WHISPERS (1973)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 91 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
Winner of the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1968, this spectacularly shot Bergman classic is a claustrophobic and often painful portrait of four women: Agnes, who is dying; her sisters, Karin and Maria, who come to help but are too self-involved to be of any use; and the family’s devoted servant, Anna, who is left to do most of the caring.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 188 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
In 1982, Bergman returned home to Sweden after a period of exile to make this warm, richly detailed reminiscence. Based on memories of his childhood, this film’s rollicking opulence is filled with echoes from Bergman’s earlier work. On completion of this beautiful, rich near-autobiography, Bergman declared he would work entirely for television.

SARABAND (2003)
Director: Ingmar Bergman | Sweden | 107 mins | In Swedish with English subtitles
With his last film, Bergman continued his exploration of marriage and relationships and all the difficulties and stresses that couples experience. This intimate chamber-piece, which can be fittingly described as ‘autumnal’, is a showcase for its fine actors and an apt final statement from one of the world’s greatest-ever film directors.

 

 

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FIRST FILMS FOR 2015 (Media Release)

 

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