Sydney Film Festival 2011: Launch

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SFF LogoSydney film fans, it’s time to get your wallets out and your film goggles on. We’ve gone through a long cold lonely winter without them, and now as the weather is getting colder again, we have another season of fabulous films to look forward to. With a theme this year that is represented by a person in yellow spandex being crushed by a cube, ‘difference’ appears to be the message here. So what treats does SFF have in store for Sydneysiders and pilgrims alike over the 12 days of dizzying delights across the cinemas of the CBD?


Opening Night

Kicking off the festivities is is Hanna, directed by Joe Wright and starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, at the traditional site of the State Theatre. This has been getting massive buzz already and is a terrifc coup for the Festival to launch what is undoubtedly one of the most exciting programs to date. The Reel Bits has already secured their tickets for this big night, so you can rest assured that this is one we will definitely be covering.

Hanna has already seen some box office success in the US, and the Australian premiere will feature Cate Blanchett as a guest on the red carpet and after party.

Films in competition

From the preview released in April, we already know that Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg, Miranda July’s (who will be presenting the film at the festival) The Future and Tran Anh Hung’s adaptation of Norwegian Wood are in competition at this year’s Festival. As regular readers will well know by now, Chinese director Chen Kaige has been named jury president of the 2011 Sydney Film Festival.

Other films in competition include Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, Fernando León De Aranoa’s Amador, Alexander Zeldovich’s Target, Joshua Marston’s Forgiveness of Blood, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, Mohamed Diab’s Cairo 678, Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty and Australia’s own Ivan Sen with Toomelah.

13 Assassins


There are dozens of titles announced at the festival, with many of them Australian premieres, and as usual the SFF program provides a diverse and eclectic mix of contemporary films from around the world. Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, already a winner of Best Director at Sundance, is definitely one to watch out for. Likewise, John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard and Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff have already been winning fans at festivals around the world. Another film getting a fair amount of buzz is Martha Marcy May Marlene, which has already won a directing award at Sundance and stars the lesser known younger sister of the Olsen twin, Elizabeth Olsen alongside Hugh Dancy and John Hawkes (rapidly becoming an indie darling after last year’s turn in Winter’s Bone).

Between the Fire Me Up and Freak Me Out Pathways, lovers of cult cinema with a different will be in for a treat. Miike’s Takaski 13 Assassins, complete with a 45 minute battle sequence, Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun, Japan’s Mutant Girls Squad, Norway’s The Troll Hunter and the satirical Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. Modern-day fans of shlock should bow down before the master Roger Corman whose films and exploits are explored in Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. Managing to elicit stories from any number of ‘aspiring’ filmmakers that Corman gave a big break to (Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson), this just might be the must-see documentary of the festival!

All That Heaven Allows

Fans of the retro can look forward to a melodramatic Douglas Sirk Retrospective featuring All That Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession, There’s Always Tomorrow and Written on the Wind. Perhaps a generation that only knows the director from the name of steak in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction will find the weepy wonders of Sirk in this brilliant look back as his work. Similarly, persecuted Iranian director Jafar Panini will get his own retrospective including such films as Offside, The Mirror, The Circle and The White Balloon.

Kids need not feel left out either, with a great selection of family films to gather round. Along with the Australian premiere of Kung Fu Panda 2, the sequel to the popular Dreamworks animation that also had its Australia debut at the Sydney Film Festival 2008, there is the 3D Belgian Sammy’s Adventure: The Secret Passage, telling the story of a sea turtle; Africa United, as a group of Rwandan kids hit the road for the soccer world cup, and the beautifully animated The Great Bear from Denmark, a tale that has been compared with Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. High praise indeed!

Sammy's Adventure: The Secret Passage

Whether you are into green cinema, want SFF to Take Me on a Journey or Push Me to the Edge, like sound on film, are into documentaries, short films or children’s pictures, there is something there for you. LENNONYC documents the late Beatles’ love affair with New York City, and how he found his way back there and to his music after an infamous “lost weekend” in Los Angeles, with director Michael Epstein interviewing the likes of Yoko Ono and Elton John. Still on the subject of famous New Yorkers, director Martin Scorsese (with researcher and archivist Kent Jones) explores the life of the controversial writer and director Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront) in A Letter to Elia.

Closing Night

The closing night film this year is Beginners, directed by Mike Mills and starring Ewan McGregor – the winners of the 2011 Sydney Film Prize, the 2011 FOXTEL Documentary Prize and the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films will be honoured.


The Sydney Film Festival runs from 8 – 19 June 2011 at various venues across the Sydney CBD. For the full program, please visit their website. Tickets are now on sale.

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