Tuesday, May 13, 2014

8 Films to Watch at the Sydney Film Festival 2014 | 4 to 15 June 2014

How do you choose from 183 films from the Sydney Film Festival 2014 to be shown in the space of 11 days? Simply work out what genre interests you (go the ‘Films’ drop down box on the Festival’s website www.sff.org.au, select ‘interests’ and then see which film best fits in your diary.

The 61st Sydney Film Festival 2014 will be held from 4 to 15 June 2014 and boasts an impressive 183 titles from 47 countries and includes 15 World Premieres (including 6 World Premiere short films), 122 Australian Premieres (including 14 Australian Premiere short films) and 6 International Premieres (including 1 International Premiere short film). The Festival is a major event on the New South Wales cultural calendar and is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals.

The Festival screens feature films, documentaries, short films and animated films across the city at the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, the Art Gallery of NSW, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, the Apple Store, SFFTV at Martin Place, Skyline Drive-In Blacktown, and the Festival Hub at Town Hall.

Sydney Film Festival also presents 12 films that vie for the Official Competition, a highly respected international honour that awards a $60,000 cash prize based on the decision of a jury of international and Australian filmmakers and industry professionals. Previous Sydney Film Prize winners include: Only God Forgives (2013), Alps (2012), A Separation (2011) – which went on to win an Academy Award, Heartbeats (2010), Bronson (2009) and Hunger (2008).

I generally like feel good flicks, humour, action, documentaries and politics (not necessarily all in the one film). These are the 8 films I will be seeing at the Festival next month. Hurry and get your tickets as seats to popular films can fill up fast.

#1 Words and Pictures

Director: Fred Schepisi
Country: USA
Runtime: 115 mins
Language: English
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

The great Australian director Fred Schepisi (The Devil's Playground, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Roxanne) returns with a delightful romantic drama. Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche square off, and sparks fly. He plays Jack Marcus, a wordsmith who drinks too much and suffers from writers' block; while she plays Dina Delsanto, an artist with arthritis who is physically unable to paint. At the elite school where they teach, the two begin a war over which is more powerful: the word or the picture. The school and their students are invigorated by this fun intellectual exercise, enthusiastically taking sides. But there is more at stake, and the two damaged artists must overcome their demons before things can truly be settled. With lovely performances by Owen and Binoche, this is a charming treat.

Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture
Director Fred Schepisi will give this year's Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture on Monday 9 June, 4:45pm at Event Cinemas 3. Tickets are FREE, but must be pre-booked.

When and Where?

Mon 9 June | 2.20pm | State Theatre

Tue 10 Jun | 6.30pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#2 The Lunchbox: Gourmet Cinema Film & Dinner

Director: Ritesh Batra
Country: India, Germany, France, USA
Runtime: 105 mins
Language: Hindi, English
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

This Indian indie hit is a delicious celebration of romance and food featuring Bollywood/Hollywood crossover star Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire). The story is inspired by Mumbai's remarkable dabba (lunchbox) delivery system, in which only one in four million home-cooked meals is ever incorrectly delivered. That one wayward lunch links a housewife with an office worker in the dusk of his life. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is an eager young wife trying to impress her distant husband through her outstanding cooking. Saajan (Khan) is a disillusioned office worker who is about to retire, further emphasising his solitary existence. A correspondence between the two is triggered by the lunchbox, leading them into a rich fantasy. With perfect performances and deft direction by Ritesh Bhatra, The Lunchbox is a sweet love story that has charmed audiences around the world.

Gourmet Cinema: Luke Mangan's glass brasserie and The Lunchbox

Work up a serious appetite while you enjoy the screening of The Lunchbox at Event Cinemas George Street. The film, a delicious celebration of romance and food set in Mumbai, is followed by an Indian-inspired menu especially created by top Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan. This multi-course meal at glass brasserie will include bubbles, Little Creatures beer and Eden Road wine. This is a one-off film and food event at one of Sydney’s iconic restaurants, awarded a chef’s hat again in 2014, where every single sense will be truly satisfied.

You can also see The Lunchbox without the dinner.

Where (with dinner)?

Tue 10 June | 6pm | Event Cinemas George Street (sold out)

Where (without dinner)?

Fri 6 Jun | 6pm | State Theatre

Sun 8 Jun | 6pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#3 Casa Grande

Director: Fellipe Barbosa
Country: Brazil
Runtime: 112 mins
Language: Portuguese
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

An impressive and personal debut feature, Casa Grande, is a vibrant and layered coming-of-age tale set within Rio de Janeiro's social elite. Jean is a teenager who has grown up in a life of privilege in a large mansion, cushioned from hardship by his over-protective parents. He has deep relationships with the staff: a driver and two housekeepers, one of whom he constantly tries to bed. Preoccupied with girls and clubbing, Jean is unaware that his father has lost virtually all his money, making the status quo unsustainable. As the staff gradually leave, Jean is left adrift, and a new relationship with a mixed-race girl from a different social strata forces Jean to contemplate race, class and the very foundations of his society. Gentle and insightful, Casa Grande establishes Fellipe Barbosa as a very promising talent.

Where and When?

Wed 11 Jun | 8.15pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema

Sat 14 Jun | 5.30pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema
#4 Babylon

Director: Danny Boyle, Jon S. Baird
Country: UK
Runtime: 74 mins
Language: English
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and scripted by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (Four Lions, SFF 2010; Peep Show), Babylon is a witty, fast-paced feature-length TV pilot for a new UK comedy-drama. After giving an impressive TED talk, American PR guru Liz Garvey (indie star Brit Marling) is lured away from her old job at Instagram to move to London and serve as director of communications for the Metropolitan Police. But her first day on the job is a tricky one. She has a resentful number two, Finn (Bertie Carvel), who thinks he should have her job; she has to deal with a TV crew filming the force; and more importantly, there's a sniper on the loose in the city, picking victims off at random – including a police officer. When it's discovered that the suspect is live-tweeting his moves, Liz faces tough decisions about transparency and public safety as she struggles to control the narrative.

Where and When?

Sat 7 Jun | 7pm | Event Cinemas George Street

Wed 11 Jun | 8.15pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#5 Dior and I

Director: Frédéric Tcheng
Country: France
Runtime: 90 mins
Language: French, English
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

Designer Raf Simons arrived at the House of Christian Dior in 2012 with a reputation for minimalism, a charmingly dedicated right-hand man, and just eight weeks to create his first Dior Haute Couture collection. This highly entertaining and unexpectedly emotional documentary follows his progress from concept to catwalk. It's not just Simons who's feeling the heat; behind the scenes it's a pressure cooker of deadlines and detail. Florence and Monique lead the extremely talented teams of seamstresses, struggling to meet the demands of both the newcomer and their elite clients. The Belgian designer's day-to-day struggles are interwoven with readings from Christian Dior's autobiography, revealing that the New Look designer's 20th century experiences were little different. The director Frédéric Tcheng previously worked on Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel and Valentino: The Last Emperor (SFF 2009), demonstrating that he has a winning way with fashion on film. In Dior and I he's crafted a fittingly splendid homage to the rarefied world of haute couture.

Where and When?

Fri 13 Jun | 8pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema

Sat 14 Jun | 7pm | Event Cinemas George Street

Sun 15 Jun | 4pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#6 Rock the Casbah

Director: Laïla Marrakchi
Country: France, Morocco
Runtime: 99 mins
Language: French, Arabic
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

The latest from writer/director Laïla Marrakchi (Marock) is a lovingly crafted family drama with a warm sense of humour. The film's ensemble cast includes some of the Middle East's finest actors including Morjana Alaoui, Nadine Labaki (Where Do We Go Now, SFF 2012), Lubna Azabal and Hiam Abbass (both from Paradise Now, SFF 2005), and the legendary Omar Sharif. The death of her father, a successful Moroccan entrepreneur, sees the fiercely independent New Yorker Sofia returning to Tangiers. There she is reunited with her grieving mother and two sisters, the beautiful but naïve Miriam and the uptight Kenza. Over the course of the traditional three-day mourning ritual, the four resilient women are forced to confront a host of long-buried family secrets that threaten to tear them apart again.

Also screens at the Travelling Film Festival Newcastle on Saturday 21 June, 6pm

Where and When?

Thu 12 Jun | 8.50pm | State Theatre

Fri 13 Jun | 2.15pm | Event Cinemas George Street

Sat 14 Jun | 4pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#7 The Rover

Director: David Michôd
Country: Australia
Runtime: 103 mins
Language: English
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

In 2010 David Michôd's Animal Kingdom won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, created a stir at festivals around the world, and firmly established Michôd as one of the most promising new filmmakers in international cinema. His much-anticipated second feature, a Cannes Official Selection, is an uncompromising and dark thriller with elements of a western, fulfilling all the promise of his debut. Set in a dangerous near-future, 10 years after the collapse of the western economic system, The Rover depicts an Australia without law or order. The country's natural resources have attracted a range of dangerous opportunists, and life is cheap. When Eric (Guy Pearce) has his car stolen, he embarks on a ruthless mission to track down the thieves. He soon forms an unlikely partnership with Rey (Robert Pattinson), the naïve younger brother of gang member Henry (Scoot McNairy) who has left Rey behind in the bloody aftermath of the gang's most recent robbery. Both gripping and terrifying, The Rover's power lies in its strong relation to reality. Says Michôd: "Unlike many films set in a dystopian future, I don't want the devastation of The Rover to be seen as the consequence of a single unforeseen cataclysmic or apocalyptic event… I want The Rover to feel like an entirely conceivable world of the very near future, a world despoiled by very real forces and systems at work all around us today."

Where and When?

Fri 13 June | 8pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema

Sat 14 Jun | 7pm | Event Cinemas George Street

Sun 15 Jun | 4pm | Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

#8 Nelson Mandela: The Myth & Me

Director: Khalo Matabane
Country: Germany, South Africa
Runtime: 86 mins
Language: English, isiXhosa
Premiere Status: Australian Premiere

The late Nelson Mandela's message of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation continues to inspire people worldwide. In his personal letter to Mandela - augmented by interviews with the Dalai Lama, Ariel Dorfman, Tariq Ali, Henry Kissinger and others - director Khalo Matabane confronts his childhood hero with difficult questions. As Matabane says: "There is a perception that South Africa is a miracle country, but there were no miracles. People fought for freedom and people paid a huge price." Did Nelson Mandela go too far in his policy of forgiveness and reconciliation? Did he make decisions enhancing today's inequality and poverty in South Africa? In this, South Africa's 20th year of democracy, these questions are all the more pressing and Matabane, whose vital, searching films have screened at major festivals all over the world, has made a film relevant far beyond its country's borders.

Where and When?

Thu 5 Jun | 8.15pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema

Sat 7 Jun | 1.45pm | Dendy Opera Quays Cinema

The 61st Sydney Film Festival is supported by the NSW Government through Screen NSW, the Federal Government through Screen Australia, and the City of Sydney. The Festival’s Strategic partner is the NSW Government through Destination NSW.

Purchase Tickets Online
Visit www.sff.org.au

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