Who among us believes they are drowning in multimedia content, with way more stuff to watch than they could ever possibly manage without breaking the space/time continuum? You do, I do, we all do. To make matters worse, along comes the Sydney film festival with, as usual, a prodigious array of cinematic delights – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are 10 things to see and do at this year’s festival.
1. She Who Must Be Loved
Director: Erica Glynn / Country: Australia
I was fortunate enough to be in the audience last year at the world premiere in Adelaide of She Who Must Be Loved, director Erica Glynn’s affecting documentary about her mother Freda, a highly influential figure in the Australian media landscape. It was a wonderful experience: the film was excellent and the energy in the room warm and inviting, thanks in no small measure to the presence of Freda herself. She and Erica will be guests of the Sydney film festival too.
2. The Dead Don’t Die
Director: Jim Jarmusch / Country: USA
The name of director Jim Jarmusch alone is a drawcard. Add “Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver” and “zombie movie” and you have a film that, one hopes, approaches genre tropes in a distinctively offbeat, grungy, Jarmuschian way – like the director’s sumptuously styled 2013 vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive.
3. Agnès Varda retrospective
Agnès Varda is one of the two greatest directors of the French New Wave (the other being Jean-Luc Godard). The legendary film-maker, whose career began in the 1950s, passed away in March this year, aged 90, working right up to the end. Her final film – the autobiographical Varda by Agnès – is on the SFF program, as is a retrospective of her work. If you’re new to Varda and looking for somewhere to start, maybe go with Cléo From 5 to 7 – a masterpiece every bit as fresh and spunky as it would have been when first screened in 1962.
4. Gorge on music documentaries
This year there’s a veritable surfeit of docos about legendary musicians. Concert movies include the highly anticipated Amazing Grace, featuring never-before-seen footage from a 1972 Aretha Franklin concert, and Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, which charts Dylan’s 1975 tour – with new interviews from the media-shy troubadour. Films in the bio-doc mould include Mystify: Michael Hutchence and Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.
5. Judy and Punch
Director: Mirrah Foulkes / Country: Australia
Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman (who plays Charles Manson in Quentin Tarantino’s next movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) star in this live-action reworking of the old British puppet show. Helmed by Australian actor-cum-writer/director Mirrah Foulkes, Judy and Punch is one of 12 titles in competition for the Sydney film prize. Also in competition is another local film, Hearts and Bones, featuring national treasure Hugo Weaving as a war photographer with a habit of embarking on dangerous overseas assignments.
Director: Bong Joon-ho / Country: South Korea
New films from the great South Korean director Bong Joon-ho are always exciting . Recently moving from post-apocalyptic sci-fi (Snowpiercer) to wacky environmentalism (Okja), his new film Parasite sounds more modest: a thriller about a working-class family who become obsessed with another family. It will compete for the Palme d’Or at this month’s Cannes film festival.
7. Attend a talk with RJ Mitte about authenticity in film
Anyone who has watched the great television crime opus Breaking Bad(which should be mandatory viewing) knows RJ Mitte as Walter White Jr. The actor, who has cerebral palsy, will discuss the importance of authenticity in film with relation to screen portrayals of people who have disabilities. His new film is also on the program: an Australian romcom called Standing Up for Sunny.
8. The Final Quarter
Director: Ian Darling / Country: Australia
Legendary footballer Adam Goodes was a high-profile victim of racism, belonging to a league with – to put it generously – a patchy record when it comes to addressing such matters. The Final Quarter pledges to revisit key moments in Goodes’ final sporting years. It was constructed entirely using archival footage, suggesting an essay-like style in the mould of Senna or Amy.
Director: Amanda Kramer / Country: US
Dubbed as a feminist reworking of Lord of the Flies, the directorial debut of Amanda Kramer is a low-budget thriller set in a house after an earthquake. It is described in the Sydney film festival program as “aesthetically very ‘now’”. But what does that even mean? When I read the words “aesthetically very now” I think, unfortunately, of Jared Leto holding his own head.
10. Anthropocene: the Human Epoch
Directors: Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky / Country: Canada
There has never been a more important time to reconsider the impact human beings have on Earth. Working from the horrifying vantage point that the planet is in the middle of a sixth great extinction, co-directors Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky travel the world to examine the devastating effect the human race has on the natural environment.
• Sydney film festival opens on 5 June