Everything you need to know about Sydney Film Festival

Image courtesy: Sydney Film Festival

This story first appeared on former NRMA site Live4 on June 2, 2014. Image courtesy of SFF.

June marks many things – the beginning of winter, the winter solstice and, for cinema lovers across the city, the annual instalment of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF). This year is a special one for the festival, which runs from June 4 to 15, as it marks 60 years since it first opened back in 1954.

It’s a big and busy program squeezed into 12 days, so here’s our guide to help you make the most of it all.

Official Competition

Established in 2008, Official Competition sees 12 preselected feature films from around the world vie for the coveted Sydney Film Prize, which includes $60,000 in cash.

Being courageous, powerful, cutting-edge and audacious works are the criteria for inclusion. Among the shortlisted films are: 20,000 Days on Earth (starring Nick Cave); Boyhood (an American film shot over 12 years); The Rover(by Animal Kingdom director David Michôd); Black Coal, Thin Ice (Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale); andLocke (directed by Stephen Knight, writer of Eastern Promises and Amazing Grace).

Judged by a jury of five international and Australian filmmakers and respected industry names, the winning film is announced on the closing night of the festival.

Each of the 12 films will be shown twice over the duration of the festival.

Pick of the bunch

This year’s program is full of features, shorts, animations and documentaries from Australia and around the world – some new, some classic and exploring subject matter of every kind.

Short-film lovers should take a look at the 10 finalists for the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, while music lovers should check out Sounds on Screen where music and cinema cross in the finest of forms. Fans of Robert Altman will love his retrospective showcase, and horror and fantasy fans shouldn’t go past the Freak Me Outselection.

You can also peruse films by interestlanguagedirector or country on the SFF site.

Documentary heaven

Documentary lovers can get their fix from the 10 factual films showing as part of this year’s Australian Documentary Award. It’s an interesting selection that includes: a skateboarding doco, All this Mayhem; a moving account of a woman’s struggle with terminal illness in 35 Letters; a look at the story behind Sydney’s National Black Theatre in The Redfern Story; and a behind the scenes with FEMEN, Ukraine’s infamous topless protestors, in Ukraine is Not a Brothel. The winner, who will take home a $10,000 prize, will be announced on the closing night of SFF.

The festival will also play host to a wide selection of classic, never before seen in Australia and award-winning documentaries from around the world, as part of their international showcase.

Festival Hub

Tucked away on the Druitt Street side of the Sydney Town Hall, Festival Hub is the best place to hang out and kill some time between films or immerse yourself in all things SFF beyond the cinema screen.

Downstairs there’s a bar, a Gelato Messina cart, free Wi-Fi, a mobile phone charging station, a movies and music pop-up store plus ‘program gurus’ who will sit with you for a free 10-minute chat to help guide you through this year’s program and suggest flicks you might like to see.

Upstairs the Hub plays host to over 25 (mainly free) events including talks, performances, screenings and more.

Tip: You can score discounted $10 tickets to selected screenings if you buy them in person at the Hub box office.

Festival Hub is free and open June 5-15. Hours are Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to midnight; Tuesday to Friday 5 pm to midnight; and closing night (June 15) noon until 6 pm.

On the road

Don’t fret if you’re not in Sydney – the Sydney Travelling Film Festival (TFF) may well come to you. Taking in over 19 regional locations across Australia spanning New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, this showcase includes features, shorts and documentaries from Oz and around the globe.