Sydney Film Festival unveils stellar program for its 70th anniversary

“A film festival is a gathering of diverse perspectives that offers a collective snapshot of the global zeitgeist, allowing us to delve deeper into our present reality,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley as he unveiled this year’s stellar line-up of programming, running from June 7th – 18th. “For 70 years, Sydney Film Festival has been privileged to capture and embody these moments, presenting a rich tapestry of stories that reflect our shared desire to understand the world we live in.”

“The 2023 Festival program stands as a testament to its ambitious vision, showcasing a dynamic and expansive line-up of both emerging and established filmmakers from around the world. Through their thought-provoking films, they offer us an invitation to reflect on our shared humanity and contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead.”

This year the Festival will present 239 films from 67 countries, including 37 World Premieres and 123
Australian Premieres, bringing together hundreds of new international and local stories.  The program is made up of 90 narrative feature films, including prestigious international festival prize-winners and 54 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues, from established and upcoming documentarians.

Opening the festival this year with the Australian premiere of the Cannes-selected The New Boy, Warwick Thornton‘s new film starring Cate Blanchett and Deborah Mailman, home-grown productions are a recurring theme throughout, with Daina Reed‘s Run Rabbit Run, starring Sarah Snook (TV’s Succession), and the NSW-shot Carmen, a visionary retelling of the classic opera featuring Sydney Dance Company artists and starring Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Melissa Barrera (Scream VI).

Some of the internationally awarded features likely to earn notice this year include Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Scrapper, Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winning feature Afire, and Cannes Film Festival selections Monster and Cobweb.

Another Cannes title making its premiere directly after screening at that prestigious festival is Wes Anderson‘s anticipated Asteroid City, one of the many special presentations taking place at the iconic State Theatre.  Next to the star-studded line-up of Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Margot Robbie and Steve Carell (to name a few), Ben Whishaw can be seen headlining the sexy Sundance hit Passages, about a thorny ménage à trois, and Euphoria breakout Sydney Sweeney stars as an American veteran-turned-whistle blower in the true story Reality.

The 70th anniversary program also showcases captivating narratives from Europe and beyond. Snow and the Bear is a slow-burning Turkish village noir, while Piaffe tells the story of an introverted German Foley artist on a transformative sexual journey. The exhilarating South London odyssey Pretty Red Dress celebrates the power of self-expression and challenges notions of masculinity.

The Sounds on Screen subsect highlights inspiring musical stories with four toe-tapping documentaries featured in the 2023 program; Three Cords and the Truth is an emotive Aussie indie, inspired by the real-life story of singer-songwriter Jackie Marshall; Little Richard: I am Everything, honouring the queer Black origins of rock ‘n’ roll and its ultimate architect, Richard Penniman; Joan Baez I am Noise reflects  on the life of legendary folk musician and activist Joan Baez; and the Sundance-selected Pianoforte showcases young pianists competing in a prestigious competition.

The wonderful and weird Freak Me Out program, curated by Richard Kuipers, returns for another year, showcasing the more sinister side of cinema.  A duo of SXSW winners – Late Night with the Devil and killer sequel The Wrath of Becky – will unleash their terror on unsuspecting audiences, whilst last year’s TIFF favourite Sisu, about an old prospector exacting bloody revenge on Nazis who stole his gold, will preview ahead of its national release in July.  A celebration of Korean cinema brings together Jude Chun’s absurdist sci-fi Unidentified and Park Syeyoung’s beautifully bizarre body horror The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra, for the ultimate double feature of South Korean strangeness.

In association with ACMI and and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), this year’s festival will
present a retrospective of films by the pioneering director Jane CampionJANE CAMPION – HER WAY will encompass screenings of all nine Campion feature films, as well as a selection of her short films, and the Australian premiere of a new documentary about her life and career, Jane Campion, Cinema Woman by filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli. Campion herself will appear in conversation with David Stratton at the festival itself.

Between family-friendly affair, such as the Australian premiere of Pixar’s latest Elemental, a classically restored screening of John Waters‘ cult hit Hairspray, First Nations storytelling, such as 2022, Gaga, the story of an Indigenous Taiwanese family caught between traditions and modern challenges from Atayal filmmaker Laha Mebow, and eye-opening documentaries, covering everything from gender and identity (Orlando, My Political Biography) and Donald Trump’s former adviser (A Storm Foretold), SFF will leave you wanting for not as it makes sure it’s a 70th celebration you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Sydney Film Festival will run from Wednesday 7 June to Sunday 18 June 2023, offering Sydneysiders another exciting season of cinema amidst a whirlwind of premieres, red-carpet openings, in-depth discussions, film guests and more. For more information, session times and tickets, visit

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.