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20 Films you cannot miss at the Sydney Film Festival 2017 (Part 1)

We selected 20 Films worth watching at the Sydney Film Festival that will take place from June 7th – 18th, in Sydney. Here we present information about the first 10 films we selected.

A Ghost Story by David Lowery – USA | 2017 – 87 min.
Influenced by the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, SFF 2010), David Lowery’s enigmatic film is built with a sparse narrative, minimal dialogue and a series of glorious images that convey great emotion. Affleck and Mara play a married couple who live in a cosy Texan home. When the man is killed, he returns to the house they shared as a spectral presence covered by a white sheet. The ghost watches his grieving wife as she lives on without him: what follows is a startling meditation on loss, grief, love and the passage of time.

Schedule:
June 13th – Tuesday – State Theatre – 9:10 pm
June 16th Friday – The Ritz Cinema Randwick – 6:30 pm
June 17th Saturday – Dendy Newtown – 6:00 pm

Trailer:

 

A Quiet Dream by Zhang Lu – South Korea | 2016 – 101 min.

There’s nothing unlucky about the 13th feature by Zhang Lu, whose chronicles of life among Joseon-jeok (Chinese-Koreans) have made a valuable contribution to contemporary South Korean cinema. Filmed almost entirely in glorious black-and-white, A Quiet Dream centres on Ye-ri, an ethnic Korean who returned to Seoul after growing up in China. She runs a tent bar outside her downscale apartment and looks after her seriously ill father. Competing for Ye-ri’s affections is the oddball trio of petty crook Ik-june, epileptic landlord Jong-bin, and bipolar Jung-bum. Played in a delightfully deadpan manner, Zhang’s charmer is time well spent with appealing characters that may be down, but are certainly not out.

Schedule:
June 10th Saturday – Event Cinemas George St 8 – 8:15 pm
June 14th Wednesday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 – 8:10 pm

Trailer:

 

Ali’s Wedding by Jeffrey Walker – Australia | 2016 – 110 min.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Ali’s Wedding is based on the real-life experience of lead actor Osamah Sami, whose arranged marriage lasted less than two hours. The smart screenplay by Sami and Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, Rake, Jack Irish) tells a humorous, authentic and poignant tale about family life in multicultural Australia. Stylishly directed by Jeffrey Walker (Modern Family, Angry Boys), the film boasts a terrific cast including Don Hany as Ali’s father and delightful newcomer Helana Sawires as Dianne, the Lebanese-Australian medical student who sends Ali’s heartbeat racing. The time is right for a feelgood winner like Ali’s Wedding.

Schedule:
June 8th Thursday – State Theatre – 6:25 pm
June 9th Friday – The Ritz Cinema Randwick – 8:15 pm
June 10th Saturday – Casula Powerhouse – 7:30 pm

Trailer:

 

By the time it gets dark by Anocha Suwichakornpong
Thailand, Netherlads, France, Qatar | 2016 – 105 min.

The long-awaited second feature by Suwichakornpong (Mundane History, 2009) begins Ann is a filmmaker attempting to dramatise the 1976 military clampdown that still resonates powerfully in the collective Thai consciousness. Struggling to capture the truth, Ann’s mind begins to wander in visually arresting and intellectually stimulating directions. Her dream of a hallucinatory experience in a forest initiates a hypnotic stream of consciousness, in which characters change appearances and scenes are replayed from radically different perspectives. This magical mystery tour into memory and perception is brilliantly edited and superbly photographed.

Schedule:
June 15th Thursday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 – 7:40 pm
June 17th Saturday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2 – 6:10 pm

Trailer:

 

Ciao Ciao by Song Chuan – France, China | 2017 – 83 min.

After investigating the consequences of China’s one-child policy in his impressive debut Huan Huan (2012), talented writer- director Song Chuan turns his sharply observant eye to the ever- widening gulf between urban and rural China. Song sets the scene brightly with Ciao Ciao (Liang Xueqin, excellent) returning to her village wearing flashy designer clothes and sporting a disdainful attitude toward ‘all these hillbillies’. But maybe she’s missing something here? As Ciao Ciao spends more time with her colourful family and gets to know a handsome local hairdresser, Song creates an enriching and highly entertaining study of people, and a nation, in changing times.

Schedule:
June 15th Thursday – Event Cinemas George St 4 -8.45 pm
June 17th Saturday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinemas 2 – 8:30 pm

Trailer:

 

Diamond Island by Davy Chou – Cambodia, France, Germany | 2016 – 101 min.

A sprawling mass of neon-lit amusement parks, ritzy nightclubs and fancy apartments for Phnom Penh’s rising middle class, Diamond Island is much more than a partially completed mini-city. It’s a statement of national ambition and intent. When naïve 18-year-old Bora joins thousands of other workers at Diamond Island his life changes dramatically. He finds new friends, and new temptations. His brother Solei reappears five years after he went missing. Solei seems happy and wealthy, but is he hiding something? Then there’s Aza, a lovely girl who catches Bora’s eye. Beautifully filmed in a city undergoing massive physical and social change, Diamond Island is a graceful but sharply observed coming-of-age tale.

Schedule:
June 9th Friday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 – 6:30 pm
June 17th Saturday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 – 8:35 pm

Trailer:

 

Félicité by Alain Gomis – France, Belgium, Senegal, Germany, Lebanon | 2017 – 124 min.

Alain Gomis last appeared in the SFF Official Competition with his film Today (SFF 2012), a magical realist look at a man’s last day on earth. In his vibrant new film, the eponymous Félicité (a wonderful performance by Véro Tshanda Beya) sings at a dingy bar but has a voice and a spirit that transcends the setting. When her son is injured in an accident, Félicité faces a race against the clock, trying to raise enough money to save him. It’s here that the film takes a surprising turn and explores Félicité’s burgeoning romance with Tabu, a frequent drinker at the bar where she sings. A vivid portrait of the Congolese capital is created through beautiful music, ranging from traditional to African rock to a Kinshasa symphonic orchestra playing Arvo Pärt. It’s a tough, chaotic city, but one with strong, resilient people like Félicité. Confounding expectations of African cinema, Gomis has made a film filled with music, magic and hope.

Schedule:
June 15th Thursday – State Thatre – 6:45 pm
June 16th Friday – State Thatre – 11:45 am

Trailer:

 

Graduation by Cristian Mungiu – Romania, France, Belgium | 2016 – 128 min.

Mungiu, who also won the Cannes Palme d’Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), takes a searing look at Romania’s power systems, posing stark and resonant ethical questions. Eliza Aldea has a scholarship to study in the UK, but the day before her final exams she is attacked. Worried that his daughter will fail to get out of Romania, her father Romeo enters into a plan to protect his daughter’s future, even though it involves manipulating the system and entering into a labyrinth of bribery. Shot and directed with Mungiu’s signature control and grace, Graduation explores one of the director’s favourite themes: how good people can find themselves perpetuating the rotten structures of society.

Schedule:
June 11th Sunday – The Ritz Cinema Randwick – 6:00 pm
June 14th Wednesday – State Theater – 2:35 pm
June 16th Friday – Hayden Orpheum Cremorne – 6:00 pm

Trailer:

 

Hotel Salvation by Shubhashish Bhutiani – India | 2016 – 99 min.

Daya Kumar (Lalit Behl) believes that his end is near, so he tells his family that he wishes to die in the holy city of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges. The stubborn old man drags along his reluctant adult son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) and they check into the Hotel Salvation, where people come to die. But once there, Daya gets his lust for life back, making new friends with the other “dying” residents. Daya and Rajiv are forced to reconnect – both to each other and to the world around them. Described as an “arthouse take on the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, Hotel Salvation is a wonderfully accomplished film that captures the vibrancy and strangeness of Varanasi with gentle humour. It was awarded the UNESCO Prize at Venice for the film that best represents the values of peace and human rights.

Schedule:
June 10th Saturday – State Theatre – 2:00 pm
June 11th Sunday – Casula Powerhouse – 1:30 pm
June 11th Sunday – Hayden Orpheum Cremorne – 3:30 pm

Trailer:

 

Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa – Japan | 1980 – 180 min.

Kurosawa only made two films during the 1970s, and one of those was made in the Soviet Union. He was finding it extremely difficult to raise finance in Japan, and it was only with the support of two American admirers – George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola – that he managed to make Kagemusha, which was at the time the most expensive Japanese film ever produced. Again, the setting is the 16th Century, the period of clan wars, and the background to the story is basically true. When clan chief Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai) is fatally wounded he persuades the clan’s hierarchy to replace him secretly with a kagemusha (or double), also played by Nakadai, a thief who was spared the gallows because he bears an uncanny resemblance to Takeda.

In this film, Kurosawa is examining the meaning of power. The enemy believes that the powerful Takeda is still in control, but the reality is very different; yet as long as the subterfuge works, the dead clan leader’s power remains in place. The battle scenes are magnificently staged, but the director leaves viewers in no doubt of his attitude towards the madness of war and in particular the pointlessness of this kind of internecine conflict. – David Stratton

Schedule:
June 18th Sunday – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3 – 10:15 am

Trailer:

 

You may also find interesting to know which are the:
15 Short Films you cannot miss at the Sydney Film Festival
15 Documentaries you cannot miss at the Sydney Film Festival
20 Films you cannot miss at the Sydney Film Festival (part 2)

 

To know more about this festival please go to the Festival Profile or to the Official Website.

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