With just over two months until it begins, the Sydney Film Festival has announced the first twenty-five titles for their 2012 event. Featuring fifteen narrative features and ten documentaries, the preview titles include the Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner Beasts of the Southern Wild, Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner The Law in These Parts, and Audience Award: Documentary winner Searching for Sugar Man.
While the Opening Night feature is yet to be determined, as well as a number of the Competition spots, most of the features unveiled are prize winners, such as Neighbouring Sounds (FIPRESCI Prize at Rotterdam), Faust (Golden Lion at Venice), and Ann Hui’s A Simple Life (which took home the Best Actress and People’s Choice for Favourite Actor awards at this year’s Asian Film Awards, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award for the director). On top of this, two Berlin Film Festival winners in Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair (Best Screenplay, Best Actor) and Christian Petzold’s Barbara (Best Director) also appear in the preview titles.
The full program for the 2012 Sydney Film Festival, which runs from June 6 to 17, will be released on the 9th of May. Read the twenty-five preview titles below!
Beasts of the Southern Wild | dir. Benh Zeitlin | USA
Winner of the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2012, this striking and unforgettable feature-film debut is set in ‘The Bathtub’ – a defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world. Six-year-old Hushpuppy is devoted to her father, Wink, who tries to prepare her for a dangerous new world, as the icebergs melt and prehistoric creatures descend.
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry (Australian Premiere)
Tabu | dir. Miguel Gomes | Portugal, Germany, Brazil, France
In this utterly beguiling and surprising film, a temperamental old woman, her Cape Verdean maid and a neighbour devoted to social causes live on the same floor of a Lisbon apartment building. When the old lady dies, the other two learn of an episode from her past: a tale of love and crime set in an Africa straight from the world of adventure films.
Starring: Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira (Australian Premiere)
Neighbouring Sounds | dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho | Brazil
In this assured and astonishing feature film debut, life in a middle-class neighbourhood in present-day Recife, Brazil, takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of an independent private-security firm. Their presence brings a sense of safety but also a good deal of anxiety to a culture which runs on fear in this reflection on class, architecture, violence and noise.
Starring: Irandhir Santos, Gustavo Jahn, Maeve Jinkings (Australian Premiere)
The Loneliest Planet | dir. Julia Loktev | USA, Germany
Alex and Nica are young, in love and engaged. Travelling in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, they hire a local guide to lead them on a backpacking trek through a stunning wilderness. The idyll is interrupted by a momentary misstep that cannot be undone – one that threatens to undo everything the couple believed about each other and themselves.
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze (Australian Premiere)
Rampart | dir. Oren Moverman | USA
Written by director Oren Moverman and novelist James Ellroy, the gritty Rampart is set in Los Angeles in 1999 and revolves around Officer Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), a trigger-happy cop whose brutality is out of step with the times. When he is caught on tape beating a suspect, Brown’s professional and personal lives begin to spiral out of control.
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster (Australian Premiere)
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia | dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Turkey
Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan takes on the police procedural, and the result is a patient and beautifully layered narrative in which every line of dialogue contributes to solving the puzzle. Following a murder and confession, a group of men go in search of the corpse, and discover a great deal more. Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes 2011.
Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Yılmaz Erdoğan, Taner Birsel
Faust | dir. Alexander Sokurov | Russia
Inspired by Goethe’s play, Alexander Sokurov radically reinterprets the myth of Faust in this visually stunning film which won the Golden Lion in Venice. Sokurov’s Faust is a thinker, rebel and pioneer, but is also driven by greed and lust. After Moloch (Hitler), Taurus (Lenin) and The Sun (Hirohito), Faust is the final film in Sokurov’s tetralogy on power.
Starring: Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinskiy, Isolda Dychauk (Australian Premiere)
Harold’s Going Stiff | dir. Keith Wright | UK
You’ve never seen a zombie movie like this before. Fashioned in the style of a BBC regional documentary, Keith Wright’s very funny and surprisingly touching tale investigates ‘Onset Rigors Disease’, a mystery illness turning men in the north of England into bloodthirsty ghouls. Featuring sharp social satire and charming inter-species romance, Harold’s Going Stiff is a truly original horror gem.
Starring: Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Phil Gascoyne (Australian Premiere)
A Simple Life | dir. Ann Hui | Hong Kong, China
With perfect performances from Andy Lau and Deanie Ip, Ann Hui’s moving film looks at the decades-long relationship between a man and a devoted family servant. Having cared for Roger from childhood, Ah Tao suffers a stroke and is admitted into a nursing home. Roles are reversed as Roger tenderly cares for her in the final phase of her life.
Starring: Deanie Ip, Andy Lau, Qin Hailu (Australian Premiere)
A Royal Affair | dir. Nikolaj Arcel | Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany
Winner of Best Screenplay and Best Actor prizes at Berlin, A Royal Affair is the true story of an ordinary man who wins a queen’s heart and starts a revolution. At its centre is an intriguing love triangle between Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Føesgaard); Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), the man of enlightenment; and young queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander).
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Mikkel Boe Føesgaard (Australian Premiere)
Goodbye | dir. Mohammad Rasoulof | Iran
Mohammad Rasoulof, who was honoured at SFF 2011, returns with the suspenseful and moving story of a young lawyer whose licence to practice has been revoked as punishment for protesting against the government. Pregnant and alone, Noora is determined to leave Iran and must manoeuvre through the bureaucracy – not a simple task for a single woman pursued by the state.
Starring: Leyla Zareh, Hasaan Pourshirazi, Behname Tashakor
Barbara | dir. Christian Petzold | Germany
In East Germany in 1980, a doctor is exiled to a country hospital as punishment for applying for an exit visa. As her lover from the West carefully plots her escape, Barbara waits patiently and avoids friendships, but a co-worker and a traumatised patient chip away at her defenses and she slowly loses control. Winner of Best Director at Berlin.
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer (Australian Premiere)
Beauty | dir. Oliver Hermanus | South Africa, France
In this fascinating study of desire, South African director Oliver Hermanus focuses on Francois, a middle-aged, Afrikaans-speaking family man who becomes obsessed with the young son of longtime friends. As Francois begins to stalk the young man, his carefully constructed world begins to unravel. Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes 2011.
Starring: Deon Lotz, Charlie Keegan, Michelle Scott
Monsieur Lazhar | dir. Phillipe Falardeau | Canada
This Oscar-nominated drama is the moving story of a group of schoolchildren coming to terms with the adult world, and the inspirational educator who transforms their lives. When a beloved teacher passes away, an Algerian immigrant is appointed as substitute. While the class begins to heal, nobody in the school is aware of Lazhar’s painful past and uncertain future.
Starring: Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron (Australian Premiere)
Some Guy Who Kills People | dir. Jack Perez | USA
Fresh from a spell in the loony bin, and the prime suspect in a series of bizarre murders, sensitive artist Kenny Boyd might also be Some Guy Who Kills People. Droll humour, juicy gore and terrific performances from Kevin Corrigan and the great Karen Black as Kenny’s acid-tongued mum make for a delightfully deranged treat.
Starring: Kevin Corrigan, Karen Black, Barry Bostwick (Australian Premiere)
The Law in These Parts | dir. Ra’anan Alexandrowicz | Israel
This brilliant documentary, a Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance, explores the framework for Israel’s long-term military ‘rule of law’ in the Occupied Territories. The system’s architects – including military judges, attorneys and a former Supreme Court president – submit to a series of uncomfortable interviews in which they are asked to consider the consequences of the laws they have crafted. (Australian Premiere)
Woody Allen: A Documentary | dir. Robert B. Weide | USA
This riveting look at the creative life of the multi-hyphenate filmmaker from his early years to his stand-up days and recent Oscar win is packed with clips (Bananas, Annie Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and interviews with a plethora of stars (including Diane Keaton, Scarlett Johansson and Owen Wilson), his mother and, of course, the man himself. (Australian Premiere)
Crazy Horse | dir. Frederick Wiseman | USA, France
Frederick Wiseman (La danse, Ballet) turns his impeccable gaze on Le Crazy Horse de Paris, the self- tagged ‘best nude dancing show in the world’. The master documentarian follows two obsessive perfectionists, choreographer Decouflé and artistic director Mahdavi, as they create a fabulous new erotic revue, featuring exquisite performers and eye-catching effects. (Australian Premiere)
Under African Skies | dir. Joe Berlinger | USA
Paul Simon reunites with the musicians who collaborated on his 1986 megahit Graceland – which stirred controversy upon its release when Simon was accused of breaking the cultural boycott of Apartheid South Africa. Prizewinning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) follows Simon as he confronts his critics and celebrates a landmark artistic achievement.
Maori Boy Genius | dir. Pietra Brettkelly | New Zealand
“What if some shrewd filmmaker had recognised Barack Obama’s boyhood promise and documented the birth of his political consciousness as a teen?” So runs the tagline for New Zealand filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly’s compelling documentary – an up-close study of Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti, a charismatic 16-year-old who has been pegged as a future leader since boyhood by his Maori community. (Australian Premiere)
Side by Side | dir. Chris Kenneally | USA
In this entertaining and illuminating documentary, narrator and co-producer Keanu Reeves interviews film industry heavyweights – directors (James Cameron, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan and Lars von Trier), cinematographers (including Australians Donald McAlpine and Dion Beebe), editors and technicians – to investigate how the shift from celluloid to pixels has changed the way films are crafted and exhibited. (Australian Premiere)
El Gusto | dir. Safinez Bousbia | France, Algeria, Ireland, UAE
Chaabi – the effervescent popular music of the Casbah of Algiers – once brought both Muslim and Jewish musicians together in a unique orchestra. The 1954 War of Independence fractured this harmony, forcing many musicians to flee, while others joined the struggle. Through their stories (and eventual reunion), director Safinez Bousbia sketches a portrait of Algerian history – accompanied by chaabi’s intoxicating rhythms. (Australian Premiere)
First Position | dir. Bess Kargman | USA
Six talented young performers pursue their dancing dreams at the Youth America Grand Prix, the most prestigious children’s ballet acompetition in the world. The relentless practice routines, backstage nerves, fiercely supportive ballet moms and the overwhelming joy of dance – it’s all on screen in this multiple-award-winning documentary. (Australian Premiere)
Golden Slumbers | dir. Davy Chou | France, Cambodia
The golden age of Cambodian cinema ended in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh, trashing cinemas and film reels, and forcing filmmakers to flee or die. In his eye-opening documentary, director Davy Chou traces the lost celluloid years with visits to one-time movie houses and production lots, and haunting interviews with the few surviving cast and crew. (Australian Premiere)
Searching for Sugar Man | dir. Malik Bendjelloul | Sweden, UK
Winner of a World Cinema Audience Award and Special Jury Prize at Sundance, this film traces the improbable-but-true story of 70s singer-songwriter Rodriguez, a Detroit soul dude who failed to make the charts in his US homeland, but found an enthusiastic audience in Apartheid-era South Africa – although neither he nor his managers knew until two dedicated fans tracked him down. (Australian Premiere)
What do you think of the list of films?