The truly weird, wacky and wonderful are usually left for those ‘Freak Me Out’ screenings packed by those most dedicated genre fans. Not this year.
Launching the 2019 Sydney Film Festival program at Sydney’s Town Hall this morning, this year’s line-up is the best in six years for devotees of that decidedly off the beaten track. Not confined to the aforementioned dedicated genre strand, horror and that wittingly out there pervades much of what we’ve got to look forward to come June.
The addition of Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die welcome if not a great surprise, Adam Driver flicks for the second year running will be one of the major talking points at this year’s Festival. German zombie thriller Endzeit (Ever After), produced by a cast and crew consisting almost entirely of women, too combines the un-dead fairy-tale with a central theme of this year’s selection; the ever-urgent state of the environment. Screening as part of the Europe! Voices of Women in Film strand, if Walden, a documentary consisting solely of thirteen 360-degree rightward pans across natural scenes being cut down by machinery (which it very well might be), Endzeit, among many, may be more your style.
Deathgasm Producer Ant Timpson returns with Come to Daddy where Norval (Elijah Wood) treks out to his dad’s flying-saucer shaped house out in the middle of nowhere. He hasn’t seen his dad since he was five, what couldn’t possibly go wrong? In Daniel Isn’t Real Patrick Schwarzenegger’s (yes Arnie’s son) imaginary childhood friend returns, a little angry that Daniel locked him up all those years ago. Downton Abbey meets The Evil Dead, Frankenstein visits 21st Century New York, western frontier madness, a demonic red frock menaces London and blackmail abounds in Russian entry Why Don’t You Just Die!
To cap it off, SFF will host the world premiere of the first-ever Indigenous horror anthology Dark Place, developed by five Indigenous filmmakers and set to screen at Dendy Newtown. Dark Place will be one of several films to screen as part of the First Nations strand, among them She Must Be Loved, a biopic of Alfreda Glynn, a central figure in Indigenous filmmaking and directed by her daughter Erica Glynn.
Timpson’s shocker won’t be the only flick flying over from New Zealand with our neighbours set as this year’s country focus which will include post-punk documentary The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillipps chronicling the local favourites. The much-anticipated Amazing Grace, centred on Aretha Franklin, will also screen alongside Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese.
New Zealand Director Hamish Bennett’s Bellbird will also screen in the Official Competition together with several high profile features. Bong Joon-ho will make his way back to Sydney with Parasite as will Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, both of which will shortly screen in competition in Cannes. The Lives of Others Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck will present their new feature Never Look Away as will Mia Wasikowska, starring in the blackly comic Judy & Punch.
Not to be outdone by international features, Ghosthunter Director Ben Lawrence will present Hugo Weaving drama Hearts and Bones in the Official Comp, one of many Australian flicks to play alongside Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook (also screening) The Nightingale and local sci-fi I Am Mother about a human child raised by a robot mother, starring Hilary Swank.
The yearly Essentials strand programmed by David Stratton will focus on 10 Australian female Directors, while a special retrospective Viva Varda was today announced centring on Agnes Varda’s filmography. Separately, the Festival will screen Varda’s Varda by Agnes, the recently deceased filmmaker’s final project.
All up there are dozens of exciting prospects to join the previously released slate, foremost among them Claire Denis’ High Life starring Robert Pattinson. There’s a lot still to look forward to including some late announcements and whatever’s planned for closing night (fingers crossed for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). In the meanwhile, it’s time to start scheduling and figuring the fastest way to dash from Dendy to George Street.
The Sydney Film Festival screens from June 5-16, 2019