Warwick Thornton’s doco ‘We Don’t Need A Map’ will open the 2017 Sydney Film Festival. 

Warwick Thornton’s We Don’t Need A Map will open this year’s Sydney Film Festival, with the event also marking the documentary’s world premiere.

The latest film from the Samson and Delilah director explores Australia’s relationship to the Southern Cross through colonial and Indigenous history through to the present day.

We Don’t Need A Map will compete in the festival’s official competition. Among the 12 films in the running for the $60,000 prize are Aussie theatre director Benedict Andrew’s debut feature Una, which stars Ben Mendelsohn, as well as Sofia Coppola’s Beguiled and Michael Haneke’s Happy End, both of which will come to the festival from Cannes.

Overall the festival program boasts 288 films from 59 countries, including 37 world premieres. Bookending the fest will be Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Cannes film Okja, which stars Snowtown’s Daniel Henshall.

David Wenham will make his directorial feature debut with Ellipsis, described as a “touching love letter to Sydney”. 

Wenham will appear in conversation with David Stratton for the festival’s Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture, where he will talk about his acting career and his decision to direct. Wenham is also the jury chair of the festival’s $200,000 Lexus Short Film Fellowship.

Two films from Red Dog director Kriv Stenders will have their world premiere at this year’s festival: Australia Day, which stars Bryan Brown, as well as documentary The Go-Betweens: Right Here, which will screen as part of the Sounds on Screen section.

Other Aussie world premieres include “tween feature” Rip Tide from Rhiannon Bannenberg, starring Disney star Debby Ryan, and sci-fi thriller Otherlife from Ben C. Lucas (Wasted on the Young).

2012 Tropfest winner Alethea Jones’ feature debut Fun Mom Dinner, starring Toni Collette and Molly Shannon, will also make its Australian debut at the fest after screening at Sundance earlier this year.

Ten Australian films will compete for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary. Among them are several world debuts: Blue, Connection to Country, Defiant Lives, Hope Road, In My Own Words, The Last Goldfish, The Pink House and Roller Dreams (shot by Aussie Get Out DP Toby Oliver). Also competing are Barbecue and PACmen, both of which will make their Australian premiere.

Among the Australian films to be screened as a ‘special presentation’ at the State Theatre is Jen Peedom’s Mountain. Featuring a score by Richard Tognetti, the film will first make its world premiere at the Opera House on June 12, presented jointly by VIVID Live, Sydney Film Festival and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Jeffrey Walker’s Ali’s Wedding will also screen at the State, along with Australia Day, Blue and two Kiwi films, My Year with Helen and One Thousand Ropes. 

Television is also part of the fest this year, with the first two episodes from the second season of Cleverman to screen before the series heads to ABC TV later in 2017.

As part of a Restoration sidebar three Aussie classics will also screen. John Duigan’s The Year My Voice Broke (1987), Samantha Lang’s The Well (1997) and Pat Fiske’s Rocking the Foundations (1985) will each be presented by their director.

This year’s VR program has been curated by Shaun Gladwell and Leo Faber of VR collective BadFaith, and will feature 13 works, among them Faber and Gladwell’s own Sundance hit Orbital Vanitas, as well as the first VR feature narrative, Miyubi, from Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Rapheal.

Other sidebars include First Nations, Europe! Voices of Women in Film, Sounds on Screen, Smash it Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Punk Rock, Focus on Canada, Freak Me Out, Gourmet Cinema, Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s & 80s, and  Essential Kurosawa: Selected by David Stratton.

As previously announced, the festival will also host the world premieres of the 2016 Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship Fellows: Anya Beyersdorf (How the Light Gets In), Brooke Goldfinch (Outbreak Generation), Alex Murawski (Snow) and Alex Ryan (Red Ink).

Other previously announced events include include Screenability, a platform for practitioners with disability presented in partnership with Screen NSW and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. Six works will be showcased, including a feature, Pulse, from Australia’s Daniel Monks.

Sydney Film Festival runs June 7-18.


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