Official Competition Announce

11 May 2016

The 63rd Sydney Film Festival announces the 12 films selected to compete for the Sydney Film Prize this 8-19 June.

The internationally recognised Sydney Film Festival Official Competition, now in its ninth year, awards the Sydney Film Prize and $60,000 cash in recognition of courageous, audacious and cutting-edge cinema. The 12 films selected by Festival Director Nashen Moodley are judged by a panel of industry luminaries, with the winning film announced at the end of the Festival on Sunday 19 June.

“Sydney Film Festival’s Official Competition is where audiences can experience some of the most exciting films and filmmakers in the world right now,” said Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley. “The Competition is a compelling program of 12 of films that demonstrate the cutting edge of filmmaking, and this year’s selection offers some true surprises,” he said.

The Festival’s opening night film, the world premiere of Indigenous writer/director Ivan Sen’s Goldstone, features among 12 films selected to compete. A stylish and intelligent outback noir, the film boasts a stellar Australian cast including Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, and David Gulpilil.

Four films – Apprentice, Psycho Raman, Aquarius, It’s Only the End of the World – in the running for the Sydney Film Prize, come to the Sydney Film Festival direct from Cannes.

The 2016 Official Competition jury members are: Jury President, international programmer and producer Simon Field (UK), prolific writer, director and producer Robert Connolly (Australia), Dublin International Film Festival’s Director Grainne Humphreys (Ireland), acclaimed producer Bridget Ikin (Australia), and cutting edge documentarian Kazuhiro Soda (Japan). 


The SFF 2016 Official Competition selection includes:

Apprentice, from Singaporean director Boo Junfeng, is an emotionally and psychologically astute film that powerfully surveys the impact of capital punishment on death-row prisoners, their families, and the executioners themselves. Boo Junfeng will attend the Festival and introduce the screenings of his film.

Aquarius, from Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighbouring Sounds, SFF Official Competition 2012), is in competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. A story of great ambition and scope, starring Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman), the film masterfully reflects on an entire society. Kleber Mendonça Filho will be a guest of the Festival in 2016 and introduce each screening of his film.

Certain Women, from American director Kelly Reichardt (Night Moves, SFF 2013; Meek’s Cutoff, SFF 2010; Old Joy, SFF 2006), described by Variety as ‘the quietest of great American filmmakers’, is based on Maile Meloy’s short stories; three connected melancholic, transcendent tales about independent Montana women trying to understand and shape the world around them (Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart).

The Childhood of a Leader, from American director and actor Brady Corbet, was the winner of Best Debut Feature and Best Director awards at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. This is a stylish and uncompromising historical drama starring Liam Cunningham, Bérénice Bejo, Robert Pattinson and Stacy Martin. The film details the journey of a fictional character’s rise to power as chronicled in three chapters – or ‘tantrums’. 

The Endless River, the third feature from South African director Oliver Hermanus (Shirley Adams, SFF 2010; Beauty, SFF 2012), is a western that deals with racial prejudice and cyclical violence in post-apartheid South Africa. Oliver Hermanus will attend the Festival and introduce each screening of his film.

Goldstone, from acclaimed Indigenous Australian auteur Ivan Sen (Mystery Road, SFF 2013 Opening Night film), is a stylish and intelligent outback noir that reflects on Australia’s history with a compelling tale of its present. Opening the Festival, and screening as part of Screen: Black, a partnership with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, the film boasts a stellar Australian cast including Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, and David Gulpilil. The director will introduce the World Premiere of his film on Opening Night alongside the film’s producers David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin. Sen and Jowsey will appear at a free Meet the Filmmakers Talk at the Apple Store on Saturday 11 June, 5-6pm. They will also appear in AFTRS’ Black Talk, A Double Bill: Indigeneity And Australian Screen Storytelling on Sunday 12 June, 4:00pm upstairs at the Festival Hub Town Hall. The event will showcase leading creative voices and leading Indigenous auteurs and filmmakers.

It’s Only the End of the World, from one of the most celebrated young voices in contemporary cinema, the 27-year-old Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother, SFF 2010; Heartbeats, winner of the 2010 Sydney Film Festival Prize, Mommy, SFF 2014). Screening in Competition at Cannes, this intense family drama based on the eponymous play by Jean-Luc Lagarce is perhaps the most emotional and immersive film in Dolan’s distinctive body of work, and boasts a standout French cast (Nathalie Baye, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard).

Land of Mine, from Danish filmmaker Martin Zandvliet, is an edgy thriller about young German prisoners of war forced to disarm hidden weapons in the aftermath of World War II. Based on extraordinary true events, the film has won awards and audience prizes at several international festivals.

Letters from War, by Portuguese director Ivo M. Ferreira, is a wartime love story from the producers of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (SFF 2012) and Arabian Nights (Winner of the 2015 Sydney Film Prize). The stunning black and white film is based on the letters of one of Portugal’s most acclaimed writers, António Lobo Antunes. Ivo M. Ferreira will attend the Festival and introduce each screening of his film.

Notes on Blindness, from British filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney, is based on audio cassettes made by writer and theologian John Hull in the early ’80s, documenting the decades-long deterioration of his vision and eventual loss of sight. A follow-up feature to their short films also based on Hull’s experiences: Rainfall (SFF 2014), and the Emmy award-winning Notes on Blindness (SFF 2013); the film is accompanied by a virtual reality project which can be experienced at the Festival Hub. Peter Middleton will appear at a free Meet the Filmmakers Talk at the Apple Store on Sunday 19 June, 11:30am-12:30pm.

Psycho Raman by prolific contemporary Indian director Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur SFF 2012 Official Competition) follows a deranged psychopath inspired by Raman Raghav, a real-life 1960s serial killer who terrorised Mumbai. Selected for the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, the film is a highly stylish and suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller raising issues of inequality, justice and aspiration in modern India. Anurag Kashyap will attend the Festival and introduce each screening of his film.

Viva by Irish filmmaker Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down) is a heartbreaking family drama set in Cuba about a troubled drag queen, written by acclaimed screenwriter Mark O’Halloran. Paddy Breathnach will attend the Festival and introduce each screening of his film. Viva Cuba Party, a free Cuban-themed party will follow the premiere of the film at The Hub at Town Hall.


Previous Sydney Film Prize winners include Arabian Nights (2015); Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011); Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).