Inaugural Festival Announces Official Competition, with 26 Features, Docs and Shorts Lining Up for Top Honours.
From stories of love and tragedy to culture and identity – get ready to experience Sydney’s biggest ever free film event when the inaugural Sydney Intercultural Film Festival (SIFF) kicks off in various community screening venues across the city next month From 13th November to 24 November 2013, the Festival will screen more than 125 films from 30 countries including Japan, Korea, Russia, Iran, India, Poland and Israel, with 100 films free and open to the public, and 26 ticketed titles lining up to compete in SIFF’s official selection. Key Festival highlights will include a special screenings program of North Korean films – stretching from 1974 through to 2008; a selection of candid features and documentaries exploring gay culture, transgender identity and religion; and multiple world premieres from some of the most critically-acclaimed and promising filmmakers across the globe. Sure to excite and delight audiences in both metro and suburban areas, SIFF will hold an array of cultural events and screenings at the Festival’s hub, Cinema Park in Belmore Park – Central, and in various screening venues in Town Hall, Parliament House Theatrette, Sydney Square, Hurstville, Chatswood, Eastwood, Cabramatta, Strathfield, Burwood, and on Sydney Harbour Showboats.
Festival Creative Manager Kate Ryerson says SIFF’s film program has been carefully curated to appeal to a wide variety of cinema tastes; with drama, action, comedy, romance, mystery, war, art house and foreign language titles all up for offer on the viewing plate – to name just a few. “The Festival will screen films from all around the world, with the common thread being that every film, whether in competition or not, has a cultural element – either in terms of content, theme or production backing,” she says. “We want to give Sydneysiders access to great films that they wouldn’t necessarily see in everyday cinemas; to bring them cultural experiences and insights that might allow them to look at people, communities and the world in perhaps a more interesting, educated or enlightened way. While most people can’t travel everywhere to soak up all of the culture the world has to offer – through the Festival, we can at least bring audiences a taste of it.”
The Festival will open with the Australian premiere of MAÏNA, a historical drama spearheaded by award-winning Canadian director Michel Poulett, which brings Canada’s native Inuit and Innu people to the big screen for the very first time.
Closing the Festival and the official program on November 24 will be the world premiere of action-drama FORBIDDEN GROUND – a selection that is sure to make Australian-made cinema fans rejoice. The film, co-directed by Australian cinema-wiz Johan Earl, is an epic action saga set against the backdrop of World War 1, and was filmed on transformed farmland just outside of Dubbo in New South Wales.
In between, audiences can expect an eclectic mix of the best cultural films from around the world, with a carefully selected program of features, documentaries and shorts guaranteed to hold a special viewing experience for even the most discerning of film buffs. One of the most controversial titles screening at SIFF counts as I AM GAY AND MUSLIM, which bravely tackles the subject of gay rights in the Islamic world. Directed by first-time filmmaker Chris Belloni, the intimate documentary follows several gay Morrocan men as they explore how their experiences, struggles and sense of identity have been, and continue to be, shaped by Islamic religion and culture.
South Korean feature THE WEIGHT also explores notions of identity and acceptance, centering on the relationship between a hunchback mortician and his transgender stepsister. The film stars internationally-acclaimed actor Jo Jae-hyun and is set to make its Australian premiere at SIFF on the back of multiple award-wins at international festivals, including the Queer Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival (the first Korean film to win the prize).
One film that should also be on any cinephile’s radar is the latest animation from two-time Academy Award-nominee Bill Plympton, CHEATIN’, which is slated to make its world premiere at SIFF. The film was supported by more than $100,000 worth of Kickstarter donations and is a dark yet humorous tale of love, jealously, revenge and murder – tracking the gradual decline and violent end of a relationship between two once star-crossed lovers.
Another top pick is the critically-acclaimed THE FIFTH SEASON, from Belgium-based helming duo Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth – one of the Festival’s weirder and wackier offerings. The film is full of symbolism, surrealism and vivid imagery, leaning more towards art house sensibilities, but with a plotline – about an endless winter in an isolated Belgian village – that is haunting and cutting-edge enough to make it a must-see for mainstream audiences.
For audiences looking for a cinema experience backed by star-power, crime-drama LUV packs a punch in the form of Danny Glover, Michael Rainey Jr and rapper, Common. The independent film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and tells the story of Vincent, an ex-con who inadvertently leads himself – and his 11-year-old nephew – down a dangerous path during a well-intentioned business trip.
The Sydney Intercultural Film Festival is supported by the New South Wales Government, City of Sydney, Auburn City Council, Strathfield Council, Hurstville City Council, City of Ryde Council, Willoughby City Council and Burwood Council.
To see more of the SIFF program, or to view additional information about screening venues, ticketing or other Festival events, head to http://www.siff.org.au