‘Kinds of Kindness’, ‘Kid Snow’, ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ headline SFF line-up

Tristan Gorey and Billy Howle in 'Kid Snow' (Image: David Dare Parker)

WA-filmed dramas Kid Snow and He Ain’t Heavy will have their world premieres at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, joining In Vitro and documentaries Midnight Oil: The Hardest Line and The Pool in the Australian contingent.

Today’s line-up announcement for the 71st iteration also included Poor Things director Yorgos Lanthimos’ next collaboration with Emma Stone, Kinds of Kindness, along with the first Indian film to appear in the Cannes Competition in 30 years, Payal Kapadia’s romantic drama All We Imagine As Light, and Jeff Nichols’ hotly anticipated road drama The Bikeriders, featuring Australian Toby Wallace among an all-star cast.

In 2024, the festival will present 197 films from 69 countries including 28 World Premieres and 133 Australian Premieres. Of these, there are 92 narrative feature films and 54 documentaries.

SFF director Nashen Moodley told IF this year’s program was a “canvas of bold narratives and remarkable visions, mirroring the evolving dynamics of our world”.

“We’ve been on a long search and looked at so many films from so many festivals and so many filmmakers,” he said.

“To bring the selection together was complex but in the end, I think what we have is quite incredible. It’s topped off by six films from Cannes in our official competition, which is our highest ever. It’s wonderful to see some past winners of the competition return to the festival and I think it’s really a program for discovery.”

Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Defoe and Kinds of Kindness

Opening night film Midnight Oil: The Hardest Line, Kinds of Kindness, and All We Imagine as Light are among twelve titles that will contend for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize.

Also screening straight from Cannes is actor Ariane Labed’s directorial debut September Says, a Gothic psychological drama in which the closeness of two sisters becomes increasingly disruptive; Cannes Un Certain Regard contender Việt And Nam, from auteur Trương Minh Quý, which tells the love story of two gay mineworkers; Miguel Gomes’ Grand Tour, about a romantic pursuit across Asia; and Christophe Honoré’s Marcello Mio, where an all-star French cast play themselves in a meta comedy paying homage to the great Marcello Mastroianni.

Of the other titles in the field, there is German director Matthias Glasner’s Silver Bear-winning black comedy Dying, which centres on a conductor and his turbulent family; Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez’s Sujo, a Mexican cartel drama that follows a cartel-born child from infancy to manhood; Rich Peppiatt’s Kneecap, starring three real-life Belfast rappers as themselves: Paola Cortellesi’s Italian drama There’s Still Tomorrow, which follows an industrious woman in post-WWII Rome; and María Alché and Benjamín Naishtat Puan Argentinian dramedy Puan, about a philosophy professor at a Buenos Aires university who is threatened by a charismatic rival.

The 2024 Official Competition Jury is led by Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanović as Jury
President, and features Indonesian director Kamila Andini, Australian producer Sheila Jayadev, US
producer Jay Van Hoy, and Australian director Tony Krawitz. The SFF prize will be announced at the Closing Night Gala on Sunday, June 16.

On the documentary side, ten documentaries, including seven world premieres, will vie for the 2024 Documentary Australia Prize, which consists of a $20,000 cash prize courtesy of Documentary Australia and eligibility for the Academy Awards.

‘Mozart’s Sister’

Having their world premiere at the event are Jenny Hicks’ Dale Frank – Artist!, Wendy Champagne’s Aquarius, Daniel Fenech’s The Blind Sea , Ros Horin’s Welcome to Yiddishland; Madeleine Hetherton-Miau’s Mozart’s Sister, Van Alpert’s Skategoat, Gracie Otto’s Stan Originals Revealed documentary Otto by Otto, and James Bradley’s Welcome to Babel. They are joined by Sally Aitken’s Sundance-selected Every Little Thing, and Jolyon Hoff’s You Should Have Been Here Yesterday.

This year, the SFF will launch a First Nations Award, supported by Truant Pictures, that offers $35,000 to a First Nations filmmaker. In line for the prize are Mike Jonathan’s Ka Whawhai Tonu, a historical epic about Aotearoa’s first land war; Lee Tamahori’s The Convert, which stars Guy Pearce as a British preacher caught up in 1830s Māori wars; Jon Bell’s Sundance-selected horror The Moogai; Rachel House directorial debut The Mountain; and fellow Taika Waititi-executive produced feature We Were Dangerous from director Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu; and Sara Margrethe Oskal’s Ellogierdu – The Tundra Within Me. Three First Nations shorts – Awanui Simich-Pene’s First Horse, Laha Mebow’s Tayal Forest Club, and Vea Malfile’o’s Mother Tongue – will also individually compete for the award.

The features up for this year’s Sustainable Futures Award, which offers $40,000 to a film tackling climate change and sustainability, are all documentaries – Alina Simone’s  Black Snow, Peter Murimi and Daphne Matziaraki’s The Battle for Laikipia, and David Allen’s Wilding. Three shorts – Rishi Chandna’sThe Feast, Volker Schlecht’s The Waiting, and Bree Sanders’ Grove of Giants – will also individually compete for the coveted award.

Paul Goldman’s WA boxing drama Kid Snow, about a washed-up Irish boxer who receives a chance for redemption in the form of a rematch against the man he fought a decade prior, and Ian Darling’s Bondi Icebergs documentary The Pool lead the Australian highlights out-of-competition, with both to have their world premieres at the State Theatre.

Sam Corlett in ‘He Aint Heavy’ (Image: David Dare Parker)

Other local titles to debut are David Vincent Smith’s He Ain’t Heavy, starring Leila George as a young woman so determined to save her drug-addicted brother, played by Sam Corlett; Will Howarth and Tom McKeith’s sci-fi mystery thriller In Vitro, and upcoming Stan series Exposure, starring Alice Englert as a rising photographer haunted by her best friend’s mysterious
death. Jaydon Martin’s Flathead, a drama that blends fiction and documentary to present a portrait of blue-collar life in Australia, will also be shown.

Joining The Bikeriders in the international features to screen at the State Theatre is Ellen Kuras’ Lee, starring Kate Winslet and Alexander Skarsgård; Megan Park’s Margot Robbie-produced comedy My Old Ass, featuring Aubrey Plaza; Viggo Mortensen’s feminist western The Dead Don’t Hurt; Nora Fingscheidt’s Amy Liptrot adaptation The Outrun, starring Saoirse Ronan; Aaron Schimberg’s A Different Man; Agnieszka Holland’s refugee thriller Green Border; and Mati Diop’s documentary Dahomey.

The other international documentary selections for the festival include Silje Evensmo Jacobsen’s A New Kind Of Wilderness, Emily Kassie and Julian Brave NoiseCat’s Sugarcane, Marya E. Gates’ The Remarkable Life of Ibelin, Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó’s Agent of Happiness, Shiori Itō’s Black Box Diaries, and Jeff Zimbalist’s Skywalkers: A Love Story.

Family film highlights range from the Australian Premiere of Despicable Me 4 and Korean film It’s Okay! to homegrown animation titles, 200% Wolf, Sloth Lane, and Australian-Irish animation My Freaky Family, based on children’s books The Floods.

Speaking about the line-up, Moodley identified the Australian animation titles as a positive sign of what’s to come.

“It’s worth noting that we have a number of feature-length animations in the family film section,” he said.

“I think that is a very good sign.”

The Sydney Film Festival will be held June 5-16. Find out more information here.