The State Theatre during the Sydney Film Festival.

While typically held in June, this year’s Sydney Film Festival (SFF) has shifted to August.

The move, to see the festival run August 18 to 29, will be for 2021 only. It follows the adjustment of dates of major international festivals, whose films are often picked up by SFF.

These include Cannes, which has moved from May to July, and Berlin, which while usually held in February has this year split into two stages – an online-only event in the first week of March and an in-person event in June.

In a short press release, Sydney Film Festival organisers said: “The shift will allow the festival to continue to include films from major international festivals (in addition to Australia’s best new feature films and documentaries!) in a year of date fluctuations around the world due to COVID-19.

“SFF believes the date change will also enhance audience confidence alongside evolving health and safety guidelines.”

Interestingly, the dates will see Sydney – typically the first major Australian festival of the year – overlap with the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), which is scheduled for August 5 to 22.

Last year’s Sydney Film Festival was initially cancelled outright, before organisers pivoted to a smaller, online-only line-up of 33 films.

At the time, SFF director Nashen Moodley told IF that while he was happy with a virtual iteration, he believed the true home of a festival was in cinemas.

“To present a film at the State Theatre with a filmmaker present is such an incredible experience; impossible to replicate online. To have people together discussing films, debating films afterwards is something I don’t think you can easily replicate,” he said.

In the wake of COVID-19 and the virtual festival, SFF also recently hosted a summer season for the first time ever; ran a sold-out Wong Kar Wai retrospective, and partnered with Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) to bring a curated program of films to a range of metro and regional cinemas around the country.

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