Sydney Film Festival unveils first titles for 70th edition

Rachel Ward in 'Rachel's Farm'.

As Sydney Film Festival readies its 70th anniversary program, it released today a sneak peak of its first 12 titles, including Rachel Ward documentary, Rachel’s Farm, and Brenda Matthews and Nathaniel Schmidt’s The Last Daughter.

The line-up will also include anticipated foreign titles such 2022 Venice Special Jury Prize winner, No Bears, from Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi; German director Christian Petzold’s Afire, which won a Silver Bear; Penelope Cruz-starrer L’Immensita, directed by Emanuele Crialese, and Frederick Wiseman’s narrative film A Couple.

They are joined by Pierre Földes’ animated feature Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, an adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s When the Waves Are Gone, and from across the Ditch, Damon Fepulea’i’s debut feature Red, White and Brass, executive produced by Taika Waititi.

The documentary program includes Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp’s Bobi Wine: The People’s President; Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Hall’s Tribeca Film Festival opener Subject, and Toronto Amplify Voices Award winner While We Watched, directed by Vinay Shukla, who will attend the festival.

The full program, to be announced May 10, is expected to include more than 200 features, documentaries and shorts.

“Since 1954, Sydney Film Festival has brought more than 10,000 films to Australian audiences. Year after year, the festival continues to be a pioneer in the world of cinema, screening bold and inspiring works that provoke thought and push boundaries,” said festival director Nashen Moodley.

“The 2023 program will expand on this legacy, promising to ignite stimulating dialogues and present powerful ideas that will broaden audience perspectives.”

Ward will appear in person at the festival to present Rachel’s Farm, which follows her as she revitalises her NSW beef farm using sustainable farming practices.

Directed by Ward and produced by Bettina Dalton, it tracks the actor-director’s journey from wilful ignorance about the impacts of farming to championing a movement to restore the health of farmland, food and climate.

Matthews will also attend the festival to present The Last Daughter, which won the Audience Award at the Adelaide Film Festival last year.

The personal doc follows Matthews, a Wiradjuri woman, as she uncovers long-buried secrets and government lies about her past. Her first memories were of growing up in a loving white foster family, before she was suddenly taken away and returned to her Aboriginal family. Decades later, she feels disconnected from both halves of her life, and goes searching for the foster family with whom she had lost all contact.

Fepulea’i’s Red, White & Brass is based on the true story of Tongan rugby superfans who trick their way to the Rugby World Cup by volunteering to be the marching band, despite having never played. It stars John-Paul Foliaki, Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi and Hariata Moriarty.

Flexipasses and subscriptions to Sydney Film Festival 2023 are on sale now, with single tickets to go on sale May 10.