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ROAD TRIP: Your guide to Sydney Film Festival 2019

The Sydney Film Festival kicks off this week, running from June 5 to June 16, with a program bursting with cinematic gems.

Across two weeks Sydney’s picture theatres will come alive with geeks and cinephiles, sampling short films, animations, indie films with big stars, documentaries – and even an in-the-flesh appearance by Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish.

There are too many movies to see them all, but here’s a little taste of what’s on offer should you decide to indulge your love of movies with a weekend in the big smoke.

And if you don’t want to leave Newcastle, a small selection of films will screen at Event Cinemas Kotara from June 21 for Sydney Film Festival’s Travelling Film Festival program.

Her Smell

Her Smell

Director: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Agyness Deyn, Dan Stevens and Amber

Alex Ross Perry’s latest collaboration with Elisabeth Moss sees his muse as the manic and influential rock star Becky Something, singer of Something She.

The film traverses the rise and devastating fall of the band’s success, presented in real-time sequences that are agonising to watch and breathlessly staged. Moss has never been more raw and unhinged, spouting drug-addled poetry as she spirals into a slow wreck of self-destruction.

It’s every bit Moss’ movie, but the surrounding players are natural and perfectly cast, from Agyness Deyn’s ever- forgiving bassist to Eric Stoltz’s slick band manager. Perry’s direction is voyeuristic and the action relentless, at times painfully so, as you’re forced to watch the ugliness of addiction and how celebrity culture and the music industry so rarely intervenes during a personal crisis when there’s money to be made.

Judy and Punch

Judy and Punch (coming to Newcastle)

Director: Mirrah Foulkes
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman and Tom Budge

Australian actress Mirrah Foulkes makes her astonishing writer-director debut with Judy & Punch, a feminist and revisionist historical black comedy about two legendary puppeteers.

Taking cues from Kill Bill, Monty Python and The Crucible, this indefinable movie takes place in the mid-17th century in an anarchic town called Seaside. The town has spiralled into violence, mob rule and God-fearing hysteria.

Amongst the chaos, one glimmer of artistry remains – Punch and Judy’s
puppet theatre. Held sway by whiskey, Punch embarks on a bender that descends into tragedy, leaving Judy to wreak vengeance on those responsible.

This is a movie like few others.

Catch it at Event Cinemas Kotara on Friday, June 21.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr and Sam Claflin.

After the success of The Babadook, Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent was flooded with screenplays from Hollywood but chose to focus on writing and directing another feature.

The result is The Nightingale, a thriller that delves into Australia’s dark colonial past. Set in 1825 in the British penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), this revenge tale follows a 21-year-old Irish convict woman seeking revenge for a terrible act of violence committed against her family.

High Life

High Life

Director: Claire Denis
Cast: Robert Pattison and Juliette Binoche

French writer and director Claire Denis, now 73, is a legend of European cinema but has never made an English-language movie until High Life. This science fiction space thriller sees a group of convicts who undergo scientific experiments while on their way into a black hole.

Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, High Life has received wide acclaim, with one reviewer saying it “owed more to Solaris than Star Wars” and was described by Variety as “extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive”.



Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeo Jeong

Bong Joon-ho attended the Sydney Film Festival two years ago with his
impressive Netflix film Okja, a meditation on the mass factory farming of meat.

His latest film, Parasite, has just claimed the Palme d’Or, the highest prize of the Cannes Film Festival. The first Korean film to do so. Expect an Academy Award nomination in its future.

Bong regular Song Kang-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer) plays Ki-taek, whose family of four is close, but hopelessly unemployed. Without prospects, they hustle every day to scrape up the money to survive in their subterranean apartment. Hope comes when the son, Ki-woo, is recommended for a very well-paid tutoring job.

Ki-woo does not have a university degree but it turns out his sister Ki-jung is a
master forger and soon, bearing a fake degree, he is being interviewed at the luxurious home of the very wealthy Park family. Ki-woo gets the job and realises that the Park family could well prove to be the solution to his family’s money problems.

American Woman

American Woman

Director: Jake Scott
Cast: Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks and Aaron Paul

Confusingly one of two feature movies released in the last 12 months with the name American Woman, this drama is by Ridley Scott’s son Jake Scott. The film follows a young grandmother called Deb, played by Sienna Miller, whose daughter disappears, leaving her to raise her young grandson.

The film follows Deb over the next decade as she attempts to move on with her life, all the while holding out hope that her daughter will be found. American Woman is about resilience and growth in the face of tragedy.

The Mountain

The Mountain

Director: Rick Alverson
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Tye Sheridan and Udo Kier

Rick Alverson’s austere, opaque, unsettling and downright strange film, The
has proved polarising on the festival circuit but is also widely discussed and frequently acclaimed.

Following on from his otherworldly performance in the atmospheric but disappointing Yorgos Lanthimos film The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Tye Sheridan plays another troubled young man, this time called Andy. He falls under the spell of his friend’s dad, Dr Walter Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), a charming and eager lobotomist who mostly works on female patients. Dr Fiennes invites Andy to join him on the road as a photographer, to visually document his work in American hospitals.

Set in America’s mid-west during the 1950s, what follows is anything but your average road movie.

For a full breakdown of the Sydney Film Festival’s movie times and events, head to

For more info on all the films screening at Event Cinemas Kotara for the Travelling Film Festival (June 21-23) head here.

Written by Nick Milligan

Nick Milligan embarked on an entertainment journalism career in 2002. Since that time he has become one of Australia's most respected film and music pundits.

His articles have appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, Hotpress, Frankie and Smash Hits.

Milligan is the former editor-in-chief of Reverb Magazine and the former Music and Film Editor of YEN magazine.

He has interviewed and profiled a wide array of entertainers and writers, including Matt Damon, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alice Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Ice Cube, Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Marlon Wayans, Joe Perry, Pete Townshend, Marilyn Manson and Bret Easton Ellis.