Films to watch out for in this years’ Sydney Film Festival from June 6 – 17

Movies you may like to watch at this year’s Sydney Film Festival when Sydneysiders gather to watch world’s best new films come in June 6-17 for 12 days and nights of inspiring and entertaining premieres, talks and parties.

Be among the first in Australia to see the greatest, strangest and most exciting work that cinema has to offer. Sydney Film Festival takes place at SFF’s flagship venue the State Theatre, as well as cinemas in the CBD, Newtown, Cremorne, Western Sydney and more, screening more than 200 films one won’t usually find in the multiplex. 12 films are selected for the Official Competition, which celebrates “courageous, audacious and cutting-edge” cinema with a $60,000 cash prize

Manto Directed by Nandita Das

Straight from its premiere at Cannes Un Certain Regard, Nandita Das’ (Firaaq) film follows acclaimed writer Manto, as he chronicles the tragedies of the Partition of India.

Saadat Hasan Manto was a writer who incisively captured the contradictions and upheaval of his two countries: India and Pakistan. Manto follows the most tumultuous years of his life, when he made the difficult choice of leaving his beloved Bombay to move with his family to Pakistan. In 1948 in Lahore, Manto, played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Gangs of Wasseypur, SFF 2012; The Lunchbox, SFF 2014), finds himself isolated – personally and artistically. He is also charged with obscenity for his fearless short stories exploring taboo subjects like sex, communal violence and religion. Das integrates these famous stories into the arc of Manto’s new life as she movingly details his unenviable existence in a terrible artistic limbo.

Manto State Theatre Sat 16 June 3:40pm—5:32pm

Manto Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2 Sun 17 June 7:30pm—9:22pm

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Puzzle

Directed by Marc Turtletaub  2017  USA  103 minutes

In this charming, romantic drama, a whole world opens up for suburban mother Agnes (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting) when she discovers that she’s a jigsaw puzzle genius.

Agnes appears to lead a contented life as a devoted housewife and mother, except she’s taken for granted by her husband and children. A chance birthday gift of a thousand-piece puzzle leads Agnes to discover that she is exceptionally skilled at putting them together. She becomes passionate about puzzles, leading her to the enigmatic Robert (Irrfan Khan, The Lunchbox, SFF 2014) who introduces her to the world of puzzle competitions. Gradually Agnes discovers a sense of purpose and self-worth that she has long been lacking. Directed by producer Marc Turteltaub (Little Miss Sunshine, SFF 2006), Puzzle is a superb vehicle for the talents of Macdonald and Khan, and a sweet and empathetic film about finally finding independence.

It’s the kind of mid-life crisis story that so rarely centers on a woman and Macdonald shines in the role, riveting even in the quietest of moments. – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Puzzle

Hayden Orpheum Cremorne Sat 9 June 6:15pm—7:58pm

Event Cinemas George St 4 Sun 10 June 5:45pm—7:28pm

Casula Powerhouse Sat 16 June 2pm—3:43pm 

Puzzle is the missing piece in American blockbuster filmmaking. It’s about what Peter Parker’s Aunt May does with her days while Spider-Man is off saving the neighbourhood… – Peter Debruge, Variety

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Inventing tomorrow Directed by Laura Nix

USA, Mexico, India, Indonesia, 104 minutes – All Ages

Enterprising high school students from Indonesia, India, Mexico and Hawaii tackle environmental issues in their own backyard, as they prepare for the world’s largest science fair.

In Bangalore, Sahithi is developing an app to track toxic water levels in neighbourhood lakes. Across the globe, in one of Mexico’s most industrial cities, Jesus, Jose and Fernando are exploring ways to improve air quality. Nuha is seeking a solution to the ocean pollution affecting her Indonesian island home, and Jared is investigating arsenic levels in the soil of Hawaii. Director Laura Nix follows these inspiring, innovative and community-minded students as they develop their presentations, finding optimistic experts and fellow enthusiasts along the way.

This snapshot of adolescent ingenuity and innovation… can’t help but leave the viewer feeling hopeful about the future. – Nick Schager, Variety

Festival guest: Melanie Miller

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Jirga

Directed by Benjamin Gilmour  2017  Australia  78 minutes Book Tickets

Made under extraordinary, and extremely dangerous, conditions, Jirga tells the emotional story of a former Australian soldier who travels to Afghanistan to seek forgiveness.

Three years after an Australian army helicopter raid on a small village led to the killing of an unarmed man, former Australian soldier Mike (Sam Smith) returns to Afghanistan to find the victim’s family. Doggedly, he sets off on a perilous journey over a terrain where both the Taliban and ISIS are active. Mike is determined to make amends and so puts his life in the hands of the Jirga – the village justice system. The risky trek has remarkable parallels with the making of the film. With an earlier version of the screenplay in hand, director Benjamin Gilmour and actor Sam Smith headed to Pakistan to shoot a film on the border with Afghanistan. When the script was deemed too politically sensitive, the promised funding disappeared and along with it the possibility to make the film. Gilmour says: “Returning to Australia to make alternative plans would’ve been the sensible conclusion to our adventure. Instead, we went with Plan B and decided to shoot the whole film ourselves in Afghanistan.” With a camera bought at a Pakistani shopping mall, Gilmour shot the hastily rewritten film himself, while frequently in danger of kidnapping or worse. The result is a sensitive and compassionate tale on the impact of war and the cost of redemption.

Jirga is my response to the proliferation of war-porn in the media, and the generalised depiction of Afghans as extremists. I wanted to counter the Islamic terrorist stereotype of contemporary American war propaganda by giving a human face to combatants and civilians alike, demonstrating the true cost of war on all sides. – Benjamin Gilmour

Benjamin Gilmour is a filmmaker, author and paramedic, based in northern NSW. His films include the feature Son of a Lion (SFF 2008) and documentary Paramedico (SFF 2012). As a published author, Gilmour’s titles include Warrior Poets: Guns, Movie-making and the Wild West of Pakistan, Paramedico – Around the World by Ambulance and most recently the children’s book The Travel Bug.

Festival guests: Benjamin Gilmour, John Maynard and Sam Smith

Talk: After the Saturday 9 June screening of Jirga, is an Extended Q&A with Benjamin Gilmour, Sam Smith and John Maynard in the Festival Hub, starting at 2pm

Travelling Film Festival Newcastle, June 22 – 24: Tickets also available for Jirga at TFF Newcastle.

Jirga screening at:

State Theatre Fri 8 June 6:45pm—8:03pm

Jirga State Theatre Sat 9 June 12pm—1:18pm

Jirga The Ritz Cinema Randwick Mon 11 June 6:15pm—7:33pm

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