Sydney Film Festival: Geoffrey Rush's 'The Daughter' to Premiere, Lineup Expands to 251 Films

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Features from Jafar Panahi, Miguel Gomes and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon also competing for the Sydney Film Prize.

Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley unveiled an expanded program of 251 films from 68 countries on Thursday with new Australian films securing the prestigious opening and closing night slots and three entries from the host country chosen amongst twelve films  for the festival’s Official international Competition.

Geoffrey Rush-starrer The Daughter, the debut feature from theatre director Simon Stone, will have its world premiere at the festival competition where it will go up against Jennifer Peedom’s timely documentary Sherpa, filmed at Mt Everest during the 2014 climbing season when an avalanche killed 16, and Australian-Irish co-production, Strangerland starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving.

They are three prominent local representatives in a competition line up that also includes Miguel GomesArabian Nights, which is screening at this months Cannes Film Festival in Directors Fortnight, Italian Francesco Munzi’s mafia drama, Black Soul and two features from the U.S.A; Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and RJ Kyler, and Tangerine, Sean Baker’s drama about Los Angeles’ transgender community that was shot on an iPhone 5S.

Iranian writer-director Rakshan Bani-Etemad  will introduce her latest feature Tales to audiences at the festival, joining Jafar Panahi’s feature Tehran Taxi competing for the Sydney Film Prize. The other foreign language features in competition are Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria from Germany, Swedish co-production A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence and director-performer Thomas Salvador’s understated French superhero tale Vincent.

Now in its eighth year the Official Competition, which lauds audacious cutting edge cinema, awards the winning film $48,000 (AUS$60,000) in cash. The official competition is one arm of the festival, which continues to grow, with attendances increasing 42 percent since 2011 to over 156,000, according to Moodley. Thats allowed the fest to expand geographically to another two venues this year and up the number of films it screens from 183 last year to 251 this year, including 11 world premieres for features, 135 Australian premieres and 4 international premieres.

Other world premieres include Gillian Armstrong’s documentary about Australian Oscar-winning costume designer Orry-Kelly, called Women He’s Undressed; Jeremy Sims’ feature Last Cab To Darwin starring Jacki Weaver and Michael Caton; and former CNN correspondent Michael Ware’s inside look at the Iraq War, ISIS and its leadership, Only The Dead, which Ware has made with Oscar winning director Bill Guttentag.

Producer Emile Sherman is bringing two features, Slow West and Mr Holmes to the festival this year,  Alex Gibney will present Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and Ramin Bahrani will screen his financial crash thriller 99 Homes.

Sidebars for the 2015 fest include a new animation showcase curated by specialist Malcolm Tuner; critic David Stratton will curate an Ingmar Bergman retrospective while director Moodley has pulled together a focus on his home country of South Africa, looking at how  its cinema has developed in the 21 years since democracy.

The opening night will feature Brendon Cowell’s previously announced adaptation of his hit play, Ruben Guthrie, while Neil Armfield’s Holding The Man, starring Ryan Corr, Anthony La Paglia, Guy Pearce and Sarah Snook was announced as the closing night film.

The Sydney Film Festival will run from June 3-14

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