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SYDNEY – David Michod’s Cannes Film Festival selection, The Rover, has booked a place in the Sydney Film Festival Official Competition this year, competing for the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize, SFF organizers announced Wednesday.
The Rover will have its Australian premiere at the festival June 7, with stars Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce as well as Michod and producer Liz Watts attending. It will be one of three Australian films competing for the seventh Sydney Film Prize — the most ever in the competition’s history. In addition to The Rover, Kasimir Burgess’ Fell and Amiel Courtin-Wilson‘s and Michael Cody’s Ruin will have their world premieres at the festival as part of the official competition.
Also selected in competition is the festival’s opening night film, 20,000 Days on Earth, British filmmakers Iain Forsyth‘s and Jane Pollard’s collaboration with and documentary about cultural icon Nick Cave that recently won two awards in the World Cinema Documentary section at the Sundance Film Festival.
Other recent festival winners that will compete for the Sydney Film Prize include Black Coal, Thin Ice, the 2014 Berlinale Golden Bear winner for best film; family drama Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke, which won the Silver Bear for best director at the 2014 Berlinale; and Bong Joon-ho’s apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, winner of South Korea’s Blue Dragon award for best director.
Rounding out the 12 competition titles are Fish & Cat, by Iranian director Shahram Mokri; The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, directed and written by Guillaume Nicloux, starring controversial French author Michel Houellebecq as himself in a fictional scenario based on media speculations around his real-life disappearance in 2011.
Other movies competing include: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, inspired by true events and starring Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi as a lonely Japanese woman who journeys to Minnesota in search of the mythical fortune featured in the film Fargo; Locke, director Steven Knight’s daring cinematic experiment shot in real time, starring Tom Hardy as a businessman who attempts to deal with a series of crises via speakerphone while driving; and Two Days, One Night from two-time Cannes Palme d’Or winners the Dardenne Brothers and starring Marion Cotillard.
Australian indigenous director and producer Rachel Perkins will head up the Competition Jury, with other jury members to be announced shortly.
Perkins’ new documentary Black Panther Woman also will screen at the festival.
Upping the star wattage will be SFF patron Cate Blanchett, who will be on the red carpet for the Aussie premiere of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2, which will show in a special screening.
In total, 10 films scheduled to screen at the Cannes Film Festival later this month will have their Australian premieres at SFF. Along with competition films The Rover and Two Days, One Night, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Captive, Cold in July, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, You’re Sleeping Nicole, National Gallery, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Life Itself also will screen.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been programmed for a midnight screening at Sydney’s only remaining drive-in cinema at Blacktown, 20 miles west of the festival’s headquarters at the State Theatre.
Other headline films getting their Australian premieres in special screenings at the festival include Laila Marrakchi‘s Rock the Casbah, Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here and The Two Faces of January.
“Sydney Film Festival has gone from strength to strength over recent years, with attendance increasing over 23 percent since 2011 to 143,000,” said SFF festival director Nashen Moodley. “SFF not only presents the best films from across the country and around the world, but we also open up dialog between the creators and audiences and curators and critics alike, in every direction and combination. Together in a crowded theater, comedies are funnier, horror films are scarier and tender moments bring tears more readily; everything we feel is amplified by the power of the shared experience.”
The 61st edition of the Sydney Film festival is Moodley’s third as festival director.
In other SFF competitions, this year marks the first Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary. Part of the lineup for that competition will include Gracie Otto’s The Last Impresario and Kitty Green‘s Ukraine Is Not a Brothel.
Director Fred Schepisi will get something of a special focus at the festival. His new film Words and Pictures, starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, will screen in a special presentation and he will deliver the 2014 Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture with co-host David Stratton. And paynet Foxtel will premiere its new premium drama, The Devils Playground, which is based on Schepisi’s Australian classic of the same name, about the conflict between desire and spirituality in a Catholic seminary. Devil’s Playground will screen as part of Box Seat, a sidebar devoted to TV drama, which will feature Danny Boyle’s Babylon, his new fast-paced, feature-length TV pilot for a U.K. comedy-drama.
This year’s retrospective is focused on maverick American filmmaker Robert Altman, showcasing eight of his films, from classic hits to some earlier titles. It will be introduced by special guest, filmmaker and Altman’s oldest son, Michael Altman.
The festival will close June 15 with a nod to New Zealand in the Australian premiere of the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, the new film from Taika Waititi (who directed New Zealand box office hit, Boy, which won the Audience Award at SFF 2010) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).
Over 10 days, June 4-15, the festival will screen 183 titles from 47 countries and include 15 world premieres (including six world premiere short films), 122 Australian premieres (including 14 Australian premiere short films) and 6 international premieres (including one international premiere short film).
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