The Sydney Film Festival is Back: Here are the Highlights

After delaying events earlier this year, Sydney Film Festival organisers have set November 3 – 14 as the new dates for 2021. Here’s what to expect from this year’s event.

Credit: RUSSH

This year welcomes the 68th Sydney Film Festival. Australia’s premier international film festival takes place in cinema and online over 19 days and nights, showcasing the greatest, strangest and most exciting works that cinema has to offer.

With NSW coming out of lockdown this month, the twice-postponed Sydney Film Festival will open as scheduled in November.

Last year’s attendees will recall the purely online event. On October 11, Sydney leaves a three-month lockdown. This means a return to in-person screenings.

Although fans were disappointed by the initial postponement – some big names have since joined the programme, including standouts from the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.

From 3-21 November 2021, attendees can be the first to catch the newest festival favourites. This includes award-winners, dramas, documentaries, thrillers, comedies, cross-genre experiments and arthouse cinema from around the world.

Read on to check out FIB’s festival highlights.


Credit: Rolling Stone

Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or-winning film combines horror and sexuality in her brand new French psychological thriller.

The French writer-director of Raw (2016) serves up a second slice of extreme cinema with “Titane” – which the BBC has described as “the most shocking film of 2021″.

In this “body horror,” Ducournau pushes the boundaries of conventional cinema. “Titane” tells the story of Agathe Rousselle as Alexia, a woman who has a titanium plate inserted into her head after being injured in a car accident as a child.

Alexia’s resulting brain injury appears to have left the protagonist with an unusual emotional and sensory attachment to cars. The tale follows her as she embarks on a peculiar story of sexual awakening, which culminates in a series of murders.

“Titane” shocked audiences at its Cannes debut, first with its hyperreal and gruesome on-screen antics, next by winning the festival’s big prize. Ducournau is the second female filmmaker (after Jane Campion with The Piano in 1993) to win the Palme d’Or.

“Titane” is showing on Thursday 4 November at the State Theatre, Tuesday 9 November at the Ritz Cinema and Saturday 13 November at the Dendy in Newtown. Book tickets here.

Until then, check out the trailer:


Credit: Memoria

Straight from the Cannes Competition, Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s mystical new film stars Tilda Swinton as a woman who is haunted by a loud sound.

Weerasethakul follows on from 2015’s “Cemetery of Splendour with his English language debut, shot in Colombia with long-time cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.

Weerasethakul uses flashbacks, supernatural activity, hallucinations, and the concept of dreams to explore political and moral allegories throughout “Memoria”. It has a deadpan charm, thoughtful pace, and obscure moments of documentary-style realism.

“Memoria” is Weerasethakul’s first film made outside of Thailand, starring non-Thai actors. Tilda Swinton plays Jessica, an English ex-pat who visits her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) and her husband, Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho, from Lucrecia Martel’s Zama). Karen is in the hospital with an unidentified respiratory problem.

Jessica is awakened one night by a spectacular blast or sonic boom which appears to be audible only to Jessica. As a result, she begins to experience a mysterious sensory syndrome while travelling through Colombia’s rainforests.

“Memoria” is an ecological disaster film that exists, in its abstract style, to warn us about the dangers of disrespecting the natural state of things – and the people who respect it.

“Memoria” is showing on Friday 5 & Saturday 6 November at the State Theatre. The next show is on Sunday 7 November at the Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne. Book tickets here.

Check out the trailer below:

Wyrmwood Apocolypse

Credit: imdb

“Wyrmwood Apocalypse” is the amped-up sequel to the original horror-thriller, Wyrmwood. The outback zombie returns to Sydney Film Festival this year – a bloody, roaring sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 cult blockbuster.

Soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) devotes his life to locating and collecting survivors of a zombie apocalypse for the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier). Their mission is to uncover a cure in a zombie-infested Australian wasteland.

Rhys goes on to partner up with a gang of super-powered survivors (Jake Ryan, Bianca Bradey, Tasia Zalar, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Jay Gallagher) to save a young woman from her death via military experiments.

“Wyrmwood Apocalypse” is impressive, with its super-high production value and stunning visual effects. Kiah Roche-turner executes the perfect sequel; this continuation will please both long-time fans and newcomers to the franchise.

“Wyrmwood Apocalypse” is showing on Saturday 6 November at Event Cinemas on George St. The next show is Monday 8 November at the Dendy, Newtown. Book tickets here.

Here Out West

Credit: ABC

“Here Out West” is the opening night film of the Sydney Film Festival. This breakthrough piece reframes the Australian experience. Within it, stories from eight great Western Sydney writers connect poignantly via themes of family and place.

To bring the writers’ stories to the screen, directors Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff, Ana Kokkinos, and Leah Purcell join the innovative creative partnership.

“Here Out West” is a dramatic anthology, exploring the course of a single day in Sydney’s suburb of Blacktown. It combines eight stories from emerging writers of varying cultural backgrounds, each of whom have workshopped their scripts with experienced producers and directors.

Eight separate, interwoven scenarios become connected throughout the film. The chain starts with a desperate grandmother, who kidnaps a baby from the hospital. Her flight puts in motion a chain of events that, over the course of one dramatic day, bring perfect strangers together.

“Here Out West” covers subject matter which includes assimilation, racism, aspiration, and filial bond through these engaging stories and diverse individuals.

Stream the Meet the Filmmakers: Here Out West talk during the Festival here.

The Virtual Program

Following the two week event, SFF is presenting a fortnight of ‘On Demand’ screenings. This allows viewers to stream top, award-winning films straight from SFF to your home. The virtual program runs between November 12 – 21.

Check out the timetable on Sydney Film Festival’s website for further information.

Subscribe to FIB’s Weekly Breaking News Report for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!