City News

Sydney Film Festival makes the most of its local roots

One of three Australian films featured in the SFF Official Competition

by Samantha Jonscher

Sydney Film Festival (SFF) director Nashen Moodley believes that there is something transformative about sitting in a darkened room with 500 strangers to communally share in the emotional ups and downs of a good film.

“Film festivals allow you to have a very different experience than just going to the local multiplex,” said Mr Moodley in his third year in the role.

“To watch a film with 2000 other people is a very different experience to watching a film with 10 people in a regular cinema.”

Above all, Mr Moodley believes that film festivals are for everyone, and was interested in creating a festival of shared experiences where everyone feels welcome.

This year, that sense of community has been extended to the Festival Hub, described on the SFF website as the “beating heart of the Festival” where film lovers can meet between screenings.

The Festival’s 2014 theme is “seeing in the dark,” an idea that Mr Moodley hopes will be realised in theatres across the city as audiences engage with thought-provoking films.

Hub programmer Matt Ravier has teamed up with local businesses in the City of Sydney LGA to ensure the Hub is a place where people want to relax by introducing a Gelato Messina cart and a TITLE pop-up store as well as a discounted ticket counter.

The Hub will double as a bar and performance space offering a daily informal film club, talks from filmmakers, local and international performances, a trivia night and a “Girl Rock Riot” dance party.

The Festival Hub is a key part of Mr Moodley’s vision. He wants it to be more than a place to buy cheap tickets, and rather a “place to be social and share ideas.”

Once again popping up in Sydney Town Hall, Ravier says the Hub will be bigger and better than ever before.

“This year, the Hub simply could not be contained, spreading to the grand Treasury Room upstairs at Town Hall.”

This year’s SFF line-up features an unprecedented number of Australian films, including the highly anticipated drama The Rover, which will be one of three local films competing for the Sydney Film Prize.

Australian film director Rachel Perkins (Redfern Now, Mabo, Bran Nue Dae) has been named as president of the Official Competition jury that will judge the 12 selected films.

“I screened the first movie I directed at the Festival almost 20 years ago and I can still remember the terror of watching the film in front of its first real audience,” Ms Perkins said.

As for the audiences at this year’s SFF, Moodley urges people to be adventurous and hopes that people will come to see something extraordinary they wouldn’t see otherwise.

“Film festivals offer a curated experience in a time when we have so much choice. We don’t always know what to choose,” he said.

However, audiences will still have plenty of choices to make, with the festival boasting its biggest line-up yet.

Cinephiles will be able to pick from 183 titles from 47 countries, including 15 world premieres and 122 Australian premieres.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 4-15. Tickets for the full program are on sale now.

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