Must-see films at this year’s Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival is kicking off this week and we’ve gathered together a short-list of some of the big films you’ll absolutely want to make space on your flexipass to see.

Blood Father

Directed by Jean-François Richet and show in the crispy outlands of New Mexico, Blood Father marks Mel Gibson’s return to the action movie. He plays an ex-con on parole whose relatively-quiet life as a tattoo artist is blown up by the unexpected arrival of his teenage daughter (Erin Moriarty) and a crew of drug dealers intent on killing her. With both impeccable visuals and pulse-pounding action, Blood Father is sure to be a film you won’t soon forget.

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Swiss Army Man 

This was one of the most talked about films at Sundance this year. It got mixed reviews, some thought it was hilarious, others were kinda grossed out. The fact that it had such a polarising reaction has made me even more excited and intrigued to see this film. Paul Dano has been knocking some great roles out recently (Love And Mercy, War And Peace), and Daniel Radcliffe once again takes on a challenging performance that looks set to show just how versatile and adept an actor he is. If you haven’t read the premise, I’m just going to copy/paste it here from Wikipedia because I feel like the less you know, the better – “Hank (Dano), a man marooned on an island and at the verge of suicide, sees a corpse (Radcliffe) wash up on the beach and engages in a surreal friendship with it. Hank soon finds that his new friend, whom he names Manny, possesses the ability to talk and has myriad supernatural powers”.

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Under The Shadow

Creating major buzz at Sundance 2016, the Iranian-British horror film has drawn majorly positive comparisons to the Australian horror film THE BABADOOK, and has received critical acclaim for its acting and its storytelling via its use of its unique backdrop of war-torn Tehran and Iranian mythology.

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Demolition 

So it seems the Australian release of Demolition has fallen victim to the same time-space chasm as every over movie that comes out of the USA where, unless it’s a superhero film, we lowly southern-hemispherians must wait up to two and a half months after a film’s USA release to finally lay our eyes on it. I, for one, pray that it will be worth the wait.

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Jake Gyllenhaal is the significant drawcard for Demolition, leading the film as an investment banker who starts to emotionally break down after the death of his wife in a car crash. After being, quite frankly, snubbed of several accolades in Nightcrawler and exhibiting a unique ability to deliver mysterious and mesmerising personas while remaining relatable in recent films such as Prisoners and End of Watch among others, Gyllenhaal has become a symbol of the underrated actor who has come a long way since his Donnie Darko days but still has a lot more to give and this potential consistently excites audiences. Gyllenhaal is teaming up with Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée to bring this dramady to life, along with Naomi Watts who impressed in her turns in Birdman and The Impossible. Following critical successes in Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, in which the leads and supporting actors all either were nominated or won Academy Awards, Vallée clearly has a penchant for bringing the best out of his actors. With talent as undervalued as Gyllenhaal and Watts, one can only hope the same affection will be lent to Demolition, which opens in cinemas June 14, 2016.

The Devil’s Candy

Australian director Sean Byrne returns to  horror after his critically acclaimed film debut, THE LOVED ONES for a unique spin on the haunted house genre. A family battling demons and haunted creatures using heavy-metal music while sticking it to the Devil? How can you not get hyped and pumped over that?

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Julieta

Known as his return to female-centric storytelling similar to films like VOLVER and ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, director Pedro Almodovar adapts the critically acclaimed short stories from Alice Munro’s RUNAWAY for a colourful, exuberant and passionate ode to women.

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Goldstone

As someone who has always made it their life mission to see as many local films as possible, I am looking forward to seeing Ivan Sen‘s latest Goldstone. The film promises to be just as thrilling as Sen’s last Mystery Road, and I am especially excited to see Aaron Pederson return to his role as Indigenous detective Jay Swan. With a cast that also includes the likes of Jacki Weaver, David Wenham and David Gulpilil, this semi-sequel promises to be just as good, if not better, than Swan’s first case. Set in the fictional outback mining town of Goldstone, the film sees Swan hot on the trail of a missing person, but he soon finds that there is a far greater mystery at play amongst the community. What exactly that mystery is, I can’t wait to see.

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Alice in Earnestland 

A woman who is sick and tired of her grim circumstances in life loses her sanity and decides to fight back against the establishment, figuratively and literally. Featuring the darkest of dark humour, this black comedy revenge film from South Korea is bound to be cruel, shocking and downright hilarious. This isn’t your children’s Alice.

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Mustang

Mustang has already been met with considerable acclaim across the globe. The Turkish film about freedom, family, and regime was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film recently. Exploring such complex topics through oppressive youthful upbringings is nothing new to SFF, but it’s been said that Mustang is exquisite both visually and in it’s raw approach to these issues; that combined with it’s strong focus on female empowerment and commitment to “unencumbered, naturalistic style in atmospheric locales” indicate that Mustang will be one of the most talked about films of the festival this year.

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 Contributors to this article included Fergus Halliday, Chris Singh, Ben Chapple, Harris Dang and Carina Nilma.