Focus on Women

Sydney Film Festival is proud to present a Focus on Women program, which delivers voices and views from women around the world.

From the debut feature by a groundbreaking Afghan female filmmaker, to the stridently political and feminist 1970s cinema of the Sydney Women’s Film Group, and new work by critically acclaimed women directors like Agnieszka Holland, Ildikó Enyedi and Sofia Coppola, this year’s program delivers voices and views from women around the world.

 

Ama-San

A lyrical introduction to the traditional world of Japan’s free-diving fisherwomen. A multiple award-winning documentary from Portuguese director Cláudia Varejão.

Axolotl Overkill

A wild ride though the hedonistic Berlin party scene, based on director Helene Hegemann’s controversial novel written at 17. Winner of the Sundance cinematography award.

The Beguiled

Fresh from its Cannes Competition berth, Sofia Coppola's new film is a seductive thriller set in the Civil War era starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.

Short Film

Behind

Something unholy is following Ariane, and it wants her baby. Audience Award winner at Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival.

Belle de Jour

In 1967 Catherine Deneuve entranced audiences in Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel’s satire of sexual manners. 50 years on it stands as a masterpiece of erotic cinema.

By the Time it Gets Dark

The exciting rise of Thai experimental cinema continues with Anocha Suwichakornpong’s surreal meditation on the passage of time and the quest for truth.

Chavela

The uncompromising life story of openly lesbian Latin American singer Chavela Vargas - an inspiration for director Pedro Almodóvar and others - is revealed for the first time.

Ciao Ciao

A sophisticated city woman visits her rural parents in Song Chuan’s incisive snapshot of the tension between tradition and modernity in contemporary China.

The Divine Order

Women of a small Swiss village band together to campaign for the women's right to vote, ahead of the crucial 1971 ballot, in this rousing, inspirational film.

Ember

Maternal instinct and masculine rivalries collide in this meticulous psychological melodrama about a single mother struggling to survive in contemporary Istanbul.

A Fantastic Woman

The exquisite tale of a transgender woman mourning her lost lover from red-hot Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio (Gloria, SFF 2013). Winner of the Screenwriting Award at Berlin.

Félicité

Winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlinale, this is a surprising, music-infused drama about a proud and spirited woman working as a singer in Kinshasa.

Feminism & Film: Culture & Collaboration

Powerful collaborations between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal filmmakers and communities, as a prelude to Aboriginal produced work that burst onto screens from the 1990s.

Feminism & Film: Disruption & Deconstruction

Films that wilfully subvert the language of cinema and experiment with narrative form to extort filmic spaces for women's stories and voices.

Feminism & Film: Personal & Political

Influential women filmmakers and landmark films from the collective filmmaking practices associated with the heady days of the 1970s and '80s women's movement in Sydney.

Fun Mom Dinner

Toni Collette and Molly Shannon share an intoxicated wild night out full of wine and sex-talk in this hilarious, bawdy feature debut by Tropfest winner Alethea Jones.

The Grown-Ups

Adults, but seldom treated as such: that's the dilemma facing this group of friends with Down syndrome, in this warm and compassionate documentary.

House of Others

Winner of the East of the West Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, this is a visually stunning drama about two families struggling to adjust in a post-war world.

Ice Mother

A widowed grandmother rediscovers her lust for life through the most unexpected means, in this charming yet poignant later-in-life romance.

Ingrid Goes West

Aubrey Plaza is hilarious as awkward loner Ingrid, a social media addict who heads to LA to meet her Instagram idol. Winner of the Sundance Screenwriting Award.

Lady Macbeth

The arranged marriage between beautiful Katherine and wealthy landowner Alexander is the beginning of a gripping and violent psychodrama that's far from a traditional bodice-ripper.

The Levelling

Ellie Kendrick (Game of Thrones' Meera Reed) stars in this emotional drama set on a Somerset dairy farm beset with troubles.

The Little Hours

Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Kate Micucci play hot-and-bothered 14th century nuns in Jeff Baena's (Life after Beth) hilarious modern riff on The Decameron.

Madame

World Premiere: Toni Collette, Harvey Keitel, Rossy de Palma and Michael Smiley star in this romantic comedy about an unexpected love affair that starts at dinner and spreads to the Paris streets.

Maudie

Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke shine in this true story of gifted, arthritic Canadian folk painter Maud Lewis and her unlikely romance with the reclusive Everett Lewis.

Mister Universo

Humorous Italian docu-fiction set in the world of the circus, in which a young lion tamer sets out to retrieve a lucky charm from a former Mister Universe.

Most Beautiful Island

An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller, with a complex heroine at its centre, about an undocumented New York immigrant. SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner.

Motherland

A vibrant Sundance award-winning Filipino documentary filmed in the busiest maternity hospital in the world, that reveals an overcrowded, hectic and yet profoundly humane environment.

Mrs K

A wildly enjoyable Tarantino-esque martial arts thriller. Veteran Hong Kong action star Kara Wai returns in kick-ass form as a housewife taking on the underworld.

My Happy Family

52-year-old Manana's family is shocked when she announces that she's moving out to live in her own place. A dramatic, funny film from the directors of In Bloom (SFF 2013).

My Year With Helen

The story of an exceptional woman: New Zealand's first elected female Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and her campaign to become United Nations' first ever-female Secretary-General

On Body and Soul

Winner of the Berlinale Golden Bear, On Body and Soul is about the unconventional romance between two co-workers who discover that each night they have exactly the same dreams.

One Thousand Ropes

A Samoan man with a violent and tragic past seeks reconciliation with his estranged daughter in a fantasy-tinged tale of family, redemption and the power of forgiveness.

OtherLife

An inventive sci-fi thriller with a complex woman protagonist, OtherLife is the exciting new film from talented Australian director Ben C. Lucas (Wasted on the Young, SFF 2010).

Short Film

Outbreak Generation

In the midst of a global epidemic, Annie Spence finds herself the sole carer of her 8-year-old nephew, who wants answers. Ones that perhaps only a mother can give?

Paris Can Wait

Eleanor Coppola (Heart of Darkness, SFF 1991) makes her feature film debut at the age of 80 with this delightful France-set rom-com starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.

The Party

Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Timothy Spall and Kristin Scott Thomas star in a tasty British black comedy about a fancy dinner party that doesn't go according to plan.

Patti Cake$

Aussie actress Danielle Macdonald is sensational as Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper from New Jersey who's determined to make her mark on the music scene.

The Pink House

The story of Kalgoorlie's last original gold rush brothel, servicing the miners since 1904, through the eyes of the whimsical Madam Carmel, 70, and its longest-serving lady of the night, BJ.

Pop Aye

A downtrodden architect and his long-lost elephant take a road trip across Thailand to find their childhood home in this offbeat and very funny Sundance screenwriting award-winner.

Rip Tide

Disney star Debby Ryan makes her Australian film debut in this perfectly-pitched tween feature about surfing, romance and deciding what to do with your life.

Risk

Filmed over six years, Laura Poitras's follow-up to her Oscar winning Citizenfour, is an arresting portrait of controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Rocking the Foundations

A new restoration of Pat Fiske's outstanding 1985 documentary on a NSW union's past endeavours to preserve Sydney's parks, neighbourhoods and historical buildings

Sami Blood

The moving story of a reindeer-herding Sámi girl who severs ties with her family and her culture. An award-winner and hit at the Toronto, Sundance and Venice Film Festivals.

School Life

A spirited documentary featuring two soon-to-retire teachers at an Irish boarding school who view their charges with equal parts eccentricity and care.

Sea Sorrow

At the age of 80, Oscar-winning actor and political activist Vanessa Redgrave has directed her first film, a heartfelt response to the refugee crisis. Selected for Cannes 2017.

Spoor

In a remote mountain town the hunters become the hunted in this Berlinale Silver Bear-winner by the great Agnieszka Holland (Europa, Europa, SFF 1991; The Wire; House of Cards).

Step

This uplifting story of a school step dance team on the verge of graduation won director Amanda Lipitz a Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at Sundance.

Suffragette City: Sydney, Feminism & Film

Women filmmakers from the three Feminism & Film programs talk with curator Susan Charlton about Sydney in the 1970s and ’80s; philosophy, pleasure and politics; collectives, collaborations and film co-ops; feminism/s and filmmaking – then and now.

That's Not Me

An aspiring actor takes advantage of her identical twin sister's success and fame in this hilarious Australian indie influenced by Girls and Bridesmaids.

The Well

Repressed desires surface in this haunting psychological drama with Pamela Rabe and Miranda Otto. This Australian classic deserves rediscovery 20 years after its Cannes premiere.

Wet Woman in the Wind

A non-stop energetic sex comedy, this is part of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno Reboot project, paying homage to the softcore porn films of the 1970s and '80s.

When The Day Had No Name

A night out for a group of teenaged boys is the starting point for this devastating look at ethnic tensions and the effect of the cycle of violence on young Balkan men.

Whitney ‘Can I Be Me'

A gripping documentary on the all-too-short life of powerhouse performer Whitney Houston from UK documentarian Nick Broomfield and music video director Rudi Dolezal.

Window Horses - The Poetic Persian Epiphany Of Rosie Ming

A charming feature from one of Canada's best loved, award winning animators, Ann Marie Fleming, voiced by Sandra Oh, Ellen Page and Don McKellar.

Winnie

Winner of Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival, this is a fascinating portrait of South Africa's 'mother of the nation' Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Wolf and Sheep

This debut feature by a groundbreaking Afghan woman director, a Cannes Director's Fortnight-winner, is an extraordinarily daring and rare view of Afghan rural life and mythology.

The Woman Who Left

The Venice Golden Lion-winning epic from Filipino master Lav Diaz (From What is Before, SFF 2015) explores a woman's quest for revenge following her unjust 30-year incarceration.

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You

A three-way conversation between an anxious mother, her twenty-something daughter, and a psychotherapist: a documentary that will resonate long after the credits have rolled.