Sydney Film Festival

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Sydney Film Festival
Sydney Film Festival logo.png
GenreFilm festival
Location(s)Sydney, Australia
Years active67

The Sydney Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Sydney, usually over 12 days in June. The competitive film festival draws international and local attention, with films being showcased in several venues across the city centre and includes features, documentaries, short films, retrospectives, films for families and animations. The festival's director is Nashen Moodley, who commenced in early 2012,[1] replacing Clare Stewart.[2]


Influenced by the experience of Australian film makers with the Edinburgh Film Festival since 1947 and the festival connected with the annual meeting of the Australian Council of Film Societies held at Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria in 1952, later Melbourne International Film Festival, a committee sprang from the Film Users Association of New South Wales to establish a film festival in Sydney. The committee included Alan Stout, Professor of Philosophy at The University of Sydney, filmmakers John Heyer and John Kingsford Smith, and Federation of Film Societies secretary David Donaldson.[3] Under the direction of Donaldson, the inaugural festival opened on 11 June 1954 and was held over four days, with screenings at Sydney University. Attendance was at full capacity with 1,200 tickets sold at one guinea each.[3]

By 1958, the festival attracted its first international sponsored guest, Paul Rotha, and advertising into the festival catalogue. The following year, the program expanded to seventeen days and by 1960 exceeded 2,000 subscribers with the introduction of the Opening Night feature film and party.[4] Censorship difficulties arose in the mid-1960s and continued until such time as the festival was granted exemption from censorship in 1971.[5]

From inception until 1967, the University remained the annual home of the festival. The following year, the festival moved to the Wintergarden in Rose Bay where it remained for the ensuing five years. The historic State Theatre became the home of the festival in 1974,[3] and remains one of the festival venues to date.[6] In 2007, the festival introduced a series of live gigs, shows and cabaret-style screening at the nearby Metro Theatre, to expand the festival beyond the traditional cinema experience, and allow a platform for emerging technological innovations in the world of film.

In 2020 the Festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7]

The 2021 "67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition and Awards" will be run 'virtually' on June 10 to 21 via the festival website.[8]

Festival format[edit]

Films are now shown at venues across the Sydney central business district, with films shown at the Dendy Opera Quays, Event Cinemas in George Street, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Town Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as the State Theatre.

Members of the audience can purchase a subscription to the State Theatre for the full two weeks but the number of single session tickets, as well as FlexiPasses of ten, twenty and thirty tickets, has been increasing since introduced in 2001. In 2007 a new FlexiPass, the FlexiDiscovery, was introduced for people aged 18–24, to encourage young people to discover the film festival. Strict guidelines in relation to previous screenings of films means that audiences see films that haven't had general release.

Competition and film prizes[edit]

Although a small number of prizes existed from the mid–1980s, prior to 2007, the Sydney Film Festival was classified by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) as a Non-Competitive Feature Film Festival. On 10 September 2007, the Festival announced it had received funding from the New South Wales government to host an official international competition, which rewarded 'new directions in film'. The FIAFP has since classified the Sydney Film Festival as a Competitive Specialised Feature Film Festival.[9] Members of the audience are able to vote for popular awards, as well as specific industry prizes awarded in the following categories:

  • Sydney Film Prize (presently sponsored by iShares)[10]
  • Australian Documentary Prize (presently sponsored by Foxtel)[11]
  • Award for Australian Best Live Action Short Film (presently sponsored by Dendy) – established in 1989[12]
  • The Rouben Mamoulian Award for the Best Director of an Australian Short Film, named after Armenian-American film and theatre director Rouben Mamoulian (presently sponsored by Dendy)[12]
  • Yoram Gross Animation Award (sponsored by Yoram and Sandra Gross) – established in 1986[12]
  • The CRC Award for Best Australian Feature-length Film with a Multicultural Perspective (presently sponsored by the Community Relations Commission For a Multicultural NSW) – established in 1992[12]
  • Peter Rasmussen Innovation Award – established in 2009[13]
  • Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature (presently sponsored by Showtime movie channels)[14]
  • Audience Award for Best Documentary (presently sponsored by Showtime movie channels)[14]

Winners of the Sydney Film Prize[edit]

Year Film Director Nationality
2008 Hunger Steve McQueen  England
2009 Bronson Nicolas Winding Refn  Denmark
2010 Heartbeats Xavier Dolan  Canada
2011 A Separation Asghar Farhadi  Iran
2012 Alps Yorgos Lanthimos  Greece
2013 Only God Forgives Nicolas Winding Refn  Denmark
2014 Two Days, One Night Dardenne brothers  Belgium
2015 Arabian Nights Miguel Gomes  Portugal
2016 Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho  Brazil
2017 On Body and Soul Ildikó Enyedi  Hungary
2018 The Heiresses Marcelo Martinessi  Paraguay
2019 Parasite Bong Joon-ho  South Korea
2020 Festival cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak

Festival directors[edit]


  • Gillan, Edward (designer) (1993). An Oral history of the Sydney Film Festival: 40 years of film. Sydney: Sydney Film Festival. p. 32. ISBN 0-9596235-1-5.
  • Webber, Pauline (2005). "A History of the Sydney Film Festival (1954–1983)" (PDF). Master of Arts Thesis. University of Technology Sydney. Archived from the original (pdf) on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.


  1. ^ a b Gibbs, Ed (18 December 2011). "Festival boss will divide and conquer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b Maddox, Garry (25 May 2011). "Reel deal – film festival finds its footing". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Tina (May 2003). "Looking Back, Looking Forward: the Sydney Film Festival at 50". Senses of Cinema. Senses of Cinema Inc. 26. Archived from the original on 15 April 2005. Retrieved 25 April 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d Webber (2005), p. 7
  5. ^ Webber (2005), p. 9
  6. ^ "History/Gallery – 1970s". State Theatre website. State The Theatre. 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  7. ^ Deanne Weir (Festival Chair), Leigh Small (CEO), Nashen Moodley (Festival Director) (18 March 2020). "SFF 2020 Has Been Cancelled". Archived from the original on 18 March 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2021.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ Albert, Jane. "The 67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition". Broadsheet Media. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Competitive Specialised Feature Film Festival". International Film Festival. FIAPF. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  10. ^ "2011 SFF Official Competition winner is..." News. Sydney Film Festival. 19 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  11. ^ "The 2011 Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize winner is..." News. Sydney Film Festival. 19 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d "Sydney Film Festival 2011 announces winners of the Dendy, Yoram Gross Animation & CRC Awards". News. Sydney Film Festival. 19 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  13. ^ "2011 Peter Rasmussen Innovation Award winner". News. Sydney Film Festival. 19 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Showtime Movie Channels Audience Awards winners". News. Sydney Film Festival. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  15. ^ a b c Webber (2005), p. 8
  16. ^ Webber (2005), p. 11

External links[edit]