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Sydney Film Festival

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Sydney Film Festival
GenreFilm festival
Location(s)Sydney, Australia
Years active70

The Sydney Film Festival is an annual competitive film festival held in Sydney, Australia, usually over 12 days in June. A number of awards are given, the top one being the Sydney Film Prize.

As of 2023, the festival's director is Nashen Moodley.[1]


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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[3] Censorship difficulties arose in the mid-1960s and continued until such time as the festival was granted exemption from censorship in 1971.[4]

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,[2] and remains one of the festival venues to date.[5] In 2007, the festival introduced a series of live gigs, shows and cabaret-style screening at the nearby Metro Theatre.

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, the 2020 festival staged a reduced, online-only version, and in 2021 was delayed to open on 3 November with the audience limited first to 75 per cent capacity, increasing to 100 per cent from 8–21 November. The films were also available online.[6]


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. Films are 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.[citation needed]

As of 2023 the festival's director is Nashen Moodley,[1][7] who commenced in early 2012, replacing Clare Stewart.[8]

Patrons of the festival include Gillian Armstrong, Cate Blanchett, Jane Campion, Nicole Kidman, Baz Luhrmann, George Miller, and Sam Neill among others.[9]

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.[10] Members of the audience are able to vote for popular awards, as well as specific industry prizes awarded in the following categories (as of 2022):

  • Sydney Film Prize, worth A$60,000[11]
  • Sydney UNESCO City of Film Award: A$10,000 cash prize
  • Documentary Australia Award for Australian documentary: A$10,000 cash prize
  • Deutsche Bank Fellowship for First Nations Film Creatives: A$20,000 grant
  • Sustainable Future Award: A$10,000 cash prize
  • Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films:
    • Dendy Live Action Short Award: A$7,000 cash prize
    • Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director (named after Armenian-American film and theatre director Rouben Mamoulian:[12] A$7,000 cash prize
    • Yoram Gross Animation Award: A$5,000 cash prize
    • AFTRS Craft Award: A$7,000 cash prize
  • Audience awards (announced in the week after the festival):[11]
    • Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature
    • Audience Award for Best Documentary

Past awards have included:

  • 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]

Winners of the Sydney Film Prize[edit]

Year Film Director Nationality Ref.
2008 Hunger Steve McQueen  England
2009 Bronson Nicolas Winding Refn  Denmark
2010 Heartbeats Xavier Dolan  Canada [14]
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 [15]
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
2021 There Is No Evil Mohammad Rasoulof  Iran
2022 Close Lukas Dhont  Belgium [16]
2023 The Mother of All Lies Asmae El Moudir  Morocco [1]
2024 There's Still Tomorrow Paola Cortellesi  Italy [17]

Festival directors[edit]

See also[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) (MA). University of Technology Sydney.


  1. ^ a b c "The winners of the 70th Sydney Film Festival". Sydney Film Festival. 20 June 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Tina (May 2003). "Looking Back, Looking Forward: the Sydney Film Festival at 50". Senses of Cinema. 26. Senses of Cinema Inc. Archived from the original on 15 April 2005. Retrieved 25 April 2005.
  3. ^ a b c d Webber (2005), p. 7
  4. ^ Webber (2005), p. 9
  5. ^ "History/Gallery – 1970s". State Theatre website. State The Theatre. 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  6. ^ "Festival info". Sydney Film Festival. Archived from the original on 22 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Jefferson, Dee (14 November 2021). "Sydney Film Festival's top prize goes to Mohammad Rasoulof's There Is No Evil, about capital punishment in Iran". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  8. ^ a b Gibbs, Ed (18 December 2011). "Festival boss will divide and conquer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Our Organisation". Sydney Film Festival. Retrieved 5 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Competitive Specialised Feature Film Festival". International Film Festival. FIAPF. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Awards". Sydney Film Festival. 11 May 2022. Archived from the original on 6 June 2022. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  12. ^ a b "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. ^ "Heartbeats takes Sydney Film Fest prize". ABC News. 14 June 2010.
  15. ^ "Two Days, One Night wins Sydney Film comp". SBS News. 15 June 2014.
  16. ^ Tulich, Katherine (19 June 2022). "Lukas Dhont's 'Close' Wins Best Film Prize at Sydney Festival". Variety. Archived from the original on 28 December 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  17. ^ Sandy George, "The buzziest films with Australian audiences at the Sydney Film Festival 2024". Screen Daily, 17 June 2024.
  18. ^ a b c Webber (2005), p. 8
  19. ^ Webber (2005), p. 11
  20. ^ Maddox, Garry (25 May 2011). "Reel deal – film festival finds its footing". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 July 2011.

External links[edit]