Too many unknown films, too many unfamiliar names, too much choice at too many cinemas.

It can be daunting working out what to see during the 12 packed days of Sydney Film Festival.

It's even harder when some of the most-anticipated films have sold out already. So with the 65th festival about to open, forget about catching Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, which attracted rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival last month, or the controversial Australian political satire Terror Nullius, made by the New York based sisters who call themselves Soda_Jerk.

The Seen and Unseen: recommended as a hidden gem in the program by festival director Nashen Moodley.

But there are still scores of other promising films as well as extra sessions added for some that sold out quickly.

Anyone who has been to the festival knows that often the best experiences come from discovering something unexpected, stumbling on a film you knew nothing about. And that could be from a small corner of the festival – First Nations: A Celebration, Flux: Art + Film or the always-strong Australian documentary program – as much as from the official competition for "audacious, cutting-edge and courageous" film or a Special Presentation at the State Theatre.


So what are the hot tickets?

The Breaker Upperers

(New Zealand)

Directors: Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami

Stars: Jackie van Beek, Madeleine Sami, Celia Pacquola

Buzz: Surprisingly, there are still tickets available for the opening night film, a comedy about two friends who making a living breaking up couples which was warmly reviewed at its world premiere at South by Southwest.



Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu (After Life, Nobody Knows)

Stars: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka

Buzz: Acclaimed film about a poor Japanese family committing petty crimes to survive that won the top prize at Cannes this year.

Cannes prizewinner Shoplifters.

Dont Worry, He Wont Get Far on Foot


Director: Gus Van Sant

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill

Buzz: A return to form for the director of Good Will Hunting and Milk about a charismatic wheelchair-bound cartoonist.

The Guilty


Director: Gustav Moller

Stars: Jakob Cedergren

Buzz: Pulsating thriller, centring on a former police officer working in an emergency call centre, that has won multiple festival prizes.

The Guilty: winner of multiple festival awards.

Photo: Supplied

The Miseducation of Cameron Post


Director: Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behaviour)

Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz

Buzz: Touching coming-of-age drama about a high school girl who is sent to a gay conversion camp that won the top prize at Sundance.



Director: Gaspar Noe (Irreversible, Love)

Stars: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub

Buzz: Sexually charged musical drama about a dance party that won Directors Fortnight at Cannes.

On Her Shoulders


Director: Alexandria Bombach (Frame By Frame)

Stars: Nadia Murad

Buzz: Sundance-prizewinning documentary about a 23-year-old woman who survived genocide and sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS to become the courageous voice of her people.

The Seen And Unseen

(Indonesia, Netherlands, Australia, Qatar)

Director: Kamila Andini

Stars: Ida Bagus Putu Radithya Mahijasena, Ni Kadek Thaly Titi Kasih
Buzz: Asked for a hidden gem in the program, festival director Nashen Moodley cited this dreamlike drama, about a Balinese girl dealing with the loss of her twin brother, as "an extraordinary visual and emotional journey", adding: "I predict that this will be a really special screening at the State Theatre."

Bad Reputation


Director: Kevin Kerslake

Stars: Joan Jett

Buzz: The life story of the charismatic founding member of the Runaways and frontwoman for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.



Director: Benjamin Gilmour

Stars: Sam Smith, Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad

Buzz: World premiere of a gritty drama, about a former Australian soldier who wants to atone for killing a civilian in a raid, that was shot secretly in Afghanistan.

You Were Never Really Here

(US, UK, France)

Director: Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher,We Need to Talk About Kevin)

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov

Buzz: Thriller about a traumatised hitman that won both screenplay and acting awards at Cannes last year.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Director: Sara Colangelo (Little Accidents).

Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Buzz: Sundance-prizewinning drama about a primary school teacher who believes one of her students is a child prodigy.

Woman At War

(France, Iceland, Ukraine)

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and Men)

Stars: HalldóraGeirharðsdóttir, JóhannSigurðarson, DavíðÞórJónsson

Buzz: An Icelandic choir leader leads a secret life as a radical environmental activist in a feelgood film that won Critics Week at Cannes.

Woman At War: feelgood.

Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders


Director: Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost series, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster)

Stars: Clutter family

Buzz: Absorbing documentary series about the infamous murders chronicled by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood.

1 per cent


Director: Stephen McCallum
Stars: Matt Nable, Ryan Corr, Abbey Lee

Buzz: Edgy drama about an outlaw bikie gang as its hardcase president gets out of jail.

Cold War

(Poland, UK, France)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida)

Stars: Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig, Borys Szyc

Buzz: Variety called this intense long-term romance between two mismatched Polish musicians, which won the best director prize at Cannes, transfixing.



Director: Leigh Whannell (Saw)

Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Rosco Campbell

Buzz: In the US, Rolling Stone called this sci-fi pic about a paralysed man who uses an implanted microchip to take revenge on his wifes murderers "a hi-fi, lowbrow gem".


(Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland)

Director: Samuel Maoz

Stars: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonatan Shiray

Buzz: The New York Times described this Venice-prizewinning drama, which opens with an Israeli couple being told their soldier son has been killed, "a devastating indictment of a nation".

Foxtrot: devestating.


(Belgium, Netherlands)

Director: Lukas Dhont

Stars: Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Katelijne Damen

Buzz: A teenage transgender girl trains to be a ballerina in a tender film that won no less than four prizes at Cannes including the Camera dOr for best first film.

Girl: four prizes from Cannes.



Director: Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, Touching the Void)

Stars: Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Bobby Brown

Buzz: A candid portrait of the late singer from triumph to sad decline.

Sydney Film Festival runs from June 6 to 17.

Garry Maddox

Garry Maddox is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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