The ultimate guide to the Sydney Film Festival

From festival highlights to festival parking, here’s everything you need to know to smash the Sydney Film Festival this year.

Renowned for showcasing the best of Australian and international cinema, the Sydney Film Festival is without doubt one of the most hotly-anticipated annual events for cinephiles.

Now in its 63rd year, it’s also one of the world’s longest running film festivals – and it’s not planning to slow down anytime soon.

Over the 12 days of the festival (8 June – 18 June 2016) more than 300 screenings of over 180 films are scheduled across multiple venues around Sydney. Complementing these sessions are Q&As with directors and actors, red carpet events, parties and even a virtual reality experience that the public can enjoy.

Excited? Of course you are!

If you’re TL;DRing the endless list of films on show (there are over 180 of them!), we’ve culled it down to six quick picks to help you cotton onto the best.

See the full Sydney Film Festival film guide here

Sydney Film Festival’s six must-see films


1. Goldstone

Seeing the festival opener at one of its many screenings is a no brainer, really. It’s the patriotic pick of the pack and brings the Australian western back into the spotlight with a stellar cast and exceptional cinematography.

Thrilling and mysterious, it follows Jay Swan, an indigenous detective who arrives in the township of Goldstone searching for a missing person. But it’s not long before he’s arrested for drunken behaviour. The longer he stays in Goldstone, the deeper he gets into the corruption, the politics and the mythology that surrounds the town and the great Aussie outback.


  • Friday 10 June 2016 @ 7:30pm - Casula Playhouse
  • Saturday 11 June 2016 @ 2:30pm - State Theatre
  • Sunday 12 June 2016 @ 8:30pm - Hayden Orpheum Cremorne


2. Janis: Little Girl Blue

When Janis Joplin died at the ripe age of 27, the world lost one of the leading blues vocalists of the time. Resurrecting the past and the icon, director Amy J. Berg brings the rocker back to life in this revealing rock-biopic that features unseen footage, private letters and interviews with band members. She traces Joplin’s journey from Texas in the 50s through to her 1967 Monterey Pop Festival performance which skyrocketed her gravelly, spine-tingly voice to stardom.


  • Friday 10 June at 8.15pm - Event Cinemas George Street
  • Wednesday 15 June at 8.30pm - Dendy Newtown

Love rock bio-pics? Check out our guide on the Top 5 rock "n" roll biopics to catch at the SFF


3. Certain Women

With her signature rich American landscape in the background and a standout cast of A-list women (Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams), Certain Women marks one of Kelly Reichardt’s most lauded works.

Based on the short stories of Mail Meloy, it’s a beautifully rich tale that follows three headstrong women in Livingston, Montana, whose lives intertwine to build a brighter future.


  • Thursday 9 June @ 6:10pm - State Theatre
  • Friday 10 June @ 11:35am - State Theatre
  • Friday 17 June @ 6:15pm - Hayden Orpheum Cremorne


4. The Road

Making its way through the film festival circuit is this arresting documentary on the construction of a Chinese superhighway. Filmed by independent filmmaker Zhang Zanbo over four years, it’s a chilling insight into the destruction, devastation and corruption that surrounds development.

Set in four stages (one per year) The Road follows villagers forced to leave their homes and construction workers forced to labour under inhumane conditions, all for the sake of progress.


  • Thursday 9 June @ 6:20pm - Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 3
  • Monday 13 June @ 6:20pm - Event Cinemas George Street
  • Saturday 18 June @ 10am - Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2


5. Land of Mine

Crossing the borders of Denmark and Germany, Land of Mine is one of those extraordinary true stories of bravery and compassion that’s also marked by the spoils of war. It’s a heart-wrenching and captivating tale that heroes young German prisoners of war who were sent to disarm hidden landmines on Danish beaches post World War II by their Danish captors.

As tensions and danger rises, so too does the compassion of the boys’ supervisor, who grows to develop a deep concern for the safety and welfare of his prisoners.


  • Sunday 12 June @ 6:45pm - State Theatre
  • Monday 13 June @ 11:45am - State Theatre
  • Sunday 19 June @ 6:15pm - Hayden Orpheum Cremorne


6. Hotel Coolgardie

Located in an isolated city in Western Australia is the Hotel Coolgardie. The hotel/pub itself has a tainted history, rising to infamy in 2014 after publican Ms Ovens posted a racist sign on the wall when her iPhone was stolen.

Now, it’s being shown in an unflattering light again in this striking documentary about a pair of female Finnish backpackers who, after being robbed in Bali, wound up as barmaids here to fund their future travels. Like many travellers who have gone before them, theirs is a hellish experience fueled by sexism and misogyny and sees them treated like objects of entertainment for the men who come to visit.


  • Friday 10 June @ 6:15pm - Event Cinemas George Street

How to buy tickets to the Sydney Film Festival

Tickets for the Sydney Film Festival can be purchased online through the official Sydney Film Festival website. Ticket options available include:

  • Single tickets: Purchase single tickets for individual films. Single tickets are $19.90 (adults), $17 (concession) and $13 (youth).
  • Flexipass: If you wish to see multiple films, the flexipass can help you save money by letting you purchase tickets in 10 ($155), 20 ($280) or 30 ($375) booklets. These can be redeemed one at a time or in bulk (so you can share them around with your friends).
    To redeem your flexipass ticket/s, go through the online booking checkout and choose “Enter Pass Number” at the checkout. Enter your pass number in the field provided and continue through the checkout. Your tickets will be deducted from your pass on the payment page.
    You can purchase your flexipasses here.
    Flexipasses cannot be used for special events. This includes Opening Night, Closing Night, Gourmet Cinema, The BFG, Ice Age: Collision Course, Skyline Drive-In and film packages.

Sydney Film Festival parking guide

Driving to the State Theatre or Event Cinemas George Street? Nearby car parks offering night and weekend parking rates from $10 include:

  • Piccadilly, 137 Castlereagh Street (from $10)
  • Hilton Hotel, Sydney – 259 Pitt St (from $10)
  • No 1 Martin Place, Pitt Street (from $10)
  • Atrium - 35 Pitt Street, Sydney (max $25 for evening parking)
  • 109 Pitt Street, Sydney (from $9.99)
  • 60 Elizabeth Street, Sydney (from $9.99)

Full parking rate details for these locations may be found here.

Driving to the Hayden Orpheum Cremorne? Nearby carparks include:

  • Parraween Street Car Park (free for 3-hours Monday-Friday before 6pm and Saturdays 8am-noon. Unlimited all other times)

Driving to Dendy Opera Quays? Nearby carparks include:

Driving to Dendy Newtown? Nearby carparks include:

Sydney Film Festival venue and parking map

Where to play for free at the Sydney Film Festival

The top three places to be when you’re in-between films. Yes, we’ve all been there.


1. Downstairs at The Hub | Sydney Town Hall

The number one chillax spot during the festival is The Hub downstairs at Sydney Town Hall. Part lounge, part bar and part artspace, it’s the place to be all “hipster” and critique films like a scholar. Especially when you’re surrounded by artworks, virtual reality experiences and silent disco dancers. Best of all, it’s free to enter.


  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: 5pm-midnight
  • Saturdays, Sunday (12 June) and Mondays: noon-midnight
  • Sunday 19 June: noon–6pm


2. Upstairs at The Hub | Sydney Town Hall

Walk upstairs to find the showcase venue of The Hub. This is where cinephiles can get up-close-and-personal with the makers of the movies by attending talks and Q&A sessions. Events here are absolutely free, though they are on a first-in-best-dressed basis. Highlights include talks with everyone from the festival’s animation programmer Malcolm Turner, who’s discussing black and white animation, to Aussie actor/director Mel Gibson on his latest film, Hacksaw Ridge. Here’s what’s going on. You can organise your life accordingly.

  • Not So Black and White: 11 June @ 1:30pm
  • AFTRS Black Talk- A Double Bill; Indigeneity and Australian Screen Storytelling: 12 June @ 4pm
  • Meet the Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: 13 June @ 12pm
  • The Boys Reunion: 13 June @ 6:30pm
  • Human Rights Watch: 14 June @ 8:30pm
  • Are Films Really Worth Keeping?: 15 June @ 4:30pm
  • Korea on the Verge; Social Faultlines in Korean Cinema – Tony Rayns: 15 June @ 8pm
  • Mel Gibson In Conversation with Garry Maddox: 15 June @ 5pm


3. Hossein Valamanesh: Char Soo | Carriageworks

As part of the virtual reality theme featured throughout the Sydney Film Festival, Carriageworks is hosting a video installation that spirits you into an Iranian bazaar. This immersive experience exposes you to different sights and sounds as you wander through an extensive artwork maze that loops to create a seamless continuum. The result is a unique space that changes in every moment.
9-17 June @ 10am-6pm

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is a journalist, avid traveller and all-round bargain hunter. If there's an online coupon code, deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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