The programs are out, the tickets are selling and it’s time to gear up for the annual cinephile’s festival of gluttony, the Sydney Film Festival.

It’s the usual mixed bag with 218 films from over 59 different countries featuring this year.
Like you, I’m flying blind but here are some that were highlighted by the festival director Nashen Moodley and some that have jumped out. This first group are part of the SFF Official Competition section.

We Don’t Need A Map is the opener, and it’s a documentary by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) reclaiming the Southern Cross and explaining what it means to the Indigenous people. This should be provoking – Thornton thinks it’s becoming the new swastika.

Onkja director Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer) is coming out to promote this magical story of a giant pig that stars Tilda Swinton and Jake Gylenhall. It’s the closing night film and sounds like a goodie.

The Beguiled will be popular. It’s a Civil War period drama directed by Sofia Coppola and stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who all swoon over an injured enemy soldier, Colin Farrell.

Happy End is written and directed by the award winning Michael Haneke (Amour) who looks at three generations of the wealthy Laurent family. It has a strong cast and it’s bound to be complex, moving and high quality.

Felicite is the story of an African singer who has to raise money in time to save her son, which takes you into the Congolese capital, and blends in music.

Australian theatre director Benedict Andrews makes his film debut with Una, starring Rooney Mara, who is a sexual abuse victim confronting her attacker, Ben Mendleson, 15 years later.

The Untamed sounds a strange one, but it’s Mexican, so you should know what not to expect. It involves an alien which unleashes people’s sexual desires – sci-fi erotica – and won the Venice Silver Lion for direction.

There are 10 short films on show at the Newtown Dendy over the weekend of 17-18 June. They’re the finalists of the SFF’s short film competition.

From the Special Presentations At The State, Hotel Salvation has been highlighted. It’s an Indian film about an old man who drags his son along to this hotel, where people go to die by the Ganges, but he finds his lust for life by helping others. A gentle black comedy.

Ingrid Goes West won the Sundance Screenwriting Award. It’s about a brash social media addict who goes west to find her favourite blogger. Don’t worry, it aims to be darkly funny.

Australia Day is an Australian film, directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog) with Bryan Brown which uses multiple storylines about characters on the run, that takes a look at modern day Australia.

Madame has a fascinating cast. Toni Colette and Harvey Kietel host a dinner and ask their maid, Maria, played by Rossy De Palma, an Almodovar favourite, to sit in for a guest who cancels. But it all goes better than expected and ends up in farce.

The Features section features films which play in various venues and will be an unusual mix. Manifesto stars our Cate Blanchett taking on 13 different roles. Originally commissioned at a moving installation, this sounds very episodic rather than having a story. But, who cares? It’s Cate.

Ana, Mon Amour is an explicit romance that follows a couple over ten years. A Fantastic Woman is a Chilean film about a Santiago bar singer who happens to be a transgender woman, grieving for her lost lover, while fighting intolerance. The Young Karl Marx is a German film about the young Karl Marx. A must for Mark Latham. Maudie stars festival favourite Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins as the housekeeper who turns her surly master’s life upside down.

David Stratton is presenting a Kirosawa collection. The Seven Samurai and Kagemusha are two three-hour epics, and cinematic classics.

Sound on Screen has documentaries on some interesting array of artists. The Go Betweens: Right Here is Kriv Stender‘s second festival entry and looks the goods. Whitney ‘Can I Be Me’ is by controversial director Nick Broomfield; The Public Image is Rotten –Johnny Lydon is usually entertaining, but does he ever stop talking? And Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World looks at how American Indians influenced blues and jazz, but have been forgotten.

Amongst the international documentaries there’s one about Elian, the young Cuban boy who became the centre of an international tug-of-war; 78/52 is a whole 90 minute documentary about the two-minute shower scene in Psycho – surely that’s overkill. Pun intended. And for rev heads, there’s McLaren, a documentary about Bruce McLaren, the kiwi who developed the racing team. And Vanessa Redgrave makes her directorial debut with Sea Sorrow, a doco about refugees – the Pauline Hanson pick. And Blue, is an Australian documentary about how we’re destroying the environment and features stunning photography.

We’ll be presenting short reviews up to, and during the festival, and some interviews.

So stay tuned to On The Screen for what should be a fun festival of film.