Sydney Film Festival director Gayle Lake has confirmed that the festival will become a competitive event from 2003, the year it celebrates its 50th birthday, with filmmakers' first or second feature films being eligible. Australia does not currently have a competitive festival.

A new directors program was introduced in 1999 and in the following year it was announced that organisers were working towards gaining competitive status. Ascertaining whether the extra costs could be met was one of the determining factors.

Lake also revealed some of the films that will be in the directors strand this year. Terry Zwigoff's debut feature Ghost World is being described as the headline film. Also screening in the new directors program are Mabel Cheung's Beijing Rocks (Bakging Lok Yu Lo) from Hong Kong, Denis Chouinard's Tar Angel (L'Ange De Goudron) from Canada, Jeong Jae-Eun's Take Care Of My Cat (Go-Yang-I-Rul Boo-Tak-Hae) from South Korea, Nan T Achnas' Whispering Sands from Indonesia, and Przemyslaw "Shemie" Reut's Poland/US co-production Paradox Lake.

The festival runs from June 7 to 21 and the full program will be released on May 8. Tourism NSW, Deutsche Bank and the City of Sydney are the major sponsors. Australia's other big festival, the Melbourne International Festival runs from July 23 to August 11.